Archive for the ‘JAWS’ Category

Serotek – Going for the Lead

Friday, January 30th, 2009

When I was first introduced to screen readers a little less than five years ago, I had the impression that Freedom Scientifics’ JAWS was the only game in town. It wasn’t until I began feeling comfortable using the technology and made my way back on the web, that I realized there were other solutions available.

The folks at Serotek have been doing their best to continuously let screen reader user’s and the AT industry know they were planning on changing the game.

Now, Serotek announces the end of the Service Maintenance Agreement (SMA). A SMA is a contract between the software vendor and the purchaser, entitling the user to a set number of upgrades.
As I write this post using JAWS version 9, I am slowly growing behind the times. Freedom Scientific has released their latest version, JFW 10. After downloading and installing the upgrade I realized my SMA ended with the last upgrade. I am going to have to fork over   the money to upgrade. This is a choice I have to make for various reasons mainly work related.

Choice is great!

I appreciate Serotek for not only adding another screen reader option and introducing their  other products, but also beginning the change in an industries business model.

Darrel over at the Blind Access Journal wrote a post titled "The SMA May be Dying, But I’m Not Celebrating." He proposes that eliminating the SMA may reduce  timely updates to screen readers and therefore reduce access to new or upgraded mainstream applications.

This is actually already a problem we face as AT users. Let’s not forget, Serotek is a business. The mission of a business is first and foremost to make money.

I doubt very highly that Serotek is eliminating revenue, but rather changing the revenue stream from one that is solely customer based to another.

It’s similar to the changes in the music business. Record companies are realizing that their business model based mainly on the sale of physical cd’s or even digital music will need to change. Changes in the way society consumes and thinks about owning music are forcing the companies to change.

Serotek is simply trying to lead the change. Based on their recent history it seems they realize the importance of keeping up with the mainstream. I applaud Serotek for their willingness to try something new. Even more importantly I hope the overall technology/consumer electronics industry catches onto the concept offered by Serotek’s CEO Mike Calvo who said "…accessibility is a right not a privilege."

The Quest for Accessible Tech

Friday, April 28th, 2006

As a self acclaimed techie geek, the idea of searching for a new electronic gadget was more entertainment than work. However, since losing my sight over two years ago, trying to stay current is more of a stressful chore.

Let’s get beyond the somewhat obvious obstacles, window shopping is no longer a true option, easy access to catalogs and cutting edge electronic magazines is a thing of the past. However, access to the internet and all it has to offer is enough.

The idea of purchasing a piece of equipment is no longer based on the number of features compared to the cost or even the “wow” factor. Purchasing an item takes a lot more planning and preparation for the blind community. For just about every electronic item purchased we must ask the following questions;

  • Will I be able to use the gadget without sighted assistance?
  • Will I only be able to use some of the available features?
  • Will I have to purchase additional software/hardware in order to access the item?

There are some who I know will say that technology is improving for those of us in the blind community. I would partially agree with this. The standard practice seems to focus on adapting an item to the visually impaired and blind or creating a separate item altogether. I am proposing that we get beyond this way of thinking and adopt a more inclusive approach.

The current adaptive approach is most evident in the use of screen readers. Now the two main manufacturers of screen readers will probably hate me for saying this, but I would rather eliminate the need for a separate piece of software. JAWS and Window Eyes are the two most popular packages on the market today. Each of these allows a visually impaired and blind person to have access to the Windows environment. For the average user accessing the most popular applications is possible. At a cost range of $800 to over $1,000, this is the equivalent of buying two computers.

I’m sure there are some who will say putting screen reader functionality into the operating system is too much to expect. I disagree. As with most technology there are multiple uses that are not identified until a product is released. Closed Caption for example, was not created for sports bars or for listening to music and watching television simultaneously. In fact, vinyl records were originally made as talking books for the blind. Look at the industry this created.