2001 Conference Proceedings

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Mike Hill, Director of Software
Dolphin Computer Access Ltd.
Worcester, UK


How many hours, or thousands of dollars, have you spent on scripting? Dolphin's new solution makes challenging applications accessible without programming.

This presentation is aimed at users with some previous technical experience of configuring screen readers and will include a practical demonstration of how Supernova can be configured to work with complex applications. There will also be time for questions at the end of the session.

Previous generations of screen readers have tended to require complex scripting languages and text based configuration files (sometimes known as INI files) to achieve compatibility with many applications. Such scripting was a costly, time consuming, difficult and not very tolerant of minor changes in applications.

In this presentation I will be demonstrating Dolphin's latest technology which makes the task of configuring a screen reader into a straightforward, quick and intuitive operation which can be performed without any previous programming experience or the use of scripts or DOS style configuration files.

Dolphin's design philosophy is that the user should be able to concentrate on using their application, instead of learning to use their screen reader. For this reason, Dolphin have a number of aims in mind when we design our products.

  1. It should work automatically - out of the box and not require any special configuration settings for common applications.
  2. It should be able to work well with applications that it has never seen before.

Obviously a screen reader manufacturer cannot 'configure' their product to work with every single commercial, shareware or free application in existence. For complex applications, there should be a straightforward method of creating the necessary configuration required to make the screen reader work successfully. Such a method should be accessible to all, and not just to those with a certain level of technical expertise.

Training Supernova Most of Supernova configuration system concentrates on 'training' the screen reader to correctly recognise and understand what is on the screen. Once everything on the screen can be correctly identified, the built in intelligence of Supernova can take over and provide a rich, interactive, user experience.

The detection system

In order to be able to accurately describe the screen using Speech or Braille, a screen reader must be able to recognise all of the relevant objects on the screen. By objects, I mean things like Windows, Checkboxes, Text, Graphics, Animations, Sliders, etc. By relevant, I mean anything that the user may wish to know about, ask about or be told about.

Supernova uses a 'multiple detection' system. This means that it has a number of different 'detection modules' and is able to merge information from different detectors together into a single view of the screen. Therefore the user does not have to 'enter MSAA mode', or get different results depending on whether they are using the PC cursor or the screen readers cursor. Supernova's information merging system means that it ends up with a single database of objects, representing things on the screen, which is used consistently for speech, Braille and magnification output.

The rest of the presentation will consist of a demonstration of how Supernova can be trained to deal with complex applications. This will include the basics of using the Training mode interface by employing a 'point and click' methodology. This will enable the most complex and varied applications to be trained with ease, including new and proprietary applications.

Company Information

Dolphin Computer Access has been designing software for computer users who are blind or partially sighted since 1986. With proven expertise in screen reading with speech and Braille, screen magnification and products in many languages, Dolphin is constantly developing new technologies.

Dolphin is renowned for well designed, stable and reliable software which can be installed with confidence on home computers, laptops and university or corporate networks. Dolphin's powerful software tools are easy-to-use thanks to intelligent design, and popular with students and professionals the world over.

Dolphin's goal is to enable people with a visual impairment to gain full access to industry standard computer systems. Dolphin's clients enjoy the freedom to use all kinds of software and surf the Internet, without having to resort to specially adapted system configurations. This automatic approach also encourages real integration as Dolphin clients can use the same computer systems as their sighted co-workers, family and friends without worry.

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