Announcing Tdsr: A Command Line Screen Reader For Macintosh And GNU/Linux

Earlier this year, the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired of San Francisco (known as San Francisco Lighthouse to people who speak standard English) agreed that the support for the Macintosh Terminal app using VoiceOver was an inadequate solution for all but the most minimal of its possible use cases. To remedy this issue, they funded the development of a new little screen reader called tdsr.

Tyler Spivey, author of tdsr, had attempted to port the really old UNIX command line screen reader yasr to Macintosh but as yasr is a rat’s nest of old C code, it proved easier to scrap it and write a new command line screen reader from scratch in Python.

While it’s been rumored that tdsr stands for “Tyler’s Damned Screen Reader,” it does not. In fact, tdsr stands for “Two Day Screen Reader” as Tyler got its first functioning prototype up and running in only two days. A lot more work has gone into tdsr since and users of the bash shell (the one used in Macintosh Terminal but not supported well with VoiceOver) will recognize all of the keystrokes as will users of GNU emacs or emacspeak. I personally use tdsr to maintain my server and when I’m messing around with the little bit of Python programming I try to do.

The importance of tdsr is that a command line is still essential for blind people who write software, study computer science and/or maintain servers and do IT stuff. For years, NVDA on Windows has been the only screen reader to provide truly useful support for a command line (JAWS used to do it well but it’s deteriorated over the years). Thus, most blind programmers, hackers, IT professionals and CS students have had to use Windows or GNU/Linux for their work. With the advent of tdsr, a student assigned a Macintosh can now enjoy the same functionality as their peers using Windows.

We want to get the tdsr story out to as many people in our community as possible. To that end, we hope that readers of this post will help to raise awareness of tdsr and its potential value to professionals, students and hobbyists alike. So, if you have the means and opportunity, please direct people to this post or write articles of your own. Of particular interest and value will be stories of how you are implementing tdsr in your own workflow and projects.

You can check out tdsr on Tyler’s GitHub page() for it. You can download the software (instructions on the GitHub page), install it and, as it comes from our little crew, you get the source code to inspect, learn from, modify or do whatever you like with it short of including it in a piece of proprietary software. While Tyler has written most of it, we’ve received some code contributions from outsiders and one fellow added braille support, something Tyler hadn’t planned on doing himself.

If you've questions about tdsr, feel free to send an email to 3 Mouse Technology and we'll try to get you an answer as quickly as possible. If you are interested in using a command line effectively on OSX, please do check out the software, post comments here and if you find a bug, please report it on the GitHub system to ensure Tyler will see it. If you're a Python programmer and would like to participate in the future of tdsr, you can get the code from GitHub and Tyler will consider all push requests.

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Eeeei ... neutral or good

Eeeei ... neutral or good news about accessibility on OS X ... here is something I didn't bilieve I would hear again!

Given the authors, the work will be good. I suspect the community should already have ttaken control of accessibility for mac OS destiny cinse Apple itself is failing miserably to do it even with all resources they have.

I will spread the news and it is nice to have my mac again able to allow me to work productively at least in command line mode.


I'm sorry about this but when I wrote this little article, I confused it with NVDA Remote Access (another program Tyler authored) and said that a volunteer had added braille support to tdsr. This is in fact not true, the volunteer added braille support to Remote Access, the tdsr volunteer added a number of features that Tyler hadn't included in his original version.

So, tdsr does not in fact have braille support at this time.

Have it installed

I just got this installed and it is working quite well. It is very simple to use and it reminds me of using something like speak up on the linux terminal. I think this will make working in the terminal a whole lot better. The only hiccup I had was that voiceover on safari was reading one of the installation steps oddly. It was the one for installing requirements.txt. For some reason voiceover was not wanting to read the pip3 install -Ur. Once I figured out what it was saying installation was extremely easy.

Greg Wocher

Very Interesting

I might have to check this out at some point, although tbh I haven't messed around much if at all in the OS X terminal. Plus, I've found VoiceOver to be quite good for my needs on here with the exception of getting into the iTunes trash. I've been told that one needs to have access to the terminal in order to recover deleted iTunes tracks, and I happen to have some of those. I also kept all of my CDs though. But I will definitely share this on social media. I agree it's probably very good, but I just might not have all the necessary spoons yet to install it. Lol I am most certainly tech-savvy but perhaps not yet to that extent.


Well, a great thank you to the author of the screen reader.
Unfortunately I know Apple will never solve terminal problems on OSX, they exist from the first day the world was created, so having a tool that allow people to work with terminal is beautiful!

Very cool

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

This is something I want to check out sooner rather than later. Too much on my plate right now. But thanks for posting about it.