Affordable computing for the blind and vision impaired

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2014 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Apache OpenOffice is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.

NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free screen reader for computers running on the Windows operating system.

The combination provides an affordable solution for visually impaired users who would otherwise have to pay hundreds of dollars/pounds for Microsoft Office and JAWS. OpenOffice did not work very well with NVDA until release 4.1, which became available in May 2014. This latest release includes supports for the IAccessible2 interface, an open standard for communicating with assistive technologies, and it is this that creates a clean, easy to use and reliable interface to NVDA.

OpenOffice has worked with VoiceOver on Apple Mac for several releases, so this release brings the Windows support to the same level as the Mac support.

The availability of inexpensive PCs together with Open Office and NVDA means that cost of hardware and software should no longer be a barrier to people with vision impairments getting online and taking advantage of the facilities on offer.