Tip: An Easy Way to Toggle Reader Mode in Firefox

For some time, Firefox has had a feature called “Reader mode” which is wonderful when you’re reading a blog post or news story that you’d like to declutter. It removes most of the extraneous links and other sections of the page which aren’t part of the actual story you’re trying to read.

Starting with version 50 of Firefox, we now have a hotkey which will toggle reader mode. Just press ctrl+alt+R and, if it’s supported on the page which is open, reader mode will become enabled. Pressing the same hotkey turns reader mode off.

Kaspersky Antivirus: A Review for Screen Reader Users

As I indicated in a previous post regarding screen reader accessibility of antivirus software, I felt the need to switch to a new antivirus program after Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows Defender in Windows 8 and 10) failed to stop malware from crippling my computer. I’m aware that many people have used MSE or Defender for some time and may never experience an infection but this was a choice I felt needed to be made. The gentleman who worked on my computer recommended Kaspersky Antivirus. After reading a positive review of the product in PC Magazine, I decided to give the program a try. What follows is an account of my experiences with installing and using the software from the perspective of a screen reader user. My screen reader is NVDA, running on a Dell OptiPlex 740 machine with 8 GB of RAM. The operating system is Windows 10 Pro, although I started using Kaspersky on the same system running Windows 7.

This review discusses Kaspersky Antivirus specifically with the NVDA screen reader. While I do use the free version of Window-Eyes as a secondary screen reader, NVDA has been my access package of choice since the summer of 2009. Some of what I’m about to document may produce different results with other screen readers, so your mileage will likely vary. I will eventually update this post to discuss how the program performs when using Window-Eyes. For now, this review will focus entirely on the accessibility of Kaspersky Antivirus with NVDA.

A year ago, I started out using Kaspersky 2015 after using Microsoft Security Essentials for over five years, as I was not satisfied with the level of protection offered by MSE. The installer for Kaspersky 2015 was 100% accessible, being rendered just as though I were reading a Web page. Informational text and controls were also nicely labeled and installing it was both quick and 100% screen reader friendly.

Unfortunately, the installer for Kaspersky Antivirus 2016 was completely inaccessible to screen readers. Whether I used arrow keys or screen review commands, none of the text was visible to NVDA. However, I was still able to install the 2016 version using the 2015 installer, because the installer presents a check box, which you would select if you want the program to automatically install newer versions of the software. This meant that I could run the nicely accessible 2015 installer and have it install the 2016 version.

A few weeks ago, I saw that Kaspersky Antivirus 2017 was available. I downloaded the 2017 installer, ran it and saw that it was just as inaccessible as the 2016 installer. No problem, I thought. I’ll just run the 2015 installer, have it download the newest version and I’ll have the 2017 edition of the software with no drama.

This, unfortunately, was not to be. First, when I ran the 2015 installer it told me that the installer could not complete because one of the program folders was not empty. I was a bit flabbergasted, since I assumed that the program would just upgrade my current version but I guess the 2015 installer doesn’t know how to deal with an installed 2016 version. No problem, I thought, I’ll just uninstall the program but I ran into an error doing that and I can’t now remember what the message was. No problem, I thought again, I’ll just clear out the folder which should make it happy and avoid further drama.

However, Windows wouldn’t allow me to do that, even with admin rights.

No problem, I thought, I’ll just look for the Kaspersky removal tool. I found it, downloaded it and ran it. The good news was that the program had accessible keyboard controls. The bad news was that the removal tool had a captcha, which it insisted that I solve before it allowed me to remove the software. There are several captcha solvers, such as Rumola, which I use and recommend. However, these decoders only work within Web browsers, not in other applications, making this a complete blocker for me. I sent a few tweets about this to Kaspersky Support and asked if one of their reps could do a remote session where they could access my computer and install the software. They sent me some direct messages, indicating that this could be done. However, when I called them they said that remote access was a premium support service and that I needed to pay for it. I told them that it was not right that I should have to pay for remote support, considering that I can’t even install their software independently and can’t even remove the current version due to a captcha. I finally got disgusted, disconnected the call and called the Microsoft disability answer desk. Within ten minutes the rep had entered the captcha solution, removed the old version and even guided me through installing the 2017 version with the inaccessible 2017 installer. Needless to say, while I eventually solved my problem I did so with absolutely no help from Kaspersky, who should have come through for me but failed miserably to do so.

If anyone who is visually impaired is considering installing this software, you might want to save time by just asking Microsoft for help. You might also want to tweet Kaspersky at @kl_support to express your opinions.

