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Watch Your Keys; JAWS Activation Issues Could be a Job Killer!

October 26, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Imagine this nightmare situation! You work nights and/or weekends. One Saturday morning, you start the JAWS-equipped computer on your desk only to find that, for some mysterious reason, JAWS has decided it is no longer authorized. Even worse, since you have JAWS authorized on three computers, you have no additional activations available. It is time to contact Freedom Scientific, right? Wrong! Freedom Scientific is not open during late evenings or on weekends and holidays! You’ll just have to wait till Monday for Freedom Scientific staff to fix the problem! In the meantime, JAWS will run only in 40 minute demonstration mode. It will be necessary to completely reboot your computer 12 times during your eight hour shift. Will your employer find that an acceptable loss of productivity? What if you are an emergency dispatcher, where your ability to correctly and efficiently process each incoming call may be literally a matter of life and death?

It is long past time for Freedom Scientific to come up with a licensing scheme that protects their precious software while ensuring the highest possible availability to its legitimate, paying customers! An excellent example of a reasonably workable scheme would seem to be the new user-centered licensing system recently implemented by Code Factory. Please, Freedom Scientific, if not Code Factory’s model, then come up with a similarly reasonable scheme to protect everyone’s interests. Most users are not going to be highly technical. They’re just not going to be constantly watching to see if they have an extra key available, just in case the worst happens. Instead, blind employees need reasonable assurances that, barring some sort of catastrophe, their screen reader isn’t going to be the tool that lets them down when they start their work day. Doesn’t JAWS still stand for Job Access with Speech?

Categories: JAWS

Coming up on Main Menu and Main Menu Live for the week of October 24

October 22, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
We have a brand new Main Menu and Main Menu Live for you all this week!
During the first hour on Main Menu, Dean Martineau of Top Dot Enterprises demonstrates Jamal Mazrui’s FileDir accessible file management utility.  After that, listen to Matthew Horsepool’s Newsbriefs to catch up on technology news from a blindness perspective.
During the second hour of Main Menu Live, join our panel of experts (Jeff Bishop, Darrell Shandrow, Don Barrett, Rick Harmon and Steve Bauer) for an exciting discussion of GoldWave, Studio Recorder, Sound Forge, Total Recorder and possibly other audio editing software applications.  If you are a blind or visually impaired audio engineer, podcaster or otherwise are involved with digital audio production in either a hobby or professional capacity, you’re sure to learn something new by listening to and participating in this show.
Here is how to participate in the show:
The number to call into the show is 866-400-5333.
You may email your questions to:
You may also interact with the show via MSN (Windows Live) Messenger. The MSN Messenger ID to add is:
Would you like to interact with a group of Main Menu listeners about the topics heard on Main Menu and Main Menu Live? You can do this by joining the Main Menu Friends email list. The address to subscribe is: Come join an already lively group of users.
Would you like to subscribe to podcast feeds for Main Menu and Main Menu Live? The RSS feeds to add to your podcatching application are:
Main Menu -
Main Menu Live -
Main Menu and Main Menu Live can be heard on Tuesday evenings at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific, and at 1 universal (GMT) on Wednesday mornings on the ACB Radio Main Stream channel.
Follow this link to listen to the show:
Jeff Bishop and Darrell Shandrow
The Main Menu Production Team
Categories: Uncategorized

QVC Asked to Retain Accessibility in Web Site Update

October 12, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Randy from Accessible Devices has informed us that the QVC home shopping network is beta testing a significantly updated web site. While the current site is accessible to blind shoppers, the beta site is apparently not so great. We have just submited a short note to the QVC webmasters asking that they keep in mind the accessibility needs of their blind customers. A response has been explicitly requested, so please stay tuned for any updates. In the meantime, all blind and visually impaired QVC shoppers are asked to immediately complete this contact form asking QVC to continue reasonably accomodating and retaining their blind and visually impaired customers by ensuring the ongoing accessibility of the web site. One quick note from an accessible evangelist is only the very beginning, but it is not even close to sufficient as an ending step. If you are blind or visually impaired, and you shop with QVC, please fill out the form requesting web site accessibility right now.

Categories: accessibility, advocacy

Freedom Scientific Asked to Reasonably Accomodate Deaf-Blind Customers

October 5, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I just read the article Freedom Scientific says no to access for deaf people on the Access Ability blog, and I must say I am rather dismayed. The issue at hand is the current lack of accessibility of the company’s FSCast to the deaf-blind segment of the blind community.

