Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 26th Feb 2010 23:57 UTC
Windows All good things come to an end, eventually, and operating systems are no different. Microsoft has reminded the public that support for several Windows versions will end over the coming months, which could likely have significant consequences if you or your company are still running these Windows versions.
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Well, I was going to send this as a pm since it's somewhat out of topic, but for some reason the send message options don't want to appear for me right now. So, I'll just put it here. Anyone who's not interested can just skip over it.
First off, it's typically best to use the same os on the workstations you're setting up for accessibility as is on the rest of your computers. The reason for this is two fold, it simplifies administration and it also simplifies troubleshooting. If the rest of the library is on Windows XP, and that's what the staff is trained on, and you give the blind people a Mac for example, if the system has issues the staff probably won't be as effective at sorting them out. The second reason is that, if done properly, there's no need to set up separate workstations. You can set up a hotkey to turn accessibility on or off, and they can then use any workstation that is open. There's no need to provide a separate workstation or environment if this is done right.
As far as access technology goes, my advice would be to just go with speech at first. I do have a Braille output device, but the only reason I was able to acquire it was that I traded for it with a friend. At a minimum of $3,000 per display for a good one, coupled with the limited use they'd get, it's not an investment you'd need to make. The choice of screen reader is another thing to take into question though, and this is an important one. In the case of Mac or *NIX (I don't know what your library uses right now) the choice is pretty well made for you. Voiceover in OS X or Orca with GNOME in *NIX. Note that KDE is not an option at this point. Both are typically provided with their environments, though Orca may need installed separately depending on how that was configured. Voiceover is always present as of OS X Tiger, and can be toggled on and off with the press of command+f5. If your library does use Mac, you're already covered if you use Tiger or later. In the case of Windows though, there is a bewildering array of options. I'd suggest these two commercial options to investigate for starters:
Window-Eyes from
and System Access from Also have a look at the open source NVDA from
System Access is the most affordable of the commercial solutions and even has a free web-run version that anyone can use at no charge, but it's not as versatile if you have a lot of custom applications you need to script. Window-Eyes is more expensive, but can be customized to do just about anything. NVDA is pretty young and not as mature, but it is open source and very actively maintained and I, personally, am amazed at the progress it is making in such a short time. Coupled with Firefox, NVDA does offer one of the best auditory web browsing experiences on the Windows platform. It is also fully scriptable by Python, so what it doesn't do right now it can be made to do if needed. All three of these are freely downloadable, trials in the case of the first two (the System Access web version isn't a download as it only works while there is an internet connection).
I'll mention JAWS here too, I don't recommend it though. It is the most expensive but also the most buggy, a case of sitting at the top for too long without pushing the boundaries. The company is also currently engaged in what, in any other industry, would be grounds for an immediate anti-trust investigation. I do not exagerate when I say they are to the access industry what Microsoft was to the rest of the IT industry back in the days of IE6. My advice is to investigate all of them, preferably having blind people of different backgrounds do most of the testing as they will be the ones using the setup. My recommendation would be a Window-Eyes site license, but choose the one best for the situation. Make no mistake though, unless you go with NVDA the Windows accessibility route is the most costly route to go down. With OS X and *NIX you encur no extra costs, but if the rest of your library uses Windows then that's what you should do.
If I can help any more let me know, hth.

Reply Parent Score: 3

boblowski Member since:

Well, I for one am grateful that that send message option didn't work and I got a chance to read this as well ;-) This is very useful information, thanks for taking the time to write it down!

Reply Parent Score: 3

darknexus Member since:

You're welcome. And as for the pm system, it seems to be gone at the moment. Not only am I unable to send pm's but the entire message section of my account page is gone. Was this one of the removed features? Didn't pay much attention to that thread a while back, guess I should have.

Reply Parent Score: 2

SnowBuddha Member since:

I too am glad the PM option was not working. I had a very good friend in college who was blind that used a screen reader. I've always been interested in this technology but haven't kept up with it like I wish I had. Thank you very much for your write-up.

Reply Parent Score: 1