Here are some comments concerning the program itself. While there are some accessibility issues, I’m able to get around most of them and the majority of the settings provide accessible controls.

Parts of the application are quite accessible, and other aspects are not. If you open the Kaspersky 2017 icon from the desktop or from the start menu, you will be greeted, audibly at least, by several unlabeled buttons, with the exception of the Settings and Support buttons, which are labeled. I can’t speak for JAWS or Window-eyes but, with NVDA, you can discover the function of each button by using NVDA’s object navigation keys via the numeric keypad. Once you land on an unlabeled button, pressing insert-2 to drill down into that button’s “object” and then pressing insert-6 will clearly speak the button’s label. The buttons are actionable and so pressing the spacebar, at that point, activates the button as you would expect. These buttons perform functions such as update, scan, etc.

Once you activate the clearly-labeled Settings button, most of the dialogs are accessible. It presents you with a list of options such as settings for scanning, performance, protection, general, etc. Using up/down arrow keys moves through these different options. Once you find an option whose settings you wish to modify, pressing the tab key moves through various buttons and checkboxes for those options and is presented like a standard dialog. Most options are accessible and easy to use and understand, whereas a few are tricky and may require some experimentation and possibly sighted assistance to verify their settings, such as slider controls to increase and decrease security levels. The last option or category found in the Settings dialog is labeled “Additional” and its dialog, by contrast, contains nothing but unlabeled buttons. However, you can easily determine the function of each button by using NVDA’s object navigation commands as I described earlier.

For me, the easiest method for accessing Kaspersky’s functions is through the system tray icon. Right-clicking this icon (by using the Applications key” brings up an accessible menu, which includes items such as Run Update, Settings, and Task Manager. Task Manager is what I use most of the time to perform scans, although you can also use the context menu from within Windows Explorer to scan files, folders or entire drives.

The layout of the Task Manager is similar to Kaspersky’s Settings menu, with a list of categories which you access with up/down arrow keys, followed by repeated presses of the tab key to explore the options for each category. Task Manager allows you to perform quick scans, full scans, removable drive scans as well as a category for reviewing results of previous scans.

While performing a scan, the progress screen is accessible but it requires heavy use of NVDA’s object navigation keys to explore the information in detail. As an example, using object navigation commands allows you to see the percentage of the scan, which file is currently being scanned, etc.

One odd issue is that sometimes NVDA is able to read certain parts of the code which are not visible on the screen. As an example, there was one screen, I forget which, that indicated that the update was successful but also indicated that an update wasn’t installed and the program was rolling back to a previous update. These are messages which are obviously meant to be displayed at certain times but yet those messages are somehow being exposed to NVDA.

In spite of these oddities and varying degrees of accessibility, I continue to use Kaspersky Antivirus and do not regret my decision to do so. My reason is simple: I wanted a program which was highly rated when it comes to malware protection. For years, I used Microsoft Security Essentials because it was free, light on resources and completely accessible with screen readers. The problem was that it wasn’t necessarily very good at protecting my system against malware. When I had been hit by a crippling virus a year ago, I decided that I would no longer compromise my computer’s security for the sake of accessibility and convenience and chose to go with Kaspersky. I mean no disrespect to any of you who are using MSE or Windows Defender and who feel that the program provides good protection. Perhaps, if you’re one of those individuals, it will provide good protection and you may never become infected with malware. However, I simply no longer trust that program and feel unsafe using and depending on it. For those who are looking for a robust antimalware solution, Kaspersky Antivirus has performed well and I hope that my review will cause some of you to consider giving the program a try.

Why I Voted for Donald Trump

I do acknowledge that, in our society, asking a person who they voted for is considered to be an inappropriate question. We feel that the question is intrusive and way too personal. Voting, for many of us, is a private matter. Who we vote for is nobody else’s business, we say. I respect that perspective and I don’t plan on asking anyone who they’re voting for in this year’s election. However, while it may be inappropriate to some for me to ask that question, I do have the right to say who I voted for. People are free to agree or disagree and I expect both sets of responses and that’s fine. For me, this election is too important for me to consider my vote to be personal and nobody else’s business. The actions of our next President will affect all of us, whether you voted for that individual or not. Therefore, who I voted for is certainly very much your business and I have no reservations about sharing this information within the context of my blog.

