NVDA Presentation at CSUN 2009
The Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, hosted by California State University, Northridge (and thus usually known simply as the CSUN conference), is perhaps the world's largest conference on assistive technology. Thanks to the generocity and support of the Mozilla Foundation, Mick attended CSUN 2007 and both Mick and I attended CSUN 2008. We gained a great deal from these conferences, as they enabled us to meet and share information and ideas with prominent figures in the industry, as well as giving us a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about NVDA. For CSUN 2009, given the positive response from users and the industry as a whole, we decided to take a step forward and run our own presentation about NVDA. We are pleased to announce that our submission was accepted. We are very much looking forward to the conference and are keen to once again spread the word about open accessibility technology from the Mozilla booth. CSUN 2009 will be held from 16-21 March at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott & Renaissance Montura Hotels.
Following is the abstract for our presentation.
NVDA: A FREE, OPEN SOURCE SCREEN READER FOR MICROSOFT WINDOWS
NV Access Inc.
Vice President/Software Developer
NV Access Inc.
NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free, open source screen reader for Microsoft Windows. Providing feedback via synthetic speech and braille, it enables blind and vision impaired users to access a computer running Microsoft Windows for no more cost than a sighted person. In the short time since its inception in mid 2006, NVDA has already developed into a viable alternative to commercial screen readers, outperforming them in some areas. It has rapidly gained popularity and is used by many blind and vision impaired people across the globe. As at November 2008, the current version had been downloaded over 10000 times since its release less than three months prior. In this session, the primary developers of NVDA will provide an introduction to NVDA, including a discussion of its history, features, philosophy, community drive, design and plans for the future. Demonstrations will be provided where appropriate. NVDA began its life in mid 2006 when Michael Curran, unhappy with the excessive cost of existing screen readers, endeavoured to write his own screen reader in the Python programming language. In the first part of this session, the history of the NVDA project will be outlined, right from its humble beginnings to the considerable success it enjoys today. This will include the introduction of the other primary developer, James Teh, to the project, the creation of NV Access as a non-profit supporting organisation for the NVDA project, and Michael's journey to CSUN 2007. Subsequently, the increasing support of the Mozilla Foundation will be covered, including the grants they provided to enhance support for Mozilla Firefox and to employ James full time. CSUN 2008's impact on the project will then be discussed, followed by the developments in the rest of the year. Perhaps the greatest appeal of NVDA is its zero cost, but this is certainly not a reflection of its quality or functionality. The session will focus on the many features of NVDA and the benefits they offer to its users. This includes its vast support for over twenty languages (all of which are included in the main distribution) and bundling with the free, open-source, multilingual speech synthesiser eSpeak. NVDA'S ability to run entirely from portable media such as USB flash drives will be covered, as well as the optional capability for installation with a talking installer. There will be a focus on NVDA's excellent support for Mozilla Firefox 3, including quick navigation keys, links list, support for the Accessible Rich Internet Application (ARIA) standard and basic support for live regions, as well as support for Mozilla Thunderbird 3, accessible Java applications and Windows Command Prompt and console applications. Innovative features such as audible progress bar beeps and audible indication of the mouse position will be outlined. As well as describing these features, the session will detail how they have been applied by users in their daily lives and why a user might choose NVDA over its commercial equivalents. The guiding principle of both NV Access and the NVDA project is that accessibility should not be an extra cost for the user. The session will explain how NV Access fulfills this goal and the philosophy of NV Access and NVDA, including their commitment to openness and community. First, the benefits of open source software will be discussed, such as the ability to draw on a diverse, global pool of development expertise and the benefits of openly sharing knowledge for accessibility as a whole. These benefits are very much evident in the multitude of contributions already made to NVDA by the global community. Peter Vágner, the internationalisation coordinator for NVDA, will talk about his role in managing the translation and internationalisation effort, which has assisted in making NVDA's excellent multilingual capabilities a reality. There will also be discussion surrounding the NVDA developers' active participation in and support of the development of other open source software as well as open accessibility standards and technologies. Marco Zehe from the Mozilla Corporation will discuss the relationship between Mozilla and the NVDA project, which has had substantial benefits for both parties. Also, importantly, the growth of NVDA's own community will be discussed, including the development of community resources such as the NVDA web site, email lists, blog entries, an internet relay chat channel and an issue tracking system for users to report and discuss bugs and feature requests. Finally, NVDA's potential for innovation and experimentation will be covered.
NVDA's success as a product is in no small way due to the care with which it has been designed and implemented. The developers will briefly describe the principles underlying NVDA's design and implementation. This includes the use of the Python programming language to enable simple, rapid development, the extensible, modular, abstract design, and the focus on accuracy and efficiency.
The final part of this session will outline possible plans for the future for both NV Access and the NVDA project. Topics discussed will include the enhancement of support for Internet Explorer, support for UI Automation, the ability to read display information and improved support for office suites.