I received permission from Nimer regarding the following letter:
Hello NVDA community,
First, I hope you are staying safe and healthy.
One day in early 2012, I came across a question posed on an NVDA list (it could have been this list which was hosted on a different forum platform then): can NVDA read Korean? That question led to an adventure that span nine years: translations, writing documentation, founding an international gathering of a community, releasing countless add-ons, moderating several NVDA lists and communities, and learning to incorporate lessons I have learned from the community in the next chapter of my life. In the midst of contributions, I recently hinted that I plan to retire from the community, and that golden opportunity has come:
On May 10, 2021, I was offered and accepted admission to master of arts (graduate school) program in communication studies at California State University, Los Angeles after graduating with highest honors (summa cum laude) from the same university.
After observing discussions between graduate students and thinking about balancing between graduate seminars, coaching speech and debate teams, and NVDA code contributions, I decided that school should take highest of highest of priorities. Graduate school is harder than undergraduate (college) education, especially when adding responsibility of teaching and coaching students competing in collegiate speech and debate tournaments. As much as I love programming and contributing to NVDA community, I cannot forget my immediate responsibilities of being a student and public speaking coach.
Therefore, I’m retiring from NVDA community contributions, effective September 1, 2021. This means:
- I do have work to finish which might end up in NVDA as early as 2021.2, and I plan to dedicate this summer to completing outstanding pull requests.
- I’m handing over most of my add-ons to the NVDA add-ons community for further maintenance. I do plan to maintain Add-on Updater and Windows 10 App Essentials – Add-on Updater is needed until NVDA comes with add-ons store, and Windows 10 App Essentials is needed to respond to ever-changing nature of Windows 10 ecosystem and to keep up with changes in NVDA development from time to time.
- For NVDACon attendees and organizers, I will not be able to (and I really cannot) participate in NVDACon for a while.
- For add-ons community, I will be stepping down as your chief admin and add-on reviewer this summer (details will be sent to add-ons list).
Several thank you’s:
- Mick and Jamie: for starting it all fifteen years ago – April 2006 signaled the birth of a movement, which endures today.
- NV Access staff, past and present: so many discussions, teaching me about life, programming, and group work.
- Mesar Hameed: for teaching me about NVDA translation process and making sure community add-ons website was ready for the world in 2013.
- Many NvDA users and enthusiasts in South Korea: for giving me an updated picture on Korean blindness community and help formulating strategies on translations and outreach nine years ago.
- Many translators: for helping me adjust to the NVDA community when I was a novice translator in 2012.
- Thousands of users: for teaching me many things – forum discussions, direct feedback, and countless other venues.
- Nimer and NVDA Users list moderators, past and present: many collaborations and helpful advice.
- For users of my add-ons: countless feedback, megabytes of debug logs (all were destroyed after analyses because they contain private information), and so many other things that made add-ons useful to this day.
- NVDA supporters outside this forum: for your continued enthusiasm and support.
- Microsoft engineers and fellow Windows Insiders: many opportunities to connect and learn from.
- Folks from Mozilla, Google, and other organizations: for meeting new friends and colleagues.
One advice for future NVDA contributors: listen a lot. You can’t write effective add-ons and NVDA pull requests without listening to what others have to say. Before writing Python, sit down and have a conversation with users. Collaboration is the key, especially when talking to people online.
Although I’m retiring as a code contributor, I look forward to helping the NVDA community in other ways. Until then, graduate school is calling me – feel free to reach out if you seek advice on accessibility advocacy, programming in general, public speaking, and what not.
Before I close, I would like to take this time to invite resident high school and college students to invest in public speaking, or if you want, compete in speech and debate tournaments. You can’t just sit and ask others to advocate for you – you must do it yourself at some point in your life. One way to do so is learning public speaking and debate skills, and one venue is through competing in high school or college speech and debate tournaments. What strengthened my own advocacy skills was competing in speech tournaments, which also provided opportunities to tell the world about NVDA project – I even talked about NVDA and accessibility advocacy at a national speech tournament.
Advocacy will be important, especially as the world moves onto digital ways to accomplish more tasks: virtual reality, artificial intelligence, biometrics, web-based workplace, and telehealth. As high school and college students, you are in a place to inform and persuade people about baking accessibility into products. Right now, there aren’t many blind students competing in high school or college speech and debate tournaments, and I want to sincerely ask you to change the big picture. I’m willing to coach public speaking events (see the message header for contact email); this speech coaching offer from a nationally recognized former speech competitor and now an apprentice coach extends to any blind high school or college student (not only on NVDA Users list, but also in other communities).
Farewell, NVDA community. Thank you for teaching me many lessons over the last nine years, and for giving me opportunities to make a difference in the lives of many as an undergraduate college student and a volunteer code contributor. Love you all, and stay safe and healthy.
Joseph S. Lee
NVDA Certified Expert, 2019
Volunteer translator, code contributor, and add-ons reviewer, NVDA screen reader project (June 2012 to September 2021)
Founding chair, NVDA Users and developers Conference (NVDACon) (March 2014 to April 2016)
Member, NVDA Council
Former moderator, NVDA Users list (2013 to 2016)