Michael Curran and James Teh met as children on a music camp for the blind, where they realised they shared a strong interest in computers. Several years later they decided to join forces to help improve the accessibility of computers for blind and vision impaired people.
For blind people to use a computer, they need a screen reader which reads the text on the screen in a synthetic voice or with a braille display. But in many cases screen reading software costs more than the computer itself. In the past this has left computers inaccessible to millions of blind people around the world. This is a critical problem, because without computers, access to education and employment is severely limited, not to mention everyday functions such as online banking, shopping and news.
In April 2006 Michael began to develop a free screen reader called NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) for use with computers running on Windows. He invited James, who had recently completed his IT degree, to develop the software with him.
Together these two fully blind men founded the not-for-profit organisation NV Access to support the development of the NVDA screen reader. Before too long they were able to work full-time on the project thanks to a series of corporate grants and individual donations.
NVDA has been translated by volunteers into more than 43 languages, and been used by people in more than 120 countries. It has also won multiple awards.
NVDA is open source software, which means the code is accessible to anyone. This enables translators and developers around the world to continually contribute to its expansion and improvement.
Through this work, Michael and James have gained extensive expertise in software accessibility. They have also fostered relationships with companies such as Mozilla, Microsoft, IBM, Adobe and Yahoo! and have contributed to the accessibility of their respective products.
NV Access is based in South East Queensland, Australia.