Not too long ago, blind individuals had to pay ridiculously high prices in order to use the computer and have access to the same information as everyone else. This was due to the fact that blind and visually impaired individuals had to pay over a grand for screen reading software, which enables them to use the computer by providing voice outputs of the text that is on the screen.
Many blind and visually impaired individuals were not able to have access to this software because the majority of blind and visually impaired individuals live on fixed incomes. This is largely due to the fact that a great deal of ignorance concerning the blind and visually impaired still abounds, and this severe ignorance causes employers to stereotype the blind and visually impaired resulting in a ridiculously high unemployment rate among this particular group. On the subject of unemployment among the blind and visually impaired in the United States, Forbs Magazine states, “Despite the technical advances made to help blind employees, there is still a staggering unemployment rate among that population. Several organizations, including the American Foundation for the Blind, put it at 70% among people of employment age, a number that has stayed constant for many years” (Weiss). Blind and visually impaired individuals must work twice as hard, if not more, than their sighted counterparts to prove that they have a place in the workforce and can contribute to society. This is not always effective because even the greatest efforts will not sway many employers. “The single largest factor is discrimination and bias, There’s a belief among employers that people who are blind can’t do jobs” (Weiss).
Blind and visually impaired people, even in modern times, are still believed to be feeble minded and helpless human beings, incapable of being adequate enough to do even an entry level job. This puts many blind individuals in a dismal situation'”severe poverty and a life in public housing–one that is hardly ideal for purchasing screen reading software that costs over a grand. True, these individuals can seek help from government agencies and other large organizations that are devoted to helping the blind; however, these agencies and organizations have been known to make unfair impositions on individuals seeking help from them or give them the run around so much that they reach the point of giving up.
There is good news, however. NV Access, a company who devotes themselves to providing free and open source solutions for the blind and visually impaired has developed a screen reader, known as Nonvisual Desktop Access (NVDA), which enables these individuals to use a computer and have access to information for the same cost that everyone else in society has to pay. Blind and visually impaired individuals no longer have to chase after government agencies and other large organizations to obtain what they should have rightfully had from the beginning'”fair access to technology and information. NVDA is a hassle free solution!
Outstanding Features of NVDA
NVDA has a number of outstanding features. NVDA allows users to use the mouse because the text that the mouse lands on is announced. NVDA has also been translated into approximately twenty languages, enabling individuals all over the world to have access to this screen reader. Finally, NVDA can be made portable because a copy can be stored on a thumb drive for use on any computer. No installation is necessary for use. All the user must do is plug in the thumb drive and access the copy that is on it, and the computer they are sitting at will begin talking (NV Access). This is excellent for blind individuals who must use screen readers in the work setting, such as for repairing others’ computers or using a computer in a place of business or library.
Is NVDA Like Jaws?
This particular question gets asked a lot, since Jaws has been the screen reader that has dominated the blindness industry for years and is the most well known. NVDA and Jaws share a lot of the same keystrokes, such as insert down arrow to read all of the text in a document, insert t for title of window, insert b for the dialog box, and insert 1 to turn on the keyboard help, if users choose to use the insert key to perform these actions. The makers of NVDA refer to the insert key as the NVDA key because the insert key is not the only key that can be used to perform these actions. The caps lock key can also be configured to serve as the NVDA key (NV Access). There are a number of differences from Jaws, as well. For one, NVDA allows users access to the actual mouse pad (NV Access), whereas Jaws has special keystrokes for accessing the mouse cursor (Freedom Scientific Inc.). Secondly, NVDA enables users to use object navigation to access various elements of a webpage (NV Access), whereas Jaws requires users to use the Jaws cursor (Freedom Scientific). Third, NVDA has been translated into about twenty languages (NV Access), whereas Jaws can only be purchased in only a handful of languages (Freedom Scientific). The last notable difference is that NVDA is the only screen reader that enables users to see the exact layout of a webpage, whereas other screen readers portray the layout as being a bunch of lists and menus. NVDA enables users to see the information in its true context (NV Access). Though there are many differences between Jaws and NVDA, individuals trained on Jaws will not have much trouble adjusting to NVDA, should individuals want to make NVDA their primary screen reader.
How to Help the Makers of NVDA
There are a number of ways that individuals can help the makers of NVDA. Individuals who are familiar with programming codes, such as Python and C++ are free to work on the project. Users who are not so savvy with programming code can donate to the project via accessing the donation link on the website or by making suggestions for improvements. NVDA is what it is because of the community and the development and support of the software largely depends on its users.
NVDA is a step in the right direction for the blind and visually impaired. This screen reading technology has not only opened up many doors for even the most impoverished blind person that were nonexistent before, but this screen reader has revolutionized the way the blind and visually impaired use the computer and access information. Thanks to NV Access, no individual is excluded because of their economic situation.
Freedom Scientific Inc. Freedomscientific.com. N.p., 2010. Web. 12 July 2010.
NV Access. “About NVDA.” NVDA Project. N.p., 2010. Web. 12 July 2010.
Weiss, Tara. “A Beacon Of Competence.” Forbs Magazine. N.p., 14 Mar. 2008. Web. 12 July 2010.