A Guest Post
Brian D. Gage
Vonda asked me to contribute. My first introduction to e-books and e-readers came this autumn, 2016. I’m totally blind, using a 4 gig PC, Windows 10 and JAWS 17, a screen reader for the blind.
Years ago, I read Dreamsnake on audio tape, then as an .MP3 digital recording. After discovering this web site and reading some free sample chapters, I wanted to try one of Vonda’s e-books.
First problem, accessibility. Does the reader work with screen reader/speech technology? Searching Google gave some two or three-year-old information that made me nervous. Second problem, cost. I don’t like spending a lot of money for something that might not be all that accessible.
Today, my only experience is with ADE, Adobe Digital Editions. It’s free, and it worked. Well, sort of.
ADE was easy to obtain and simple to install. I skipped the fancy option of getting an Adobe registration because I only intend to read on the one computer. Also, when I initially tried to get registered with Adobe, the procedure didn’t work. Some kind of accessibility issue.
Once installed, the ADE short-cut showed up on my desk-top. Then, because it was inexpensive, I purchased “Little Faces” as a trial book. Purchasing and downloading required a lot of cursoring down through the web site to find the right buttons to click. Easy if you can see and zip your mouse to the highlight. Not so if one is blind. I used Pay Pal and had no problems. When the story showed up in my download directory, I simply clicked on the .EPUB file and started reading. A miracle! It worked!
Now, as to issues. ADE seems to read certain lines twice as I cursor down. I think this is a paging issue, like when the cursor reaches the bottom of a screen, though I haven’t gotten a sighted person to confirm yet. Also, some long lines of text seems truncated. When that happened, using right arrow letter by letter or word by word didn’t bring up the missing text. I tried hitting ‘ALT-F’ and cursored right to ‘Reading’, then down to full-screen. That would bounce me back up a full page, but usually, when I cursored back down, the missing line of text had appeared. Strange, since the document is supposed to be in full-screen as a default. This has been a consistent problem. Ends of long lines repeatedly don’t appear. Sometimes it’s difficult to realize you missed three or four words.
ADE has a collection of new commands to learn, and a few don’t appear to work with my screen reader. I’ve clicked on a few buttons and nothing happens – at least, nothing that JAWS reports. Makes one nervous. Learning how to use ADE is like learning a new word processor, with commands or terms that need an interpretive guide book. I really don’t like wading through a manual to learn a new computer lingo, since I have many other things that eat up my time.
Want to experiment? You can download a demo version of JAWS and experiment. www.freedomscientific.com, or Google.
The voice may be annoying, but hey, it works better than Microsoft Narrator.
— Brian D. Gage
Brian D. Gage was blinded at the age of 18, in 1966, and subsequently completed high school at the age of 21. He was accepted into major level sciences at the University of British Columbia, the first totally blind student to complete physics and chemistry with honours. He has worked as a film processor, instructional aid for children with learning disabilities, a mountain man, and as a database programmer. He has been married twice, widowed both times, and has a son, age 30, who is a nurse at the local Cowichan District hospital. His hobbies are writing science-fiction/fantasy and working with radiation science.