NVDA needs us

NVDA is one of a new generation of access technologies for blind and partially sighted people. It’s given thousands of blind people a chance to use a computer, and it’s the darling of the open standards community, but on 19th January NVDA’s developers sent out an urgent SOS.

NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) began as an open source project in the mid 2000s. VoiceOver had recently emerged as part of OS X Tiger on the Mac, but no viable free screen reader existed on the Windows platform.

In 2007 NV Access was set up as a non profit organisation to manage activities relating to the NVDA project. A grant from the Mozilla Foundation in early 2008 enabled James Teh to become a full time developer on the project, joining founder Michael Curran.

A grant from Microsoft later that year enabled NVDA’s developers to work on Windows 7 UI automation support, and in 2009 Yahoo! stepped in with a grant that facilitated the introduction of several WAI-ARIA features.

The trouble is that now the money is running out. According to a message posted on the NVDA blog a couple of days ago, there is only enough money left to sustain the project until July 2011.

Their appeal is remarkably simple. Last year 50,000 people downloaded NVDA from their website. Even if they exclude 20,000 of those to allow for multiple downloads by the same people, that could still leave as many as 30,000 unique users. If each person contributed just AUS$10 (£6.20) that would give them AUS$300,000 to support the project.

Free access technologies are giving the old school screen readers a serious run for their money. NVDA is absolutely vital to this revolution, perhaps more so than any other screen reader. VoiceOver may be an excellent choice for anyone able to afford an Apple product, but with few available for less than £500 there is still a cost implication for many people. NVDA can be used on even the cheapest netbook, and can even be stored on a portable drive for use on a shared or borrowed computer.

Quite simply, NVDA’s future lies in our hands. If you’ve ever used it to access a computer, if you’ve ever used it to test a website, spoken about it at a conference, recommended it to another person, or if you simply believe in the philosophy behind free software, the time is now. Please make a donation to the NVDA Project.

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