I am sitting here doing some day job work on this Memorial Day weekend. I agreed to do this in exchange for yesterday and two days off later in the week. Despite this arrangement, I am now quite angry! The anger is, of course, not at all related to my agreement to work today, but, rather, it is being provoked by some rather unstable behavior on the part of JAWS, the screen reader upon which I still rely most of the time while performing the duties of my job.
About half an hour ago now, JAWS suddenly stopped talking for no apparent reason while opening a work related web site! It just went totally silent! From time to time, this also happens to Karen in various applications, and I hear about similar JAWS instability from many others in the blind community. Nowadays, when this happens, I run another screen reader like Nonvisual Desktop Access, System Access or Window-Eyes. This time, NVDA informed me that there was an “application error” with JAWS. Pressing enter on the OK button resulted in an error with FSBraille. Hmm, interesting, as at this time I do not have a Braille display connected or selected for use in JAWS at all. Even worse, I am unable to restart JAWS. The same error appears every single time! I would need to reboot my system in order to get JAWS back! Since I am currently recording Kim’s show on ACB Radio Interactive so that Karen may listen to it later, rebooting is currently unacceptable. Instead, it is Window-Eyes to the rescue! Fortunately, I don’t need to spend a great deal of time in the knowledge base application today, so this will work fine. I just thank God I have four different screen readers on my computer!
There is a point to all of this… While JAWS remains the overall leader in screen reading for the blind, other technologies are quickly catching up with Freedom Scientific and several are now surpassing JAWS in stability. Though Nonvisual Desktop Access, Serotek System Access and Window-Eyes still lack scripting and much of the flexibility offered by JAWS, they do all have one significant advantage; they virtually never stop talking!
I hope Freedom Scientific’s competitors are reading this post and the sentiments of many others in the blind community. Give us expanded configurability and scripting support! If I can configure System Access or Window-Eyes to do all the things JAWS currently allows, then I can use them on the job to replace JAWS, and, at least for me, JAWS will no longer stand for Job Access With Speech! It is my opinion as an advanced assistive technology and computer user that JAWS is a defective product in need of significant overhaul to improve its stability! There you have it, my friends. I wonder how much trouble I’m going to find for myself by making this post. As always, please, feel free to comment to your heart’s content.