In Praise Of NV Access

There is a lot wrong with the world, and disabled people deal with a good bit of it. We see the ugly side of people, corporations, and institutions. I spend plenty of time discussing these issues, and I’ve decided to add a little positivity to the blog. In addition to posts about the world’s problems, I’ve decided to begin a gratitude series. Each week, I will highlight some corporation, person, or institution for which I am grateful, and devote a post to thanking them for their efforts and spreading the word about their achievements. I hope these will be shared as enthusiastically as my other posts, as we need to spend time supporting the initiatives that make our lives better and easier. This week, I’d like to praise the good folks at NV Access, who are responsible for the outstanding (and free) screen reader called NVDA.

In high school, during which I depended upon my laptop almost exclusively, the unthinkable happened: JAWS, my commercial screen reader, stopped working quite spontaneously. Until I figured out that the problem was a Microsoft Security Essentials upgrade that had somehow messed with JAWS, (thanks ever so, Windows) I spent several months without it. Since my school division’s tech support team was reluctant to let me perform a simple reinstallation on my own (I’ll never understand this), I was forced to look for alternatives. Being something of a rule-follower in those days, I waited far too long to get fed up and reinstall JAWS anyway. They never even bothered to check up on me, so they never found out. I was rescued by NVDA, and while JAWS remains my primary screen reader, I rest safely in the knowledge that NVDA will always be there for me.

The screen reader has improved dramatically in the past few years, as more features are added and support for the project continues to grow. NV Access relies on donations from grateful users, and while they do receive enough to keep them going, the user base could probably afford to be much more generous. If I paid what NVDA is worth, my wallet would be considerably lighter.

The open source nature of the software allows people to get creative with clever add-ons and enhancements, making it easier to customize the experience to suit a wide array of needs. The blind community is diverse, and there are many enterprising developers out there who want to improve NVDA so it can serve more users. It has a little way to go in terms of competing with commercial screen readers, especially concerning specific software in professional settings, but I am continually astounded and overjoyed by how far it has come.

To the hardworking people at NV access, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Keep doing what you’re doing. Once I find gainful employment, I will be contributing more than praise, I promise you.

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3 thoughts on “In Praise Of NV Access

  1. Like you Meagan, JAWS is my primary screenreader. When I was studying at TAFE, in order for me to use a pc like the rest of my class mates I downloaded NVDA onto a USB flash drive and used that. I couldn’t install JAWS on the machine as the machines were wiped clean at the end of the day I’m hnot sure how often though but that’s the main reason anyway. I actually met the main guy who develops NVDA as he resides here in Australia. I didn’t even know he was the developer of NVDA until I happened to discover him purely by chance on twitter. I met Michael Curran during a holiday program at what was the RVIB or Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind but this was in 2004. I again was lucky I had NVDA at my disposal when my computer was killed by a lightning strike back in January. I prefer JAWS over NVDA if it’s only because of ESpeak and it doesn’t always perform as well as JAWS to me but let’s face it. If it’s a last resort you use it you use what’s available to you at the time. It might not be good but it’s better than nothing.

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