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Re: [Accessibility] Call to Arms

From: Eric S. Johansson
Subject: Re: [Accessibility] Call to Arms
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 2010 12:49:32 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20100713 Thunderbird/3.1.1

 On 7/21/2010 11:16 AM, Chris Hofstader wrote:
A lot of us, including me, complain about performance and functionality in various applications when running orca. We've got to stop whining and get hacking. It would be good to have people take the lead on Firefox, OpenOffice and other "high value" programs. It would also be useful for people to take charge of entirely new AT (like speech recognition) projects to help us move forward in areas that are not already covered.

I will raise my hand on the speech recognition project but, it comes with some caveats.

I believe strongly that the tools first approach you and others have spoken of misses the needs of the upper extremity disabled. their primary need is income. You can't have freedom of choice if you can't make money. For example, today, if I want to make money, I must use NaturallySpeaking. There is no choice and the speech recognition projects available today or the near future are not sufficient to replace NaturallySpeaking (I.e. they couldn't write this e-mail and they take way too much time to set up).

I would propose organizing the project to first satisfy the economic needs of the disabled community, so they can make money, they can be independent and as a result, be able to make choices about software freedom.

In the speech recognition domain, that means creating better user interfaces, tools to assist in specific tasks, multimachine dictation targets, and also changing existing tools (languages, build tools etc.) to work with speech recognition instead of trying to make speech recognition work with it. (I.e. rebuilding make syntax to something you can speak instead something that is convenient for machine)

Once we have built tools, from the outside in, that experience will guide the development of OSS speech recognition engines and the eventual replacement of systems like NaturallySpeaking.

This philosophy is analogous to the strategy used by the free software foundation in its early days. The GNU toolchain was built to run on top of many platforms and this enable people to create the OS and the kernel which gave people the power to make choices about free software or not.

Taken same philosophy to speech recognition, I would recommend the following 

Cultivate resources to put NaturallySpeaking under wine. Itit's very close to ready and the final push to make it real isn't happening. My reason for this step is that it removes all nonfree software except the speech recognition engine. This gives us a place to work from, to experiment with various techniques for cross machine speech recognition work.

Develop advanced dictation box which is the simplest model for reliable data injection into applications. This is the first layer that will enable upper extremity disabled users to make money. This is where you can start writing documentation, e-mails etc.

Develop advanced UI techniques such as "interrupting cow" grammars and advanced dictation box input and output filters. this is where system administrators can start making money because the grammar would enable a lot of administrator tasks.

Develop programming by voice editing and code creation. We'll probably need a lot of help from Emacs folks because we will need to dig down deep into the IDE layers. This is where programmers can start making money because, obviously, they can write code. This is also the layer which will enable disabled users to contribute to the project. I can't write code using an unenhanced speech recognition product.

In theory you can do these in parallel but my best thoughts (so far) lead me to the conclusion that you want to use the dictation box with enhancements to generate code from the natural output of a large vocabulary continuous speech recognition environment.

I consider this amalgam of free and nonfree software acceptable. Instead of serving the philosophical and ideological goals all the free software foundation, it serves a higher purpose. It enables disabled people to be self-sufficient which in turn improves their self-esteem and quality of life. When I was disabled in 1994, I was forced to spend 3 1/2 months sitting at my desk waiting for them to fire me and receive daily abuse by the managers of the company. It took me a long time to get over that and sometimes I think I still haven't. Anything we can do to save people that kind of abuse or give them the freedom to leave that abuse and go to another company where they are appreciated is a very important goal to me.

If you do decide to have me at the core of this project, I will warn you that my time is limited as I am currently looking for work. Yes, being disabled even with speech recognition gets in the way. I would love to do this kind of thing for a living the only folks have found so far would require me to give this IP to them. I can't. it is too important to be held by any one company. This has to be a public resource available to anyone.

--- eric

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