I learned something new today

I learned something new today at work. Namely, how to use software for the blind and visually impaired. Probably a good thing that I learned it, given the prescription for my glasses. I got to install and mess with two of the most popular software packages, Jaws and WindowEyes. I've gotta say I like Jaws better, it's a lot more polished, though my faculty member said he prefers WindowsEyes to use. The stuff isn't cheap, at nearly $1,000/copy individually, but if you're blind, what are you going to do? It works in a way that I didn't expect too, the software reads the words that are under your mouse cursor, so the blind actually have a good grasp of what the UI for an application looks like to the rest of us. It was kind of neat to watch my user navigating that way, though the software merely spits gibberish when I use it, because I move so quickly. People who can see just fine say I do things too quickly in Windows, so I'm not surprised that the robotic computer voice can't keep up. It helped a lot that this user was very proficient with computers as well, which I think is a requirement for using this kind of software, he had a better knowledge of the keyboard shortcuts for Windows than I did, which sort of freaked me out.

While setting up his new computer, I looked at his old one, which he had just moved, and had been unable to get working since the move. A quick glance showed me what was wrong, he had swapped the PS/2 cables for mouse and keyboard around (they use the same types of plugins) as well as plugged the audio cable into the wrong hole (line out instead of speakers). I've always thought they should have made those interfaces different, especially for the mouse/keyboard. Both the keyboard/mouse and the audio inputs/outputs are color coded, but that doesn't do a damned bit of good when you're blind. He was very happy to learn his new system came with USB peripherals, as you can't get those wrong.