Tuukka Ojala is a blind software developer in Finland. When he works, he keeps his laptop closed (it has an external keyboard attached to it). In this fascinating interview on Vincit, he explains how he works:
How do you use the computer?
The computer I use is a perfectly normal laptop running Windows 10. It’s in the software where the “magic happens”. I use a program called a screen reader to access the computer. A screen reader intercepts what’s happening on the screen and presents that information via braille (through a separate braille display) or synthetic speech. And it’s not the kind of synthetic speech you hear in today’s smart assistants. I use a robotic-sounding voice which speaks at around 450 words per minute. For comparison, English is commonly spoken at around 120-150 words per minute. There’s one additional quirk in my setup: Since I need to read both Finnish and English regularly I’m reading English with a Finnish speech synthesizer. Back in the old days screen readers weren’t smart enough to switch between languages automatically, so this was what I got used to. Here’s a sample of this paragraph being read as I would read it:
And here’s the same text spoken by an English speech synthesizer:
A mouse is naturally not very useful to me so I work exclusively at the keyboard. The commands I use should be familiar to anyone reading this post: Arrow keys and the tab key move you around inside a window, alt+tab changes between windows etc. Screen readers also have a whole lot of shortcuts of their own, such as reading various parts of the active window or turning some of their features on or off.
It’s when reading web pages and other formatted documents that things get a little interesting. You see, a screen reader presents its information in chunks. That chunk is most often a line but it may also…