Author Topic: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind  (Read 499 times)

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« on: December 18, 2017, 02:26:26 pm »
I have a colleague that increasingly is needing to read spreadsheets, but is very frustrated because screen readers he knows are inadequate.

Any suggestions?
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Kim

  • An appetite for the epic, but no real stamina
Re: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2017, 02:36:12 pm »
Paging barakta.  Barakta to the buggy courtesy textphone java app please...
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

barakta

  • Bastard lovechild of Yomiko Readman and Johnny 5
Re: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2017, 03:01:03 pm »
What format are the spreadsheets? Excel?

What OS windows/mac?

What screenreaders do you know colleague has considered?

Also if this is employment, could colleague have an Access to Work assessment for appropriate software which will fund some of it and training for them to use it properly cos learning curves are a bit steep with this sort of thing....

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2017, 05:52:43 pm »
Hi barista, I thought you might be helpful!

- Mainly Excel

- Windows

- Dolphin Guide in use now. It's acceptable. He did use a different one at work (I can't remember the name) but he didn't usually have to read spreadsheets.

- Sadly no in employment any more, so no Access to Work assessment.

The problem appears to be that he navigates a spreadsheet by cell (then L, R ,U, D), but quickly loses track of where he is, and therefore what he is looking at. It may be there isn't anything out there, but some way of identifying the column and row headers would be good.
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Kim

  • An appetite for the epic, but no real stamina
Re: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2017, 05:53:55 pm »
Hi barista, I thought you might be helpful!

*sniggers at the back*
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2017, 06:03:47 pm »
 ;D ;D :thumbsup:

Autocorrect - dontcha love it!
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barakta

  • Bastard lovechild of Yomiko Readman and Johnny 5
Re: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2017, 06:11:08 pm »
OK I've just had a quick Google cos my knowledge of specific products isn't 100%, but Dolphin Guide is basically a simplified magnifier/screenreader product for people who are very basic home users without a lot of technology fu.

Their manuals don't seem to say how Dolphin Guide handles spreadsheets but I doubt it woud do 'clever' cos this is an intentionally simple product for older and less techie people. A phonecall to Dolphin may be worth a try - they may know if there's a "Which column/row am I in" command that your colleague can use wherever he is in the spreadsheet using Guide. I suspect however, they would say he needs to get Supernova which is their more professional/advanced product which he could download to try for 60 days for free but funding CAN be an issue as it's about £600 (assuming he can get discount for being visually impaired and VAT exemption)...

Another thought if he's up for some experimenting is something called NVDA which is a free Windows screenreader. Downloadable from https://www.nvaccess.org/download/ with any donations gratefully received.

This linky https://www.nvaccess.org/files/nvda/documentation/userGuide.html?#toc56 suggests that if the column/rows headers can be defined then the user can make NVDA read out which column/row the user is in as well as the cell location and contents.  NVDA may be more complex than Guide, but I think they have tried to keep it simple...
 
Even the best screenreaders need spreadsheets to be consistent in row/columns and not have merged cells everywhere...  So that's worth considering if the creators/co-collaborators can be considerate in that direction too.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2017, 06:41:03 pm »
That's very helpful, yes.

It's very interesting chatting to him and then thinking that how most people use computers, create files etc. is quite a barrier for someone with no vision.

I've worked with him before and have made quite a lot of our material suitable for him, and where we can't he gets original files rather than pdfs. There's more we can do.

It's fascinating talking to him about his perception of what IT does for him (and realising how much better it would be if there was a larger market).
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Kim

  • An appetite for the epic, but no real stamina
Re: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2017, 07:23:20 pm »
It's very interesting chatting to him and then thinking that how most people use computers, create files etc. is quite a barrier for someone with no vision.

Ostensibly the rot set in with GUIs, but it's not really that simple, because if it weren't for GUIs I don't think the mainstream computer revolution would have happened.  And much as I like my *nix shell, there are plenty of day-to-day things that just aren't practical with terminal based applications.

(I once had an interesting conversation about GUI concepts with someone who did what we'd now call Computer Science before he went blind in the 1960s.  His understanding of the fundamentals was fine, and of the new things that computers had been applied to as technology progressed, but - other than a vague idea of mice - he'd missed everything after "select an item from the list on the screen by pressing a button" in UI terms.  Which is more or less where things have been stuck for people who can't see, until the rise of Siri et al.)


Quote
It's fascinating talking to him about his perception of what IT does for him (and realising how much better it would be if there was a larger market).

Kudos where it's due to the Mega-Global Fruit Corporation of Cupertino, USAnia on this one.  By making iThings accessible from the ground up, they've made VI-accessible technology mainstream (with the associated compatibility and cost benefits) without anyone really noticing.  Why use a clunky Windows CE PDA when you can have a shiny new iPhone that does the same stuff and more for half the cost?

Unfortunately, for serious work, Windows and Jaws still seems to be where it's at.  Voiceover on OSX doesn't cut it, apparently.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

barakta

  • Bastard lovechild of Yomiko Readman and Johnny 5
Re: Spreadsheet reading tools for the blind
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2017, 07:55:33 pm »
I didn't recommend a mac and Excel cos the compatibility of Win and Mac on Excel is a pain and I am not sure where Voice Over is on Excel spreadsheets these days - it used to be crap cos Apple want you to use their office package and make Voice Over work "better" (but not that well) in it...

If there is interest, I can prod some blind Voice Over users and find out where it's at with Mac Office but suspect that's still a £££ option for the blind person in question.


As for market, it is has broadened since things like the iOS/MacOS inclusion of stuff, Windows has a screenreader called narrator - I don't know much about it. Both magnify and have some degree accessibility built in.

Colleague may be able to get some help/funding/support from charities such as RNIB, Henshaws or even AbilityNet to help manage IT stuff. There's a big push to support blind people in tech as over 50% of the people who have never used the Internet are blind...

But yes, even with the best tech + training + support, the internet is harder and slower for blind people to access and many who can't run the screenreaders at bastard-fast find it very tiring and excluding. Most of the blind people I know are young and many are themselves technologists by profession so not representative of blind people as a whole...