Important Messages, such as Service Disruption and Opening Times.

Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM UK time. We will try to give assistance to those people not living in the UK outside of those hours if possible.

Cassie's Unboxing

Bert's Place Audio Dramas

Hi everyone

We are delighted that lots of people are visiting the Bert's Place website at to read about, (and listen to), the adventures of Bert the Leprechaun. We really appreciate all the comments you give to us via AudioBoo,, Twitter and Facebook, and he loves them all too! We have introduced a new photo gallery containing over 70 pictures of Bert when he is out and about. Feel free to check it out!

The audio dramas have been in production for two years now and it has become very clear that people are unsure as to their context, particularly if they have not been following his adventures since the start or who have not read the journal. Added to this, we are often being asked when the next audio drama will be produced.

We've decided to take a step back from the drama production for a month or two. We are going to do some editing and further work on the existing dramas so as to provide some context, thus making them even more professional. In this way, people will get a sense of where Bert came from and how each adventure came to be. We also want to do some work on the podcast feed itself to make it look a little more professional.

Once this work is done, we will begin work on the next drama. We know what the storyline is going to be, so it will definitely happen, it just may take a few weeks before it is recorded and uploaded.

To address another question, as and when the new drama is released, it will be posted to Bert's AudioBoo account. However, for reasons of quality, we always recommend listening to the dramas from the Bert's Place website.

We hope you continue to enjoy the offerings in Bert's Place, especially his journal as this keeps you right up-to-date with his life!

To be an effective social networker, you must have mastered web browsing. Discuss.

I have been an avid (and impressed) reader of the AccessWorld journal, (published by the American Foundation of the Blind), of some years standing. I generally feel it contains extremely thorough reviews of products and services and as a consequence I frequently share with my Twitter and Facebook followers those items which I hope will interest others.

Given my high praise of this publication, I was disappointed to read the item appearing in the May 2013 edition of the magazine, "Social Networking for the Blind and Visually Impaired". This was part 2 of an exploration into the world of social media, aimed at those who wish to join a vibrant online community - in short, what millions of other people are doing, blind and sighted.

The author of the piece, Larry Lewis, sets the reader's expectations of what is to come, thus:

"Now that you've gained an understanding of what social networks are, how they work, and their value to you as a user of access technology, it's time to get down to business and turn our attention to utilizing and reaping the benefits of these valuable interactive tools. This article focuses on accessing social networks using a desktop computer. Though it's quite fashionable to interact with these networks using a smartphone or a portable tablet, there is still a great deal of value in using your computer and favorite screen reader. In addition, desktop access serves as a fantastic means with which you might familiarize yourself with the various functionalities present within these virtual communities."

Excellent, so we assume that many aspects of what he will now discuss relates to interacting with social networking on a computer with a screen-reader, and it does, in part ... He describes the usefulness (or otherwise) of using such services with a web browser.

I think the most erroneous statement in the article was: "At the end of the day, before you can expect to be an effective social networker, you must have already mastered web browsing functionality within your screen reader of choice." I think many people reading this blog post will know this is untrue.

Apart from the excellent System Access repository, "The Socialiser" from Serotek, (which was probably one of the early adopters of Twitter and Facebook allowing people to more effectively interact with these services), developers of technologies have provided a number of desktop clients which serve two purposes. First, they provide a more convenient mechanism for accessing Twitter particularly without using websites. These have either been through clients such as Microsoft Outlook, applications in their own dedicated window (such as Tween), or what I would describe as "Invisible Clients" (such as the Qube or Twittmonger), allowing for instant access to Twitter irrespective of the application in focus. Access to Facebook has also been provided via Skype or Outlook plugins in the past.

There is a second more appealing aspect of using these alternative methods of access however. There are many people who simply do not know how to use the web with their screen-reader. They just wouldn't know where to begin and even if they did, sometimes screen-readers deliver so much of what I describe as "verbal clutter", they are mystified as to what some of the terms mean. These tools I've mentioned give the people in that group a chance to be a part of a wide community.

Even if we loosely assume that this article focused exclusively upon accessing such services using a browser, I would have thought that the EasyChirp project would have been mentioned. Again, this is a way through the web of shielding some computer users from the more difficult aspects of using Twitter. I accept that the mobile sites for services were referred to.

Had this article appeared on an individual's blog, I would not have written this post as that would have been unfair. However, this appears in a journal from one of the leading organisations for the visually impaired in America, and as such I feel is open to a level of criticism.

