As someone who cannot see, I prefer to live in a mostly paperless world. This means ruthlessly turning every piece of paper that enters my life into a set of bits that I can process digitally. I scan in everything. Until now, I have relied on commercial OCR packages to convert these images into readable text.
The advent of our own open source OCR initiative, OCRopus (source code: Ocropus Sources) is a welcome change in this regard. I introduced support for OCRopus in Emacspeak recently, and the HTML output this produces compares favorably with output from commercial OCR engines, provided you place the page at the right orientation on the scanner. OCRopus' extensibility, and the ability to express the OCR as a structured HTML document makes it an ideal starting point for producing rich spoken output. The possibilities are enormous for people being able to collectively train, customize and improve an OCR engine.