Thursday, August 12, 2010

Avast Now Offers Antivirus Software With Screen-reader Capability

AVAST Software, providers of the avast! antivirus program, has announced that the latest update to its antivirus application makes computer security fully accessible to the vision-impaired. Using basic screen-reader technology, blind and low-vision computer users can now protect their computers from malware and unwanted viruses with any of the avast! Antivirus 5.0 offerings – avast! Free Antivirus, avast! Pro Antivirus and avast! Internet Security.

The push for this development came from vision-impaired IT geeks who wanted to use avast! Antivirus 5.0. “For the blind, the computer is an absolutely fantastic invention. And for some, it’s even their hobby to adjust it,” said Radek Seifert, work-team leader at the TEREZA Center, a support center for the sight-impaired at the Czech Technical University in Prague.

These volunteers fine-tuned avast! so it worked with JAWS, a leading screen-reader technology. “They said, ‘give us the beta’ so we did,” remembers Ondrej Vlcek, AVAST Chief Technical Officer. “It was also a complicated issue on our side as avast! does not use the standard Windows controls.”

Screen reader software is designed to navigate through a website and read the web content aloud. A screen reader uses a Text-To-Speech (TTS) engine to translate on-screen information into speech, which can then be heard through earphones or speakers. In addition to speech feedback, screen readers are also capable of providing information in Braille. An external hardware device, known as a refreshable Braille display, is needed for this.

“A screen reader can be complicated to adjust – there are many ways to fine-tune the program and some very small differences made in adjusting the information that needs to be read aloud,” explained Mr. Seifert.

The cooperation between the blind community and AVAST Software is being noticed globally. “It's great to see that a company like yours doesn't take very long to make their programs accessible to blind or visually impaired users. I am happy to say that avast! 5.0 does now work fully with Jaws,” wrote in Michael Osmond, a blind JAWS trainer at Dalhousie University in Haifax, Canada. An avast! user since 2008, he was particularly concerned that the email filter in 5.0 would work correctly.

The computer, and screenreader technologies, is now an integral part of blind people’s lives. “The JAWS program is so much more than a simple screen reader – it is a navigational aid,” said Eric Damery, VP Software Product Management, Freedom Scientific. “We believe this technology truly empowers the vision-impaired and the newest antivirus program from avast! will provide peace of mind for computer users.”

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