Since I’ve already stated that this is not a personal issue for me, many of you will no doubt want to know why I voted for Donald Trump. Is it because I think the man is the best candidate we’ve ever had? The honest answer is that there’s a lot about him that I don’t like. There are so many things about him which I feel are very troubling. In light of these imperfections, why did I vote for him?

I voted for him because I believe he’ll do more good for our country than Hillary Clinton. The man is far from perfect. However, when we vote for a candidate, we’re not voting for someone without any imperfections or character flaws. If those are the qualifications to hold political office then none of us are qualified. We’re not voting for someone we’d like as our best friend or someone we’d most like to hang out with after work. We’re not voting for the next Pope or the next Mother Teresa. We’re voting for someone who is likely to adopt the best policies to advance the common good for all citizens of this great country.

For me, abortion is the most important issue that I consider when choosing which candidate gets my vote. I am hardly a single issue voter. There are many issues which are important to me: the legalization of euthanasia, the harm that same sex unions are doing to our country, the threat of groups like IS, affordable health care, ensuring a fair and just wage for our workers, etc. However, if we get the issue of how we treat the unborn wrong then we potentially get everything wrong, since the legalization of abortion is such a blatant disregard for human life. If a politician promised to increase jobs, implement affordable health care and lower taxes but felt that it should be legal to enslave African Americans nobody would vote for him, regardless of how sound his other policies might be. Abortion, the legalized killing of preborn, innocent human beings, is surely the slavery of our time.

When I vote, I have to consider which candidate will do more to fight for the lives of the unborn. Which candidate will do more to save those innocent lives? If more lives will likely be saved due to the choices of one candidate over another, then that candidate will get my vote.

Abortion does more harm than any of us can possibly imagine, not only by killing the child and by harming the mother but the harm extends to all of us, because the child who was killed will never have the right to choose what contributions he or she will make to our society. How many medical treatments and cures for diseases have been denied us due to the fact that the person who might have discovered them was never allowed to be born, all in the name of choice. It amazes me when people with disabilities support abortion. I can’t help but wonder how the quality of our lives as people with disabilities would be improved even more had our culture not made the killing of the unborn legal? What types of technologies might we have had? What types of medical treatments might exist to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and mobility to those in wheelchairs? Abortion not only takes a life but it means that everybody who that life would have touched or inspired will be denied that opportunity. That person, now murdered, will never have the choice to inspire someone else to commit an act or make a choice which might literally change our world. We haven’t even begun to think of the children that person might have, and the choices they could have made and how those choices may affect so many of us. I submit to you that, due to abortion, we are living in a barren and diminished world.

At this point, I would like to say that I, in no way, mean to cast judgment on women who may be reading this who may have had an abortion. I don’t blame you. Women who had an abortion did so because of pressure. They were told that they had to do it or they would face consequences. People would say things such as “if you don’t do it I’ll leave you” or “you’ll never be able to afford raising a child” or “if you don’t do it I’ll throw you out.” They did it because they felt they had no choice, pressured by misguided people who call themselves “pro-choice.” If you’re a woman who has had an abortion, I would encourage you to visit Rachel’s Vineyard, a confidential and non-judgmental organization with the goal of helping men and women struggling with the effects of abortion.

Donald Trump is far from an ideal candidate. However, he is not only pro-life but he has promised to place judges on the bench of the Supreme Court who are known to be pro-life. A President will only be in office for 4-8 years but the judges who sit on that bench could be with us for decades and their decisions will have long-lasting repercussions on our country.

The following article will provide more information concerning this topic and, to be honest, explains it better than I ever could.

In closing, I would ask that, if you feel a need to comment on this post, that you do so charitably, even if you disagree with my views. People who know me will know that I am able to discuss these topics with people who believe differently than I do and I try to do so with charity. I would ask that you do the same.

 

Question: Which Antivirus Program Works Best With My Screen Reader? Answer: You Might Be Asking the Wrong Question

 

During my time working with and using assistive technology, I have participated in many discussion forums dealing with various pieces of adaptive hardware and software products for the visually impaired. One topic which often comes up has to do with the accessibility of antivirus programs with screen readers. Usually, someone will pose a question such as “I’m trying to find out what’s the most accessible antivirus program which I can use with my screen reader?” There will be many opinions, of course, with people commenting on this or that antivirus package which works well with a particular screen reader. This is certainly an important topic and one which definitely needs to be addressed. I would like to weigh in on this issue and begin the answer to that question by saying that we might not be starting out with the right question.

