[Accessibility] Three Screen Readers and Braille Display Emulation with Windows

Steve Clarke trumpton13 at trumpton.org.uk
Mon May 26 22:14:08 CEST 2014

Dear All,

It's great to see positive work being done in enabling and enhancing QT application 

My name is Steve Clarke, and I'm an electronic engineer in the Space industry by day, but by 
night, I find myself tinkering with various bits of software.

My other half is blind, and uses Windows, Jaws screen-reader and a Pacmate braille display, 
and I do whatever I can to make her life easier - this currently means developing 
applications using QT.

I thought I'd share different ways QT applications can be tested for accessibility, particularly 
with the screen readers and braille displays - most of which are extraordinarily expensive 
(you won't get much change out of €3500 for a reasonable display and screen reader, and 
that only lets you see a 40 character window of the entire page at any one time! - it's like 
looking at the internet through a letterbox).


There are several screen-readers available, each of which can drive a large number of 
braille displays, in addition to speaking the menus / screen positions - I'll quickly introduce 
three of them ...

NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) - www.nvaccess.org

This is a comprehensive screen-reader written by two blind enthusiasts, who were appalled 
by the cost of accessibility features / applications.  It supports the IAccessible2 protocol, and 
is a free download / install / use.

Jaws - www.freedomscientific.com

This is a professional screen-reader, that is not at all cheap.  I believe this to use the MSAA 
protocol.  The demonstration version is a free download, and runs for 40 minutes at a time.

Windows Eyes - www.gwmicro.com

This is another professional screen-reader.  It also has a demonstration version, which runs 
for 60 days.


Unfortunately, each of the screen-readers shown above, presents information differently / 
works to different levels of success with different widgets, and, may work correctly with the 
spoken output, then promptly fails when reading on a braille display.

As the programs and displays are expensive, an alternative approach to testing must be 
sought - taking these in reverse order ...

Windows Eyes

This program has a simulator, that can be enabled.  This simulator shows what comes up on 
the braille display.



If you use version 14, rather than version 15, you can also use the braille emulator.


Non Visual Desktop Access

This one is much more complex.  It doesn't have a simulator, and the only way to see what 
would be output to a braille display is to look at the log files, but nothing is written in the log 
files unless a braille display is connected.

A work-around is to use BRLTTY, which is a braille emulator/driver for console terminals, and 
you can enable the simulator in BRLTTY.  The problem that most then discover is that 
BRLTTY only displays the text if the terminal is active - NVDA, however, does log everything it 
is trying to send to the braille display.


That's it from me - hopefully, I can get back to doing some useful testing - just got a 
bathroom suite to install - there just aren't enough hours in the day :-(


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