Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Freedom Scientific podcast features RJS and Wake

Freedom Scientific makes JAWS, the screen-reading software that Caitlin Decter uses in my novel Wake. JAWS is the world's most popular screen-reading program for the blind.

A quite lengthy and detailed interview between Robert J. Sawyer and Jonathan Mosen, Freedom Scientific's Vice-President of Blindness Hardware Product Management, begins a couple of minutes into the podcast (but the preamble is fascinating, full of interesting stuff about products for the blind).

The interview deals with how I researched blindness, my own experience with blindness, the reaction to Wake from the blind community, plus my residency at the Canadian Light Source, machine consciousness, the role of science fiction, and a bunch of other cool topics.

The MP3 of the podcast is here, and the Podcast XML link is here.

I've done a lot of audio interviews related to Wake, but this one is a particularly in-depth and interesting one, I must say. Incidentally, the interview was recorded via Skype with me in Saskatoon, and Jonathan in New Zealand.

From Jonathan's introductory comments:
Robert J. Sawyer's books are for me among a select group. When there's a new Robert J. Sawyer book available, all other leisure activities go on hold until it's read. Robert J. Sawyer writes science fiction that makes you think. His books often tackle the philosophical questions of our time, and the philosophical questions we may need to confront at a future time.

The main human character in [Wake] is Caitlin Decter. She's 15, a mathematics wizard, a frequent blogger on her LiveJournal — and a blind user of JAWS. It's rare to find novels where the main character is blind, let alone when where the research has clearly been so meticulous.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site and WakeWatchWonder.com

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At July 01, 2009 1:26 PM , Blogger maclawry said...

Very interesting interview. When you talked about a person who is blind using the visual cortex to 'visualize' the structure of a website it reminded me of a session I attended a few years ago at WebDevShare.

The session was about building accessible websites. Unlike most such presentations I had been to this one was an opportunity to watch two users of screen readers as they navigated websites.

I think one was using Jaws, it 'read' the screen aloud. The other was using a tactile device which produced braille instead of reading aloud.

There was a fair amount of good natured sniping between them regarding the choice of technologies, and the braille reader said something that stuck with me. "I am visually oriented" going on to say that she could form a picture in her head based on what she was given through the tactile interface.


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