In conclusion, if someone was thinking about using social media for the first time and read this article, they may well think twice before getting involved which would be unfortunate. I know one person has described Twitter as her "window on the world", because it gives people who are in isolation the sense of being part of a community, while delivering news of world affairs at the same time. Are we really saying that the alleviation of that isolation can only be provided if one has mastered web browsing? Of course we're not. It only took me a few sentences to outline the broad range of additional ways we can access these services and I feel sure mention of them could have been made in the article. Naturally, these comments will be forwarded to the AFB.

SPL 5 scripts for JAWS updated to build 14

StationPlaylist 5.0 Scripts for JAWS are updated to build 14 with the following changes:
1. Changed the sound to mark the end of a song introduction to differentiate it from the end of track warning.
2. I hope, slightly improved the reliability of the reading of Track Properties, activated by SPL Key, V.
3. Added announcement when automation is toggled on and off.
Just run the installer!

Using J-Say - Ten Years On!

I was browsing the web earlier today, viewing the different websites containing mention of J-Say, a product which does a great deal more than linking JAWS for Windows and Dragon NaturallySpeaking together. This included some Youtube videos from people who are using the technology. Reading these pages reminded me that J-Say is now in its tenth year of development and I thought it was worth writing a few paragraphs to celebrate that fact!

As the Developer of J-Say for Astec, I am very proud of what the product has achieved during that time. I've been to both the homes and workplaces of people who are using a computer who otherwise would never ever have the chance of doing so. These would be people with physical disabilities as well as a visual impairment given that J-Say allows hands-free control of the computer. You do not need to be in the same room as the computer to use J-Say if you are using wireless or bluetooth technology, and I would suggest it is the ideal solution for people who cannot use the keyboard. People have published books or written stage plays and television scripts with it. They've used it to write letters, manage email or do the grocery shopping, whatever is their preference.

There have been attempts to create screen-reading access to the speech recognition capabilities of Windows Vista and 7, but as I understand it, this does not give you complete hands-free control of the computer, nor is the speech engine anywhere near as accurate as that which Dragon NaturallySpeaking provides. A quick Google search will tell you that.

But the question which I saw most often was, what does J-Say do that using JAWS alongside Dragon would not?

J-Say is much much more than a number of JAWS scripts. It has a number of additional components which offer many advantages:

  • Complete echo back of your dictation. We call this "dynamic echo". As you speak, the computer echoes back what you say, important as you need to know that what you have said has been successfully recognised. This text can also be sent to a Braille display.
  • Screen-Reading. I think every JAWS screen-reading function has an equivalent voice command. This enables a person to screen-read in the same way as a keyboard user would be able to do, (such as to speak or spell the current line or to hear the entire document), together with hearing information about tables, using the Research It module or something as recent as Flexible Web for JAWS 14. I would be surprised if there is anything we don't have.
  • Easier Text Selection. Dragon users have the ability to select text if they can see the "from and through" points, so you can ask it to highlight text from the beginning of a passage to the end. If you cannot see what is on the screen, it is unlikely that functionality can be used quickly and with any degree of success. J-say contains the ability to make that process easier.
  • Flattening the G U I. The "My Words" facility of J-Say is the primary way we suggest people educate the software so it learns how words and phrases are pronounced. Users traditionally need to interact with Dialog Boxes within the dragon Vocabulary Editor so as to add words commonly used to the speech vocabulary. However, J-Say allows for direct access to a text file in Microsoft Notepad, where all such words are typed. This makes it easy for not only the user to enter such terms but also people supporting them, who may have very little computer experience.
  • Starting Dragon automatically. Dragon does not have the ability to start automatically when Windows is loaded. J-Say contains an option for that.
  • Shortcuts, Text Notes and Contacts. These are utilities which allow quick and direct access by voice to folders and documents, together with being able to reproduce phrases and long text passages quickly. Contacts allow for successful recalling of email addresses which Dragon may not otherwise be able to understand.
  • Custom Menu. This is a menu of options anyone can build, such as a Trainer or Support Consultant, to allow a user to access frequently used programs, documents, websites or commands from a single list. No scripting or programming knowledge necessary.
  • Access to the Correction System. Dragon contains a "Correction Box" which is another method by which the software can be educated to learn how words and phrases are pronounced. J-Say provides full access to this by having alternative choices read back or a new spelling can be entered by voice.
  • Learning Module. J-Say comes equipped with a full tutorial teaching the concepts of using J-Say from a person's first dictation exercise through to complex formatting, managing email and using the internet.
  • Additional Functions. There are many other features which have been developed specifically for the voice recognition user who cannot see. These include, for example, the ability to hear which programs are active on the computer. Dragon (and Windows Speech Recognition) have the ability for a user to be able to switch to a given application using a voice command. But this is only useful if you know which programs are running! J-Say will advise you of this and provide you with an easy way of being able to switch to the one you want at any time.
  • Complete Dragon Customisation. In order for Dragon to perform optimally with JAWS, 30 options need to be set within Dragon's "Options" Dialog Box. This is now seemlessly achieved in the background each time a user creates a new set of speech files, what we call, a new "Voice Profile".
  • Independent Reading of the Training Text. This is now far less important than it used to be, but J-Say does read on demand the training text which could be spoken when a user customises Dragon for his or her use. J-Say intelligently works out how much of the text has been spoken and prompts the user with the next few words.

