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Old 04-19-2016, 06:37 PM   #1
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Blind

Our country has a very strange approach to what we used to call blind.

Here's Microsoft's take on "blind".
Quote:
Configuring Windows for people who are blind or have impaired vision
Using Display in Control Panel, people who have impaired vision or are blind can select larger fonts and icons, increase the size of screen elements by using a lower screen resolution, or change the size of windows and window borders. Using Mouse in Control Panel, you can adjust mouse properties to display larger or more visible mouse pointers and control the speed and animation of the mouse pointer.
When using Windows-based programs, you can change font sizes and colors, background color, and window size. In some programs, you can magnify the elements that are displayed in the program's window.
Using the Properties or Default dialog boxes in MS-DOS programs, you can change font types, sizes, and colors, background color, and the size of the cursor and program window.
Hmmm.. they get away with this, because "blind" no longer means "cannot see". Basically, because the National Federation of the Blind has redefined blindness. https://nfb.org/blindness-statistics

.................................................. ..........................
So here's the situation...
I have a good friend, who is brilliant, but has been totally sightless since he was six. He has worked as a college professor, and later as a desk manager for Marriott, where he used a version of "Jaws" (a computer programmed to allow for the totally blind to do basic business operation and to some extent to use the internet.) Though the program has promise for browsing the internet the way you and I do, it is expensive (nearly $1400) and not too intuitive. We've tried the 30 day trial.
For some time, I have been telling my friend about the whole world of knowledge that is there for the taking, and that I thought it would be possible for him to use the computer by using the different programs that we're used to... ala Siri, Okay Google, Cortana, Narrator, Speech Recognition... and some less well know programs like NVDA.

We now have some 25 hours into trying to make his new computer accessible to do simple search, read, or listen-to sites.

The YouTube videos (instructions) while well intentioned are basically worthless as tutorials. Dozens of Google searches for help almost always come back to the same type of instructions, that are either incomprehensible, or assume the the "user" has some vision, and can use the mouse to locate information, or oversimplify the initialization of speech recognition or narrator type programs.

We've been working at "narrator" and the 77 commands that one must memorize, and have been able to program the computer to start in the program we want to use. That's about as far as we've been able to get, without using the mouse to initiate "Cortana" or a start point for Narrator.

The frustration level is beginning to rise. What sounds like a simple solution is becoming very, very difficult. Google has made it more difficult by eliminating "okay Google" for desktops and laptops... which were the last bastions for verbal access.... (reason given... only 5% use the commands and the "listening" background program slowed the browser.).

So... we decided to start out with Windows 10, and the built in "Cortana". Problem is, with no vision, getting to it, and the microphone to use voice search is something I haven't figured out.

While there are between 3.4 million and 8.4 million visually impaired in the US, statistics for the totally blind are harder to come by. Good luck in finding that number.

Seems like a simple, easily solvable problem, eh? Thoughtful solutions invited, but before you do, think of how you would describe Windows to a totally sightless person... and how they might get to an item on a Wiki page (for instance).

Just a small corner of the world.
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Old 04-19-2016, 07:21 PM   #2
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Even if computing metaphors are currently "inconvenient" because they crimp "apps", they remain very useful for description purposes. The "Windows Desktop" is an analogy a sightless person who has business experience should be able to relate to. On the desktop are a variety of tools.
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Old 04-19-2016, 07:55 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by GrayHare View Post
Even if computing metaphors are currently "inconvenient" because they crimp "apps", they remain very useful for description purposes. The "Windows Desktop" is an analogy a sightless person who has business experience should be able to relate to. On the desktop are a variety of tools.
Without vision, how does one operate the desktop?
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Old 04-19-2016, 08:53 PM   #4
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Just like a real world desktop. By remembering where you placed the stapler relative to the desk corner you can reach for it again without looking. Similar applies to the browser icon on the Windows desktop.
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Old 04-20-2016, 06:05 AM   #5
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Imoldernu, have you contacted the Federation for the Blind or similar organizations for some ideas? You're questions can't be totally unique.

Or new. Here's a mid-90's paper on the challenges a GUI brings to blind computer user:
National Federation of the Blind: THE GRAPHICAL USER INTERFACE

I also found this page with links to many products increasing accessibility to computing:
Adaptive Computer Products | Assistive Technology for computer access

Good luck on your quest.
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Old 04-20-2016, 08:24 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by GrayHare View Post
Just like a real world desktop. By remembering where you placed the stapler relative to the desk corner you can reach for it again without looking. Similar applies to the browser icon on the Windows desktop.
I assume you tried this... and were able to browse. Congrats!
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Old 04-20-2016, 08:48 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Htown Harry View Post
Imoldernu, have you contacted the Federation for the Blind or similar organizations for some ideas? You're questions can't be totally unique.

