Re: forwarded message from Jason White

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In answer to Brian's question, the issue arose in the context of a
discussion concerning the general utility of a conventional "screen
reader" approach, in which the braille/auditory interface is derived from
monitoring the visual u i, by contrast with the benefits to be gained from
enhancing the underlying software environment such that non-visual
interfaces can take advantage of the semantic and structural distinctions
reflected in the internal data representations maintained by applications.
Emacspeak exemplifies, very successfully, the latter strategy. I argued
that priority should be given to influencing the development of
open-source software environments to facilitate a separation of
application functionality from visual presentation in ways that permit
braille and auditory interfaces to gain access, via generic means wherever
possible, to the semantic content required to ensure a high quality of
interaction. In reply, it was urged that good results could be achieved by
traditional "screen reading" methods and the writing of scripts that would
monitor the visual interface and react in specified ways to predefined
patterns in the visual presentation. It became clear in the course of this
discussion that some of the participants considered that importance should
be attached to the development of a text-based screen reader for the Linux
console which would employ scripts and macros in the manner suggested. By
way of rejoinder, I reiterated my reservations concerning the limits of
the "screen reader" concept and argued that, in any case, given that the X
Window System supports both text-based and graphical applications, and
recognising that UltraSonix employs essentially the design described
above, consisting, as it does, in core screen reader functions with the
details of the interface being controlled by scripts, there was no need
for a separate screen reader to be developed. Rather, efforts along
traditional screen reader lines should be concentrated on UltraSonix,
given the limited development resources available in this field, as it
would provide a solution in relation to both textual and graphical legacy
applications, and could also be integrated into some of the newer
approaches such as Gnome and Java accessibility.

The current state of the discussion appears to be a mutual recognition of
the limits of the "screen reading" paradigm and some continuing
disagreement as to exactly where priorities should be allocated.

I hope this is a reasonably fair summary.

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