Some of you may recall that about a year ago the Mozilla Foundation provided a grant to NV Access, an Australia-based nonprofit organization dedicated to developing NVDA, an open source screen reader designed for blind users of Windows applications like Firefox. This grant went to support NV Access hiring a developer (James Teh) to work full-time on NVDA. (The Mozilla Foundation had previously provided a smaller grant as well.)
I’m happy to pass on the news that NV Access has now received financial support from Microsoft sufficient to allow Mick Curran (the original developer of NVDA) to also work full-time on NVDA. From my point of view this is a significant development for both NV Access itself, which has taken another step towards sustaining itself and the NVDA project for the long term, and for blind users of Windows.
Users of both OS X and Linux-based systems have available very capable screen readers as part of the base operating system, VoiceOver and Orca respectively. With NVDA Windows users also have a no-cost alternative to expensive proprietary screen readers (albeit one not bundled into the OS itself). This supports the general goal of providing a base level of no-cost high-quality assistive technology in all PCs and PC-like devices. (Accessibility for mobile phones and other mobile devices is another story, and one for another day.)
This grant also highlights an important aspect of the Mozilla Foundation’s grant program: I think we are best seen as providing the equivalent of seed funding for worthy organizations and individuals. For example, a number of the people we’ve funded for (relatively small) accessibility and other grants have gone on to full-time employment in their respective fields. In this case Microsoft’s funding of NVDA can be seen as a validation of our original investment in NV Access and the NVDA project. I hope to see other Mozilla-funded organizations graduate to the next level as well. (In this respect, see Gen Kanai’s post highlighting some favorable publicity for Project:Possibility and its founder Chris Leung.)