Or new. Here's a mid-90's paper on the challenges a GUI brings to blind computer user:
National Federation of the Blind: THE GRAPHICAL USER INTERFACE

I also found this page with links to many products increasing accessibility to computing:
Adaptive Computer Products | Assistive Technology for computer access

Good luck on your quest.
Thanks... yeah, my friend is active in many of the association that deal with vision impairment, and some of the links you provided offer programs that are more intuitive than the narrator and speech recognition programs that are offered through operating systems and browsers. The most promising one are very expensive... cost effective for one earning a living, but the $500 to $3000 costs for a retired person with limited assets requires serious consideration. For the ones we looked at, the increased functionality was not worth the differential.

We continue to make progress, but the learning curve is very steep. There are long term classes (up to thirteen 2 hour sessions) but nothing local. Most promising looks to be in developing our own program shortcuts, just to get to
to the main sources like Wikipedia or UTube, although navigating web pages still requires the memorization of most of the 77 narrator commands.

By the way, the Federation of the Blind did provide an excellent Dell Laptop for a very reasonable price... with sample programs already loaded. Unfortunately, the change of terminology for the term Blind from Sightless to Vision Impaired, has left assistance for those who are totally without vision, with less support. As in the OP... it's hard to balance the up to 8.4 million visually impaired with the estimated 250 thousand who are totally without sight.

It appears to us that we're still 10 years away from what might be. Just sayin'...

At the very least, this experience has taught me a new humility.
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Old 04-21-2016, 06:44 AM   #8
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My older brother has Retinitis Pigmentosa which is a form of macular degenration that results in tunnel vision. In his case the "box" of clear vision has become blurred to the point that he can no longer read (which was a major loss for him) even with large fonts and backlit screens through which I kept him going for years. My take on the idea that a blind person can rely on the "desktop" placement metaphor is - good luck. With a touch screen laptop, tablet or all-in-one it sounds doable to start various programs with a touch but think about it for a minute. All kinds of things go wrong every day leaving the desktop inaccessible. If the user can't see what is causing the problem he or she can't easily work around the issue. I saw it all the time while my brother was still able to use his Nook with large fonts for reading. Something would go wrong and he would be tossed into a Nook screen with tiny icons and font that he couldn't see. He would get frustrated and give up until someone who could see what was going on could correct the problem. Frustrating and hard to deal with.

Kudos for trying to help Imoldr. Keep us posted on your progress.
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Old 04-22-2016, 08:46 AM   #9
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imoldernu, There is a way to enable voice activation of Cortana in Windows 10. To do so, click on the Cortana search field in the taskbar. Then select the 3 line (hamburger) icon, and select Notebook, and then Settings. There should be a toggle to allow Cortana to respond to "Hey Cortana".

After that, you can update your home or other locations, what kind of news you are interested in, etc, and then say something like "Hey Cortana, what is the weather?", and she will respond via audio.
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Old 04-22-2016, 04:44 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by McGriffin View Post
imoldernu, There is a way to enable voice activation of Cortana in Windows 10. To do so, click on the Cortana search field in the taskbar. Then select the 3 line (hamburger) icon, and select Notebook, and then Settings. There should be a toggle to allow Cortana to respond to "Hey Cortana".

After that, you can update your home or other locations, what kind of news you are interested in, etc, and then say something like "Hey Cortana, what is the weather?", and she will respond via audio.
Yes... we have optimized Cortana, and for simple, common news and info , it works... but only to the point of getting to a basic continuous news sources, simple replies to some specific question, and sometimes, to be able to pull up utube music, or answers to calculations, measurement for distances, amounts, dollars equivalents and like that.

Microsoft narrator supposedly allows navigation on a windows page, but memorizing the 77 basic commands is a challenge, and even being able to see what is going on in the page, and move between items, or having info read back, is extremely difficult.

We did locate a support facility for the blind, in Maryland that offers course in computers for the blind. Get this... the first course is five weeks, and the subject is "Introduction to Computers". After that, there are four more courses... each 5 weeks of instruction. So... a total of 25 weeks of instruction. What we're trying to do in a limited time frame.

Now am beginning to realize why the initial optimism is coming to grips with reality. I was hoping to be at a point where we could use a scanner to read his mail, and to help with other documents that are necessary to independent living. We have the right tools... scanner, optical character recognition, and voice over, with Narrator. Putting them together for use by a sightless person seem to be the equivalent to mapping the human genome.

With a tablet or phone, "Okay Google" works fairly well, but for desktops and laptops, Google (Chrome), it no longer works, as it went by the wayside in Octoberwhen the complaints about Chrome being slow, become a problem. (the background "listening" took too much memory.

Since there is very little written about this, and the internet seems to have no serious practical solutions, I'm afraid that help will be a long time in coming. Just one of those things that we assumed would be resolved with new technology, but got lost in the shuffle.
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