Some of the things I’m about to write regarding the subject of antivirus accessibility may be controversial to some and may possibly ruffle some feathers. This is not my intent. I’d just like to offer a slightly different perspective on this topic.

The question we should all be asking, whether we’re blind or sighted, is what antivirus or security solution is highly rated, according to independent lab tests. I realize the problem with this question is that, sometimes, what some may consider to be a good antivirus solution might not be compatible with our screen reader of choice. When we find out that specific solutions we might otherwise have considered don’t work well with our screen reader, we choose one which is more accessible. Lest you think I’m looking down on other screen reader users, please know that I did the exact same thing for years.

In 1999, I began using what was, at that time, a current version of Norton Antivirus on my Windows 98 machine. The program was well-known, was shipped with my computer with a free, one year subscription and was, from what I remember, 100% accessible.

Eventually, the program’s level of accessibility began to change and I discovered AVG 7.5. It, too, was 100% accessible and was probably the only antivirus program which allowed the user to change and redefine shortcut keys for its various functions, just as today’s screen readers allow you to change the shortcut keys for their commands. It was amazing and it seemed like it was almost made for visually impaired screen reader users. I should note that I never once considered whether the program was actually effective in keeping my computer secure. As naive as this may sound, I’ll admit that it never occurred to me to actually read objective reviews to see if AVG could do an even half-decent job in protecting my system. It was free, super accessible and had the word antivirus in its name. What more could I possibly want?

As I’m sure many of you will remember, version 8 of AVG came along and, while the program was still mostly accessible, the interface changed, keyboard shortcut reassignment was gone and, over time, accessibility became a bit more problematic, although the program was certainly usable enough. Bear in mind that I haven’t used it in several years and, if accessibility has improved, I’ll be the first to celebrate that fact.

So, like so many of us, I decided to find another program with the word antivirus in its title with at least reasonable screen reader accessibility. I found Avast 4.x and it wasn’t bad. Like many blind people, I happily used it. Until 5.0 came around and the program was not accessible, though I know they’ve since been working on this and things have likely changed.

So, I uninstalled Avast and found what I believed was the ideal solution with Microsoft Security Essentials. It was free, seemed light on resources and was 100% accessible. My problem, so I thought, was solved. Over time, I began to read that MSE wasn’t doing as well in dealing with viruses but I figured, hey, I’m a cautious user. I take a lot of precautions: I update software regularly, adjusted security settings on my router, am careful about opening attachments to the point of paranoia, use a script blocker on most pages … in other words, I was hardly what you would call reckless and used my computer as responsibly as I knew how. Of course, I knew even then that there was always a chance my PC could get hit by malware, no matter how careful I was, but I believed I was reasonably safe. Until I was hit by crippling malware which forced me to reformat my hard drive and reinstall everything, rebuilding everything from the ground up.

I realize that there are many people who have found an accessible or at least usable antivirus solution who have never been hit by malware. I’m sure there are many happy users of MSE or Windows Defender who happily use their computer who may never be crippled by a virus. I also realize that corporations who deploy many different security solutions, who employ security experts who know a hundred times more than I’ll ever hope to know, still get hit by malware. When it comes to computer security, there are no guarantees, no matter how much you know or what you do to protect yourself. My point is that, for years, I was content to place accessibility as a higher priority over safety and security and that simply isn’t a mistake I’m willing to make again. For word processing, I use Microsoft Word, not only because it’s quite accessible, but because it simply is one of the best word processors out there for what I need.

I would encourage anyone considering their security needs to read reviews of which programs performed well with independent tests and then download a demo version of the program they choose; I believe most security programs offer a 30 or 60 day trial. If it doesn’t perform well with your preferred screen reader, I would do a few things.

First, write to the developer of the program with a clear description of the accessibility issues you’re experiencing, with as much detail as you can provide. Let them know that you’re considering purchasing the software but that you’re unwilling to do so until the issues you’re describing are addressed. If they don’t respond, contact them publicly on Twitter. In addition, contact your screen reader developer to see if they can construct scripts, apps or configuration files to try and work around what you’re experiencing. Computer security is too serious of an issue to make decisions based on how well the program works with a screen reader, rather than making the decision based on how well the software actually secures the precious data on your computer. I love good conversation as much as the next person but, if I’m trying to find a good physician, I’ll choose one based on how skilled he is as a doctor, rather than on how articulate or eloquent he may be. If he’s highly skilled and a good conversationalist, that’s fabulous but I prize skill and knowledge over how much we might have in common to chat about.

