“Touch typing” with an on-screen keyboard: Virtual Keyboard meets Window Eyes

Note: The following will not work for typing in scan mode–only for a pointing device and a switch assigned to clicking. However, if your pointing device emulates a mouse using switches, that will work.

I posted before that I had a hell of a time getting Virtual Keyboard to work with screen readers without having the text output mangled. Fortunately, GW Micro has offered the Window Eyes screen reader to people with licensed versions of Microsoft Office, including Starter. Window Eyes appears to be the only screen reader that doesn’t screw up my text. So, enter the possibility of  “touch typing” on an onscreen keyboard.

1. Turn off dwell clicking in your onscreen keyboard.

2. Turn on Window Eyes. Bring it up by pressing Control Backslash and select Help, then select Show Advanced Options.

3. Expand the Mouse side menu and select Voice.

4. From the dropdown on the right, select one of the On options.

5. Mouse over the keyboard slowly to hear the letters and words and get a feel for the distance between them. Then accept your letter or word by clicking the switch.

6. If you’re using word prediction, it might speed things up if you turn off the learning function. That way, you’ll have a more consistent idea of when your words will show up so you don’t have to wander your cursor around more than you have to. Setting up shorthand expansions in AutoHotkey or your word processor might also be helpful.

Note: Window Eyes will interact with your other programs, too, not just Office. (Jarte Plus will automatically start in Screen Reader Mode, in fact.) However, there are glitches. For instance, I couldn’t type into the Tags field of this post; Window Eyes couldn’t tell the text cursor was in a text field and took letters for shortcut keys. Tumblr seems to break text fields sometimes as well. Also, it doesn’t always read Dragon’s correction menus even with the accessible menus option turned on.

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Fire IE: trick Dragon and websites into thinking you’re using Internet Explorer (sometimes)

I noticed recently that some sites I used at work didn’t display properly in Firefox, whether I had Flash enabled or not. At home, I couldn’t read the comments on sites that used the Disqus commenting system. They worked fine in Internet Explorer, though, and I’m really not fond of switching browsers for switching tasks. So I remembered something I tried a long time ago and discarded because of the bugs: one of those add-ons that tricks Firefox into believing you’re using IE. Fortunately for me, the bugs appear to be worked out in the add-on I’m currently using: Fire IE. Extremely fortunately, there are side effects: Dragon usually thinks I’m using IE too, and sometimes I can watch content requiring Flash while the Firefox Flash plug-in is disabled. And so Dragon doesn’t crash!

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Reviews: SpeechWare TravelMike and SpeechWare 3-in-1 TableMike

I was having one problem after another recently with the Andrea Superbeam microphone and its drivers. So, even though my budget kind of hurt for it, I bought a SpeechWare 3-in-1 TableMike.

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Online resources for lipreading/speechreading

Something struck me the other day–for all that deaf and hard of hearing people are encouraged to lipread/speechread, there aren’t a lot of classes offered for it around here. You can always practice with DVDs with captions on, or–now that Amazon and Netflix have gotten it together somewhat–streaming video. (There seems to be a glitch between Firefox and Silverlight at the moment, though, so that might not be so helpful.)

However, there are some starting places online. YouTube, once you filter out NFL and Bad Lipreading, comes up with a few things. A series of about 30 lessons offers unvoiced sentences which appear neutrally US accented and are followed by captions after a pause. Sometimes the captions are mismatched, and once the woman clearly swears. :-) But it’s usually pretty obvious when the sentence doesn’t match, and it keeps you on your toes. There are also a few videos in a British accent, and what appears to be an explanation of lipreading Spanish for hearing people.

If you want to go a little more polished, lipreading.org offers practice videos for vowels, initial consonants, numbers, names, and guessing missing words. The multiple choice games are useful to a point, but particularly helpful might be the lipreading alphabet at the bottom of the page. There are not only pictures, but verbal descriptions of how the vowels and consonants are formed.

If you want practice with concentrating or hearing in noise, LACE has a demo that asks you to recognize one of two competing voices–male, female, or child.

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Vocola commands for interactive fiction

It’s possible to dictate into many interactive fiction interpreters, such as Win Glulxe or Windows Frotz, but there are occasionally glitches–words run together, or the correction command doesn’t work right. These commands minimize the possibility of run-together words by inserting a space.

# Voice commands for frotz

Up = u{Enter};

Down = d{Enter};

North = n{Enter};

South = s{Enter};

East = e{Enter};

West = w{Enter};

Northeast = ne{Enter};

Northwest = nw{Enter};

Southeast = se{Enter};

Southwest = sw{Enter};

Zed = z{Enter};

Again = g{Enter};

Examine <_anything> = x{Space}$1{Enter};

Yes = y{Enter};

No = n{Enter};

inventory = i{Enter};

scrollback ={Ctrl +l};

Get <_anything> = get {Space} $1{Enter};

Drop <_anything> = drop {Space} $1{Enter};

Open <_anything> = open {Space} $1{Enter};

Close <_anything> = close {Space} $1{Enter};

Unlock <_anything> = unlock {Space} $1{Enter};

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King’s Quest 3 Redux: Point-and-click/switch access goes retro

I can’t really play computer games outside of interactive fiction. That’s all right, though; I’m a word person, and playing the contemporary games reminds me of playing things like Moonmist vicariously on my neighbor’s Tandy. I was also interested in King’s Quest 3 with its evil wizard and his ambitious servant Gwydion, but never got the chance to play.

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Onscreen keyboards and word prediction with screen readers: incompatibilities

Someone asked me about onscreen keyboards and keystroke or word echo software. There’s something about onscreen keyboards that screen readers don’t seem to like, at least if the onscreen keyboard includes word prediction or word completion. The common feature of inserting a space after a prediction might have something to do with it, as might the clipboard-paste style of inserting the prediction itself. Virtual Keyboard in particular seems to confuse things; readers like Narrator or Thunder report word predictions as “Space” or “Backspace.” But Virtual Keyboard really goes to hell with NVDA.

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