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Re: Speech enabling software


From: Patrick H. Lauke
Date: Dec 13, 2005 5:40PM

Kelly Hokkanen wrote:

> Do any of you have experience with speech enabling software such as
> BrowseAloud or Readspeaker?

On a purely personal level (and one of personal ethics), I don't like
BrowseAloud. True, they moved away from their early "viral" marketing
attempts, seeding online fora with a fake dyslexic user praising the
product (see
and <http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=dyslexicduncan>; - posting from
one of their own domains, funnily enough), but I still believe their
business model to be fundamentally flawed (something which I've meant to
write about for some time, and a rant that many of those who have met me
in person have been subjected to)

- technically, their plugin/addon works on all sites. No change on the
web author's end is required;
- however, the plugin downloads a whitelist which tells it which sites
it should work on (incidentally, that whitelist is nothing but a simple
plain text ASCII file, so editing it manually is a breeze - if you move
past the red-herring copy in the place you'd expect it to be).

So, a plugin that would potentially benefit all users with dyslexia etc,
on all sites...but it will only work on those sites that paid for the
privilege of making it into the whitelist?

To me, that's a skewed business model: they're holding site owners at
ransom, and placing the responsibility for making their site
"browsealoud enabled" on their shoulder (and wallets), where the plugin
could already work on the site and benefit the user.

Now, I don't mind that they're trying to make a buck out of this
accessibility gravy train. But why make the plugin free and then put the
onus on the site owners to pay for the plugin to work with their site
(i.e. including their URL in the whitelist, which browsealoud
periodically asks to update)? Larger pots of money? Corporate
responsibility gone bonkers? "Hey, all we do is give the guys money and
our site becomes accessible to dyslexic users"?
I'd rather see a more ethical and sustainable model where the plugin
costs a fraction of the cost set up for web site owners...say the whole
thing cost the user a few dollars/pounds. Make it work on ALL sites (as
it already can, natively...before being crippled with the whitelist).
Offer collateral services to site owners (accessibility review, design
consultancy, etc).

As it stands, BrowseAloud should really be called "Browse Allowed". The
fact that half-way reputable groups like GAWDS actually endorsed it
(because of a free offer) is even more annoying.

Stay away from BrowseAloud. Don't support their skewed business model.

IMHO, of course...

Patrick H. Lauke