Glen Gordon, chief technology officer at VFO, will be a keynote at getAwareLive! Glen’s presentation covers current technology trends (e.g. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, the ubiquity of iPhones) and the impact on people with disabilities. These are all great technologies for certain tasks, but Glen is concerned that they don’t fully serve people who rely on assistive technologies for larger projects, like researching employment opportunities.
Glen’s company produces the world’s most popular screen reader, JAWS, and numerous other leading AT products. He shares keynote highlights in the recording below.
Transcript of Glen Gordon’s recording
Hi, I’m Glen Gordon, chief technology officer at VFO. It’s hard for me to believe I got my start in this business about 25 years ago as a developer coding most of the original version of JAWS for Windows. Interestingly less than 2 years later I was sitting in a room with many other screen reader vendors as part of a dueling Windows contest in 1996 conference showing off just how well their screen readers were working. And the tasks we were asked to perform were amazingly basic: Open a file in Microsoft word and read the first line. Start a spell check in Microsoft Word. If you were to do those tests today you’d be laughed out of the room.
Jump ahead 25 years … our specialized tech like JAWS and ZoomText are far farther along than they’ve ever been as are other VFO products and products other companies are creating.
Alongside that, mainstream technologies which previously didn’t care much accessibility have become really usable and really accessible for particular tasks. I call attention to iPhone which has become pretty ubiquitous in the blindness community along with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, which are becoming much more popular in the world because they specialize in conversational computing. If you’re blind or low vision you don’t need to see anything because it’s all based on a conversation. But, again, those are limited to particular tasks. They will get better over time but you are not going to create a term paper using Alexa. You also won’t create a term paper with much styling if you’re trying to create it on an iPhone. And there lies the problem.
Blind kids growing up today are unlike kids who started with JAWS. Kids are starting out using an iPhone, that’s their first technology device … and this is a great thing that gets kid into technology early on. My concern is that blind kids suddenly find themselves in school having never used a Windows screen reader when they’re faced with needing to use one to simply create a term paper or some other project that can’t easily be done on an iPhone. This means that they’re trying to learn the tools of the trade at the time the assignment is due. It’s hard to become an expert if your primary task is to do the assignment yet doing the assignment would benefit from you being an expert in the technology, so I think this is an area where getting kids better training on Windows technology, especially where things like JAWS can make productivity much easier, is something we can spend more time focusing on.
One of the topics we’ll be discussing (at the conference). I hope to meet many of you at getAwareLive!
Glen Gordon will be a keynote speaker at getAwareLive! July 23-26, 2018.
Read more about VFO here.