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Re: Emacspeak, Open Source Software, Free Software And Blind Users

Hi all,

Good heavens!  Great jumpin' gehosaphat!  What a todo you two are
making, and you are both wanting the same thing.  Now, let an educator
and a competent blind nontechie user of emacspeak put in her oar.  

First, I want to correct an impression.  Matt did not teach me Emacs
or Emacspeak.  He set it up, installed it, and all its components
because I was not proficient enough to do so.  I am not a techie,
although I am learning, slowly.  If it were not for Matt, I wouldn't
be as productive as I am.  He bridged the gap between installation and
my starting point on the learning curve.  

Now, old Gary, let me talk to you as an educator.  You should know
that learning anything, anything at all is predicated on what
knowledge the person already has.  You can not understand time zones
unless you understand that the earth turns.  You can not understand
the basic Emacs commands unless you have some understanding of
wordprocessors and what a cursor is and what it does.  

My starting point for learning Linux and Emacspeak was some ten years
of day by day learning and using MS-DOS and yes, a year and a half of
trying to learn Windows.  I understood some of the basic concepts and
I found that learning Emacspeak and Emacs was fairly easy.  It was a
darned site easier than learning Windows because the whole thing makes
sense, God bless it!  Thing is that I knew what to look for when I
wanted commands.  One of the things which has most recently come to my
attention is the reason why so many students with learning
disabilities do not use dictionaries to find spelling words.  Why?
Because for them, they have no idea on God's green earth where to
start looking for a word in a dictionary.  If you do not know that
'extraordinary' has an A in it, you will not be able to find it, if
you do not know that 'chaos' is a Greek word and starts with chi not K
you wouldn't be able to find it in the dictionary.  Hence they refuse
to use them.

this applies to computer learning as well.  I'd rather see tutorials
made about basic computer concepts instead of step by step tutorials
on Emacs or Emacspeak.  If the blind tester you had knew nothing about
computers, then Emacspeak is perfect, just as is, however, what is
needed is not a WYSIWYG interface, but rather a tutorial on computer
concepts.  Commands can be learned at any time.  You can use a cheat
sheet for commands.  What needs to be taught is concepts, not
commands.  That's why the current docs are useless for many.  they
give commands and assume that the reader knows the concepts behind the
commands.  <smile>  I dunnow whether this would be Gary's assertion
that Emacspeak is "meant for programmers".  

Frankly, I think Emacspeak and Emacs need no help or interface.  At
least if there is one, I hope that it becomes transparent enough so
that someone can circomvent it and return to the plain interface.   I
devoutly hope that no menus are planned.  Please, please, please,
please Gary, NO MENUS!!!!!  

Again, I want to stress that the problem is *not* the commands, when
dealing with new computer users.  The problem is concepts.  If you
can, I'd get someone to write a simple tutorial on basic computer
concepts that will be of use to anyone no matter what flavor of
computer they are learning.  Here are some questions for you, both of
you.  These are the kinds of things that are lacking in Linux
documentation, and in computer docs in general.

What is a file?
What is a directory?
What is a path name?
what is a word processor and what kinds of things can it do?
what is a mail program, and what can it do?
What is a web browser?
What is a web page?
What is a spreadsheet?
What is a database program and what does it do?
What does a chat program do?

I learned most of the basics of Emacspeak and vm and w3 in two months
or less because I understood what all the above concepts were.
Learning Emacspeak and Emacs was a damned site easier than learning
Windows.  Why?  Because I didn't have to deal with how the information
was presented on the screen.  There were no menus, no differing boxes
and garbage that is so clear to one who sees.  when you learn to use a
computer, you are faced with learning three things at one time:  the
operating system, the speech interface/screen reader, and the
application itself.  All these three tasks are more easily learned if
the stress is on concepts and not commands.  I learned Emacs faster
because I knew what to look for in the docs to find marking text and
moving text.  I *knew* that word processors do these things.  You
don't need to change Emacspeak, Old Gary, you just need to educate
your computer user before he/she even turns on the computer.

Sorry for taking up all this space, guys.  I hope that you two can
work together on making computer access possible for users who are
blind.  Old Abe Lincoln said that "A house divided against itself can
not stand."  We're all working toward the same goal, universal access
for all.  

Ann P.
Ann K. Parsons:  email:  akp@eznet.net
evoice:  2440477     ICQ Number:  33006854
WEB SITE:  http://home.eznet.net/~akp
"All that is gold does not glitter.  Not all those who wander are lost."  JRRT

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