July 23, 2024

JAWS Convenient OCR is Here!

Today Freedom Scientific today announced the release of JAWS® for Windows version 13, including Convenient OCR. By performing Optical Character Recognition on text that is displayed in a graphic, blind computer users are now able to access such things as scanned-in posters and other such graphical images that might as well have been a blank page before. JAWS can even allow finding and clicking on control links and buttons that were once hidden, even, believe it or not, the menu of a DVD!

Another new feature for JAWS 13 is Results Viewer, which displays the results of  features like Research It. According to the Freedom Scientific press release, the new interface “enables faster navigation with Navigation Quick Keys and switching to other windows without losing the results of your lookup. Sports scores have returned to Research It and are easier to navigate than ever before. The INSERT+V keystroke now opens the new Quick Settings, which replaces Adjust JAWS Options and matches the easy-to-use Settings Center style interface introduced last year in JAWS 12.”

“This release represents a huge step in accessibility for screen reader users,” says Eric Damery, Vice President of Software Product Management for Freedom Scientific. “Whether trying to identify and read inaccessible PDF documents that are just scanned images or interacting with graphical controls that could not previously be located, the new Convenient OCR option built into JAWS 13 has been described as a real game changer. JAWS 13 is also packed with other features and enhancements that have been selected and designed to improve access and ease of use for all users.”

The upgrade is an SMA release and can be downloaded as either a 32-bit or 64-bit version from the JAWS downloads page. DVD shipments to SMA holders and new product customers will commence on Nov 1, 2011.”

Source: JAWS 13

Jaws 13 Convenient OCR Hands-On

Freedom Scientific has released the public beta of version 13 of their popular Jaws screen reader into the wild. The 32 bit and 64 bit versions are now available for download at the Jaws HQ site. We had no problem installing the 32 bit version on our old Windows test system and we were up and running in no time without a hitch.

As we wrote last week, the most ground breaking new feature of Jaws 13 is “Convenient OCR”. Convenient OCR provides a simple means to read text on the screen contained in graphical images. It has not been possible to accomplish this feat using any other screen reader before Jaws 13. We believe that Convenient OCR represents a significant advancement in screen reader technology and it will quickly become an indispensable daily productivity tool.

We tested Convenient OCR on two of the most annoying accessibility problems we regularly encounter. The first is an HP printer driver installation program with unlabeled buttons and other inaccessible text. Although it is sometimes fun to just start clicking on stuff to see what will happen, it is unacceptable that common system programs like this are still inaccessible when a simple fix would make them available to everyone. Using Convenient OCR, we were able to easily read the screen text and, for the first time, click on the buttons with confidence.

The other problem we often encounter is PDF files we get from professors and other sources that contain scanned images of text. These images are not readable by the screen reader which reports them as blank pages. (Sometimes it seems as though the screen reader has a little bit too much attitude about this.) While we can always save the PDF and convert it with a stand alone OCR package, what we really want is for the screen reader to read it. We are pleased to report that Convenient OCR does it, and does it well.

We have also been told that Convenient OCR can be used to overcome the shortcomings of Narrator when installing the new Windows 8 beta. It can read buttons and text which would otherwise require sighted assistance. Even though it is essential that Microsoft correct these problems and make Windows 8 accessible, it is good to report that the new Convenient OCR feature of Jaws 13 got the job done.

Finally, we do not want to leave the impression that we think Convenient OCR is perfect and Freedom Scientific got it one hundred percent right the first time. The ability to virtualize the text generated by Convenient OCR into the results viewer so it can be cut and pasted into other documents or read using regular navigation commands is a glaring omission. Freedom Scientific has said that they could not get this feature ready in time for the release. We think the omission probably goes more to protecting sales of their Open Book product, since virtualizing text is at the core of the Jaws system functionality. We hope Freedom Scientific will see the light and provide this functionality right away.

Jaws 13 Will Include Integrated OCR

Freedom Scientific announced that version 13 of the popular Jaws screen reader will be available as a public beta next week. According to Eric Damery of Freedom Scientific, anyone will be able to download and install the beta during this period. A response form will be provided on the Jaws HQ web site for reporting bugs and other problems. The official release is expected in late October or early November.

The most exciting new feature in Jaws 13 is built-in OCR (optical character recognition). This feature, called convenient OCR, is designed to read text contained in graphical images not normally readable by Jaws. It will help solve the common problem encountered when the bank or utility company presents account information online in graphical form. The text hidden in the image can be read using regular Jaws navigation commands. Convenient OCR will also read those annoying PDF files that contain scanned images instead of text.

Jaws 13 will include a number of other useful enhancements including simplified commands for reading tables and a redesigned user configuration facility called quick settings. There is also expanded Aria support for Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox. Another very nice addition to the Internet Explorer support is web site specific search history. Search keywords previously entered for a particular web site can be quickly retrieved and recycled in new searches.

We are looking forward to the new features and performance enhancements coming in Jaws 13 and we think that Convenient OCR is a giant step forward in screen reader functionality. It is important to note that although Convenient OCR provides groundbreaking support for reading text contained in graphical images, it will not allow the text to be copied or saved. Freedom Scientific stated that they could not get this feature ready in time for the release. It seems to us, as outside observers, that it would be just as easy to display the translated text in the new results viewer as it is to output it to the voice synthesizer. It is our hope that Freedom Scientific will be able to include this functionality in the future.

Source: FSCast Episode 58