In summary, J-Say has come a long way in its ten year history. What we have is a product which is developed with the blind user in mind, just as our upcoming Say-MAGic product will be developed with core input from low vision users. J-Say is backed up by remote support. A user can always obtain assistance (or even training) using remote support if that is needed.

If you have questions about J-Say, please visit Astec (the J-Say developers) at

You can also contact Next Generation Technologies in North America and Canada:

I would like to thank our beta testers and our many users for all their suggestions for feature improvements and for their hard work in testing the product to ensure it is stable and reliable.

I do hope that users of J-Say continue to benefit from it for many years to come, and here's to the next ten years!

Build 10 of StationPlaylist 5 Scripts for JAWS

Build 10 of the StationPlaylist 5 scripts for JAWS is now posted. This contains something which provides a significant improvement relating to the interaction by JAWS in the Playlist Viewer.

To install the scripts, download the installer from
and run it.

1. You can always get to the scripts documentation on the web. This will tell you how to install the scripts and use them. Go here for the documentation:
You can also get a convenient keystroke summary list by pressing Insert+H from within Studio, or again, the full documentation by pressing Insert+F1. Both are available from the Start Menu, All Programs, StationPlaylist Scripts.
Press Insert+H when in the track Tool for a list of keystrokes relevant to it.

2. When in the Playlist Viewer, press the StationPlaylist Key, (grave accent), then Control+P. This will place the whole of the playlist in the virtual viewer for closer inspection without moving focus within the playlist itself, for example while playing.

Now here is an extract from the documentation regarding the last feature.
You can hear an audio demo of this by going here:

As you move through the Playlist Viewer and become more comfortable with it, you may care to reduce the amount of information spoken or which is output to a Braille display. For example, you may not wish to hear the song duration or the full file path of the item. You can reduce the number of columns JAWS tells you about, change the order of them, and independently control the Braille and speech output. You may care to have less information on your Braille display than that which is spoken. That is possible.

Even if you customise the columns, this will not affect your ability to take advantage of "Enhanced Arrow Key Mode" (see below), or being able to press Control+Insert+1 through to Control+Insert+6 to hear individual column information. Those functions are still available.

To customise the reading of the columns, please follow these steps:

  1. Press StationPlaylist Key then Control+C. The "Customise List View" Dialog Box is brought into view.
  2. You are focused within the "Speech" Property Sheet. The first List View control displays all the six columns in the Playlist Viewer. Press Down Arrow until the desired column you do not wish to hear is spoken. As you move through the list, observe that JAWS will announce whether the column will be spoken or not. For example, by default JAWS will say "Title Speak Column".
  3. When you have reached the column you wish to filter, (such as "File Name", press Tab repeatedly until JAWS says "Toggle Speech Button".
  4. Press the Space Bar on the Button. JAWS will say the column name followed by "Do Not Speak", such as "File Name Do Not Speak".
  5. Continue to work through the list until the columns have been customised to your liking. You can at any time press Shift+Tab to move back to the list of columns, then press Up and Down Arrow to hear the results. Now as you move through the list, JAWS will report whether or not the focused column will speak
  6. When you are happy with the arrangement you have made, press Tab repeatedly to reach the "OK" Button and press the Space Bar to activate it. The settings are now saved

As you were customising the List View of columns, you may have noticed some things we have not covered so far.

