Microsoft Partners to Offer Pocket PC for the Blind
Freedom Scientific announced Thursday a compact version of its screen reader technology in a battery-powered, lightweight, 10-inch form factor. The PAC Mate mobile device will give the blind access to Microsoft Outlook and all Pocket PC applications.
The unit also comes with a carrying case that will allow a user to wear the device while accessing applications. There are two versions, one using a QWERTY keyboard and the other a standard Braille keyboard. In either form, the front cover opens to allow access to the keyboard while a user is wearing it.
The screen reader technology, known as Job Access with Speech or JAWS, goes beyond simple text-to-speech.
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For example, the JAWS technology includes the ability to say the screen location information in order to alert the user that the Start menu is opened and which item is highlighted. In the PocketExcel application, the device will also give a user cell navigation details including row and column location as well as reading the formula or comments within a cell, according to Damery.
The value-add for the PAC Mate is in its partnership with Microsoft, says Damery.
"For the first time blind users will have access to a PDA with all of the Pocket PC features," Damery says.
The 1.5-pound unit does not include built-in wireless, but has a PC Card slot and will also allow users to wirelessly engage any Web site giving users text to speech and navigation information.
Units will ship by the end of the year and will be priced at approximately $2,595.