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Why do some blind people do what they do?

Unexpectedly, yesterday was a very busy day for me at home. When I get up in the morning, I do an email catchup, look at what has been happening on Twitter and that includes reading news stories on the web to keep my current affairs knowledge up-to-date.

One thing people were talking about was that a Twitter client a number of blind people use, (The Qube), wasn't sending tweets although it could receive them.

I am not going into the complexities of why that happened. That has been covered extensively elsewhere. But a great deal of the time was spent using an alternative client called Tween, which I had seen reference to in earlier weeks.

Fortunately, there were some excellent JAWS scripts around to get us started and particularly suppressed JAWS speech output when composing tweets. But I felt there needed to be some useful additions to improve the user experience, and so with the permission of the original script developer I added to his code. This involved writing scripts, (including figuring out quite a problem relating to enabling and disabling automatic messages in the System Tray and Notifications Area), and of course, testing them. It takes just as long to test scripts and provide documentation for them as it does to write them and I had several JAWS versions to test including identifying which ones would work and those which would not.

As I suspected, many people, (me included), have gone back to using the Qube now it is working. However, I will not be uninstalling Tween, nor will I be ceasing ongoing development of the Tween scripts. That was a question which came up several times yesterday. I will continue to support them, improve them and make changes to them. Yesterday was rather like a fire practice we had when in school. The fire drill is now over. If we like we can go back to how we were using Twitter before. Any Twitter client could stop functioning at any time, and it is always good to have something to revert to and to try if something stops working. I remember when I produced an audio tutorial for Windows 95 and 98 back in the late 90's I think, one of the first points I made was that Windows gives you a lot of ways of being able to do exactly the same thing, and it is always good to know of as many as possible.

Exploring and using Tween was an education for me in that it has lead me to thinking the interface may be excellent for those people using voice recognition technology. Some people simply cannot use the keyboard for many reasons and I think Tween would be ideal for them.

But that really isn't the point of this blog post.

What amazes me is the way some blind people behave towards others when particular events are discussed, and the list is growing. Most commonly, it relates to screen-readers, internet radio, Apple V. Android devices, and now, Twitter clients. I've seen on Twitter yesterday and today people being bullied about the Twitter client they are using. Some people have said for example that those wishing to exchange messages on Twitter were being disloyal to the Qube client by going to another. This is complete nonsense. If something isn't working, you go and find an alternative. For some people, Twitter is their window on the world particularly if they are alone, just as chat clients are, including audio chat rooms in which people can meet and get to know each other. The need to access services is still there so a way needs to be found to use them. To say one is being disloyal is pathetic.

This approach and atitude comes hot on the heels of a "comparison" recently distributed of the two screen-readers, JAWS and NVDA. Personally I wouldn't have said it was a true comparison of what each is capable of delivering. I remember over ten years ago a group of us delivered a Main Menu presentation comparing the functions of JAWS and Window-Eyes, and I am certain we all did that in a professional down to earth manner. I felt, in part, that this was not a comparison but a scathing attack against its developers. But again, it is excellent that people have a choice about what it is they wish to use, and in many cases, it is good to have more than one screen-reader on a computer for accomplishing different tasks, in the same way that it is helpful to have two internet browsers installed. It doesn't mean that one is better than the other, it just means that both offer different things. There's a screen-reader I can think of which I've tried, and I just don't like the way it delivers content. But I would never dream of condemning anyone for using it or telling anyone they shouldn't because it does offer good things too. Indeeed, I've heavily promoted what that product has to offer.

I've also beenin the company of people in a professional setting where some individuals have introduced remarks so as to be vicious about a particular manufacturing or software developing company, even if no reference had previously beenmade to it.

So please people. Try not to condemn others for what they use. It is their personal choice to use a product or a service which they particularly enjoy and benefit from. The most important thing is that we as blind people can effectively communicate and have access to so many services on the internet. I think we are living in fantastic enlightened times. As one of our past Prime Ministers Harold Macmillan once said, we've never had it so good.

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