  • There are two Buttons labelled "Move Up" and "Move Down". These allow you to change the order of the columns spoken. For example, if you wish the track title to be spoken first, then the artist name, press Down Arrow to reach the "Title" option, then press Tab until the "Move Up" Button is located. Press Space Bar to activate the Button, then examine once again your list of columns. You will see that the titles are displayed first.
  • The "Braille" Property Sheet can be activated by pressing Control+Tab. When this is done, exactly the same Dialog Box layout is revealed, except that this time, all items relate to how JAWS reports the columns on a Braille display. Go ahead and repeat the above steps, eliminating columns, (or changing their order), as appropriate. You will notice that this time, the Button to disable the column from being sent to the Braille display is labelled "Toggle Braille" and, when you examine the list of columns, JAWS will say "Do Not Braille" on any item which is not sent to the Braille display.
  • In either the "Speech" or "Braille" Property Sheet, the "Delete Customisations" Button will allow you to remove previously defined column arrangements to allow you once again to hear (or read) all the columns in the Playlist Viewer. Having pressed the Space Bar to activate the Button, a Dialog Box will appear, asking if you are sure you want to delete the customisations. Press the Space Bar on the "Yes" Button.

All the above functionality relating to customising the columns is available in the "Track Tool". Please refer to a later section of this User Guide relating to the marking of introductions which will give some more information concerning the use of the "Track Tool".

StationPlaylist 5 scripts for jaws updated to build 9

StationPlaylist scripts for JAWS have been updated to version 5.0 build 9. The only difference here is that you can now press the StationPlaylist Key followed by L, from within any application, to obtain the listener statistics. This is of course assuming SPL Studio is running at the time.

The best thing to do these days to update is to run the installer so you get the very latest modifications to the documentation as well as the script update. You can download it from

SPL Studio 5 scripts for JAWS updated to build 8

StationPlaylist Studio V5 scripts for JAWS have now been updated to build 8 with the following improvements.

While the zipped archive will always be available which you can extract to your JAWS Settings/ENU folder, you are strongly encouraged to use the new installer. As of this build, it places shortcuts to uninstall the scripts, the read the documentation and to read the keystroke summary. You will find these under All Programs, StationPlaylist Scripts. You can use the installer to overwrite the existing scripts. Just download and run it.

Finding tracks in the playlist is more reliable.
StationPlaylist Key F equals find forward. Type a search string and press Enter to begin.
StationPlaylist Key F3 equals find again. Finds the next instance of the search.
StationPlaylist Key then Control+F equals find backwards.
StationPlaylist Key then Shift+F3 equals find previous.

You have always been able to press Control+Insert+1 through to 6 to read the column titles in the Playlist Viewer. You can now press these keystrokes twice quickly to output the columns to the Virtual Viewer for closer inspection, such as to verify artist or title spellings.

The documentation has been considerably revised and updated to include new sections and change older ones.

The scripts for the Track Tool are included with this version. While in the Track Tool, press Insert+H to get a list of keyboard shortcuts.

Global Keystrokes

You can now operate specific functions of StationPlaylist Studio no matter the application you are in. This is helpful if you are reading e-mail for example,
and you need to quickly interact with Studio. Alternatively, you can complete a Skype call and instantly start the playback of the next track without
having to focus upon Studio first.

Press the StationPlaylist Key then:

To play the next track press ALT+1.
To stop the track with a fade press ALT+2.
To instantly stop the track press ALT+3.
To skip to the next track and fade press ALT+4.
To start the next track without a fade press ALT+5.
To pause the audio playback press ALT+6.
To restart the audio playback after pausing press ALT+7.
To activate the microphone with the song fading press ALT+8.
To deactivate the microphone press ALT+9.
To activate the microphone without the song fading press ALT+0.

As ever the scripts can be downloaded from

SPL 5 scripts for JAWS updated to build 7

Scripts for StationPlaylist version 5 have been updated to build 7 with the following additions.

Press Control+Shift+1 to hear the remaining time of the cart from within any application.
Press Control+Windows+1 to hear the remaining time of a voice track.

To install or upgrade, just download the scripts from
You can either run the new installer to overwrite the existing scripts, or extract the zipped archive into your jaws settings directory.
No further modifications are required.

Please don't forget that we also have scripts for the Track Tool which should be installed separately.

SPL Scripts for jaws updated with new installer

Hi everyone

Since I began producing these scripts for jaws, we have had a significant problem, which is where the default jaws files need to be modified so that certain aspects of Studio can be output globally. Not only has this caused a problem recently as the installer I was using did not work successfully if jaws 14 was the only release on the machine, but also if the jaws program was updated, our modified defaults would sometimes “break” some of the new functionality.

A new updated build has been created to take account of these problems. Whether you choose to use the zipped archive, or the installer, there is now no need to modify the defaults. This should make the process much easier.

So the procedure is run the installer, and when the Finish screen appears, run Studio.
It should not even be necessary to restart jaws.

I would be interested to know if this solves the problem for those people who were experiencing the problems with the old installer.

You can of course download from