While Freedom Scientific manufactures products to meet the needs of an underserved, minority population, it also seems to be failing to accomodate a segment of that very community. How can we ask the mainstream technology industry to reasonably accomodate us, when we allow companies in our own blind community to pass on providing accessibility by claiming a lack of resources?

We at Blind Access Journal ask Freedom Scientific to reasonably accomodate its deaf-blind customers by following these steps to incrementally increase the accessibility of their podcast audio content:

  1. Provide a link to an alternative document that delivers similar information. In the case of the most recent podcast episode 10, for instance, posting the JAWS 9.0 release notes at the same time as the audio would have represented a positive step forward.
  2. Provide detailed show notes that cover all the same important information delivered in the audio presentation. This can be a summary, at least in the beginning, so long as the same important information is delivered.
  3. Finally, the ultimate goal should be to supply full text transcripts of each FSCast episode.

We ask Freedom Scientific to do the right thing by moving toward full accomodation of its deaf-blind customers in a way that is inexpensive while ensuring their full inclusion in everything the company has to offer. We believe the largest player in the blindness assistive technology industry ought to be able to show positive movement in this area by the time episode 11 of the FSCast is released. Come on, Freedom Scientific, please step up to the plate, do the right thing and make sure all your blind customers, including those whom also happen to be deaf, are afforded a full and equal opportunity to participate.

Categories: accessibility, advocacy

JAWS 9.0 Public Beta 1 – First Impressions

October 2, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Although we aim to keep our readers informed, we are also not strictly a news blog. Since the news concerning the impending JAWS 9.0 public beta, and its release yesterday, were broadcast all over the online connected blind community, we elected to hold off for the chance to report some real world first impressions of this new version.

Freedom Scientific released JAWS 9.0 Public Beta 1 yesterday, October 1. The enhancements and new features of this version were demonstrated last week in episode 10 of the company’s FSCast podcast. The release notes were posted last Friday and the JAWS for Windows 9.0 Public Beta was made available on Monday.

As an advanced blind computer user who depends on reliable screen access in order to perform my day job, among other tasks, I believe it essential to take every opportunity to test new public beta versions and releases of all the assistive technology in my toolbox. This includes, of course, this JAWS 9.0 public beta. In this regard, the ability to install and run new versions of JAWS while retaining previous versions remains a significant advantage. In the event of a crash, instability or a new feature with which I simply can’t live at the moment, I am able to quickly return to a previous version and get on with the business at hand.

Though I’ve spent less than a day with the JAWS 9 public beta, my first impressions are quite positive. The most significant improvement I have experienced thus far is increased overall responsiveness across the board. Though I have not yet taken the opportunity to experience the new features of this public beta, the following seem to be the most significant:

  • Improved support of Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista.
  • The ability to copy and paste content from the virtual buffer (such as virtual PC cursor mode in Internet Explorer) into a Microsoft Word document or HTML e-mail while retaining live links and visual formatting. Though I do not necessarily consider this a “break through” feature, it is, nevertheless, a potentially useful tool for working more effectively with sighted colleagues.
  • Initial support for the standard Gmail web user interface, possibly without the need to use the basic HTML view. I haven’t yet had a chance to test this functionality, but would certainly consider this significant, especially if it really makes that view accessible now. Are we finally starting to see JAWS seriously tackling an AJAX enabled web site?

Other JAWS users, including Rick Harmon are reporting Windows Vista enhancements not currently listed in the release notes, along with some new issues. I also note that the improvements made to the blank virtual buffer issue and FSBraille crashes in the limited release build 2178 were not listed in the JAWS 9.0 What’s New write up. All the same, I have yet to experience either issue so far. It is absolutely critical that we use the Beta Report Form to provide thorough feedback regarding any issues encountered while using this public beta. The programmers at Freedom Scientific can fix problems only when they are made aware of their existence.

Though JAWS 9.0 will add some new functionality to our overall computing experience, I do not feel it warrants a 9.0 version designation that results in a reduction of our SMA count or an additional financial cost for those who are not part of Freedom Scientific’s SMA program. Instead, it seems a version number such as 8.5 may have been more in line with the feature set being offered. As always, comments are quite welcome.

Categories: JAWS