Computing for the Blind?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Bill M. writes

" Dear Dennis,

My son-in-law has been blind for about 5 years, losing his sight due to diabetes. I am interested in a Talking Computer for his use which will open the e-world, or part of it, to his use. I have been told such units do exist and are obtainable through various State's special services for the disabled. What can you tell me about the ease of use or difficulty of use for the blind? Thanks in advance. "

My response:

In the past, I have been in contact with a few blind users who read the infopackets newsletter regularly. I forwarded Bill's email to Reader Jan C., who knows more on the subject than I do. Jan writes:

" There are disability forums in many states that pay for text to speech software's. Having said that, there are two of them on the market that are fantastic. The first is Window-Eyes by GW Micro. It is a great program that is available for about six or seven hundred dollars on the Microsoft's site. From gwMicro:

Window-Eyes Professional is nothing less than the most stable screen reader available on the market today. Featuring Windows 9X, Me, 2000, XP, and 2003 compatibility, Window-Eyes puts you in the hands of the most powerful screen reading software ever created. Window-Eyes gives total control over what you hear and how you hear it. Plus, with its enhanced Braille support that control is extended to what you feel as well. On top of all that, the power and stability of Window-Eyes means that most applications work right out of the box with no need for endless tinkering in order to get them to function properly.

However, Window-Eyes (in my opinion) is not quite as well rounded as the software called JAWS (Job Access With Speech). That software is available through a company called Freedom Scientific. That software program is currently on the market for about $1,000 to $1,100 dollars. It is quite an expensive initial outlay of money. However, the software does everything for reading what is on a computer screen. The requirements for use on any Windows compatible computer are not that difficult to attain. Most any computers nowadays have enough RAM (system memory) to handle it. I do recommend that the user get a SoundBlaster sound card for the computer when purchasing JAWS. From the freedomScientific web site:

The most popular screen reader worldwide, JAWS® for Windows works with your PC to provide access to today’s software applications and the Internet. With its internal software speech synthesizer and the computer’s sound card, information from the screen is read aloud, providing technology to access a wide variety of information, education and job related applications. JAWS also outputs to refreshable Braille displays, providing unmatched Braille support of any screen reader on the market. A training tutorial is included.

Sound Boards

The audigy 2 sound board is quite sufficient. Other sound boards have been found to be extremely poor in dealing with text to speech software applications. I would tell you that the sound blaster audigy 2 is a must. I personally suffered with a lesser quality sound board when first getting JAWS, and my performance with the software was fair at best till I changed sound boards.

Assistive Technologies: Scan to Text

Bill might also check in to a software company called Premiere Assistive Technology. They offer a scan and read program that brings just about any text in print to life in a word processor format and is able to read the text to you. The scan and read pro is very compatible with the JAWS program. The two were made for each other. The cost of that program is about $160.00 including shipping and handling.

Funding for the Blind

Now for funding for computers and software. Most states have a Department of Human Services, and a sub department called the Bureau for the Blind or some such name. I live in Illinois and my rehab teacher who has come to my home to teach my Braille, cooking, sewing, mobility (getting out in the world blind), and computer technology is employed by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Rehab Services. If Bill would be able to look on the Web for blind Services, he would be able to locate the services available for that state. He may also contact the local Public Assistance Department for help in finding the department of rehab in their state. Most of the services provided by the individual states are free of charge to the recipient. Some of the technology, like JAWS may be funded in whole or in part by the state. In Illinois I had to pay for twenty percent of the cost of the software. But that is sure better than $1,100.

More information

If you have any other questions, please write to me. I would be more than happy to assist in this matter. I am certainly glad to be of help. "

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