Hi John,

You gave some very good points below, but there is an accessibility option you maybe haven't considered. If you truly want to make the 7-128 Gamebook accessible to Window-Eyes users, Hal users NVDA, Jaws, System access, whatever there is a sure fire solution to support all of these without having to go through a clunky interface like the Java Access Bridge. If you use the SWT window toolkit instead of Swing you will be able to make native bindings to the Win32 API which all of the major screen readers use to gather the on screen information. Since SWT uses native Win32 window controls all screen readers will recognize and use your Java application as though it were written in C++ with the Win 32 API. As a Window-Eyes user myself this is how I often have to make my Java based applications accessible so I can use them with Window-Eyes.


A secondary reason why SWT and JFace are superior has to do with how the controls and windows are presented to the end user. Since SWT uses actual Win32 controls your Java application will look and feel like a true Windows application. it won't have that funky Swing look and feel that doesn't quite look like other Windows applications. Many developers and end users have told me SWT applications just look better, more professional, than those using Swing.

Although, SWT is a superior window toolkit i have no idea how much work it would take to go back and convert your Gamebook and games over to it. It is quite different from Swing, and you would basically be rewriting your graphical front ends from scratch. Definitely not something I would relish, but might be worth it from an accessibility standpoint.

FYI, there are also Mac and Linux ports of SWT so you can use Cocoa and GTK+ via SWT as well. This way you are able to use the standard window toolkit for the specific platform without having to change your graphical interface in your Java applications. Just recompile and release for each platform you wish to target.

HTH


John Bannick wrote:
Thomas is correct, IMHO. Having self-voicing in a game ensures its audio interface is present and works the way you want it to, without the idiosyncracies of JAWS, etc.

However, a colleague at the Carrol Center for the Blind long ago convinced us that a game without JAWS won't sell to U.S. blind gamers.

I'm not a marketing person so I don't know if he's right or wrong there.

I'm certainly not qualified to join the which-screen-reader-is-best wars.

But as a sighted programmer, having to code for any screen reader is excellent discipline. It forces me to have at least a basic grasp of some of audio display issues and results in a better audio user interface.

However, coding for a screen reader is a lot of work. In order to make a user interface that is pleasing to a blind gamer, a visually-impaired gamer, and a sighted gamer, we often speak stuff that isn't displayed on the screen. That takes not only extra plumbing, as Thomas and other coders know well, but sometimes changes the user interface architecture. And sometimes takes pure magic.

JAWS has a clunky, but workable interface to the Java language we use. It also has a Braille interface. Something I'd like to pursue some day with the folks at Helen Keller or SENSE in the UK.

The folks in Fort Wayne haven't yet added a Java interface to Windows Eyes, though I suspect that I could access their API via Java's C/C++ interface. But that would take a lot of work, add to the complexity of the code, and increase the probability of bugs.

I think Dark at one time told us that he tried one of our games with HAL and it seemed to work. Maybe they use the same Java API as JAWS. However, getting a copy, learning it, and designing and coding for it have the same issues as for Windows Eyes.

So self-voicing plus JAWS seems the optimal solution to an audio interface.

That being said, I'm personally not satisfied with Kevin, our voice. Though as the real Kevin says, "It's free. Don't complain." I know enough now to make the Free-TTS code work with SAPI. However, that's probably over a month of analysis, design, and coding; more for testing and debugging.

I'm pushing management here to include SAPI in our summer work.

But we're a small mainstream game company with small margins. And the iron jaws of capitalism dictate profit or die.

John Bannick
Chief Technology Officer
7-128 Software



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