I would also respectfully ask the staff at NV Access and VFO Group to consider working with the developers of security software to see if alliances can be formed, with the goal of making these important software packages more accessible with NVDA, JAWS and Window-Eyes. Screen reader manufacturers forge similar alliances with companies like Microsoft for the same reasons. These alliances are what allows programs like Window-eyes to maintain compatibility and fabulous accessibility with programs such as Word, Excel and the operating system itself. When screen reader manufacturers say that they’re ready to work with Windows 10 or Word 2016 out of the gate, it’s partly due to these necessary relationships they form with companies like Microsoft. I’m not criticizing such partnerships. Nobody denies that screen readers are useless if they don’t offer great support for products like Outlook, Word and even Windows 10 itself. I’m asking that screen reader developers take this concept further and reach out to developers of security programs, to form similar partnerships. Having access to Microsoft Word is great. However, that accessibility means nothing if the security solutions designed to protect my Word documents isn’t accessible.

At this point, some of you may be wondering which program I decided to use. I chose Kaspersky Antivirus. When I had my computer in a local shop after it was hit by the virus I wrote about earlier, the proprietor said that he used this program and recommended it. I read a review of it in PC Magazine and was convinced that it would be a good choice, considering how well it performed in independent lab tests. I didn’t know what level of accessibility it offered but I was determined to make it work, even if I had to engage in a lot of advocacy to achieve that goal.

While the program’s accessibility isn’t perfect, it is quite usable and I am able to adjust most of the program’s settings. Unfortunately, the installer for the newer versions is completely inaccessible, something which I hope Kaspersky will soon remedy.

Finally, if you’d like to talk with me and other users about what we can do to change the accessibility landscape of security software, I have set up a mailing list for that purpose. Please consider joining it and, together, perhaps we can assist in improving screen reader accessibility of these critical pieces of software.

EnHanced Siri Voices for VoiceOver Not Available on iOS 10.0.1 After Restoring my iPhone 6S

For quite some time I have been a very satisfied user of iOS, starting with iOS 7 several years ago. I recently upgraded to iOS 10 and, after performing a restore from an iTunes backup, I noticed that the enhanced Siri voices, while they are available with Siri, are no longer available for users of VoiceOver. This has left me feeling disappointed, as the enhanced Siri male voice is one of the few that I really prefer on the iPhone. I have reported the relevant details regarding this problem to Apple and I encourage you to do the same if you’re having the same problem. Apple will be more likely to investigate and correct this bug as more users contact them about the problem. Their email address is

accessibility at apple dot com

To avoid spammers, I have written out the email address with spaces and words for the punctuation, so be sure to remove the spaces and replace the words at and dot with the relevant symbols.

Here is the text that I sent to them.

Hello.

I am writing concerning a problem which I am unable to solve. This issue concerns an iPhone 6S, 64 GB model. The same problem has affected a family member who owns an iPhone 6, 128 GB.

Here are the details of my device and the problem I am experiencing.

I am visually impaired and use VoiceOver for access. I use the U.S. Siri enhanced male voice. My iPhone 6S initially came preinstalled with iOS 9. Its speed and overall performance were extremely satisfactory using VoiceOver. When iOS 10 was publicly released, I downloaded and installed it onto my 6S. I noticed that some apps took a longer time to load. I also noticed a slightly longer than usual delay when performing the two-finger scrub gesture to move back to the previous screen. While I wouldn’t say that the delays were unacceptable, I admit to being disappointed at the difference in performance on a phone which is still a very recent model. I decided to perform a complete reset and erase, followed by a restore from a recent iTunes backup, hoping that doing so might increase my phone’s performance.

After performing the restore from iTunes, I noticed that there was no difference in my phone’s performance. However, I was unable to switch to the enhanced Siri voices with VoiceOver as these voices were no longer listed as available choices. While it was possible to set VoiceOver to any of the Siri voices, these were just the lower-quality voices. The enhanced voices no longer appeared as possible choices. Please understand that these enhanced Siri voices were available to me when I initially upgraded from iOS 9 to iOS 10. They disappeared when I performed a reset and restore on my phone.

This is very troubling to me as these are my favorite voices and I very much prefer them over the other voices from Nuance and I would very much like them back. As I indicated, another family member who also uses VoiceOver is experiencing the same problem with his iPhone 6. If there is a way to return these voices to my phone, I would appreciate learning how this is done. If this is a bug due to resetting or restoring the device, I would greatly appreciate it if Apple could investigate the cause of the problem.

Many thanks.