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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

13 opinions on “Freedom Scientific Asked to Reasonably Accomodate Deaf-Blind Customers

  1. As India is now home to more English speaking people than any other country on Earth (something on the order of 350 million anglophones) and Freedom Scientific already has an office in New Delhi, I would guess that having a blind or low vision computer user fluent in English to do a couple of hours of translation of FSCast now and then would probably cost no more than $50 per episode and would solve this problem nicely and inexpensively. Although I have no access to FS’ financial information, I’m pretty certain they can afford $50 for each FSCast without too much pain.

  2. It certainly does seem, without a doubt, this would be the right thing to do. Without going into listing the abundent examples here, it has been and continues to be quite clear that this largest player in the market does not give a damn about the population they are claiming to serve. They don’t give a damn about any of us. What they care about is having the government’s money. They conveniently atempt to blow off this fact by discounting any criticism by claiming that people “pick on them” because they are so “great” and that they are the market leader. The only reason they are the market leader is because they have established themselves so far up the rear of the government agencies and therefore have the most wealth. That is not wealth that has been respectfully earned and it therefore is not truely earned market leader status. The best thing for the def blind community to do is to pleed their case to the government agencies that poor money into this corrupt, screw everybody it’s all about us getting rich unwilling to honestly give a damn organization. What they have and continue to earn in countless ways is this criticism.

  3. Hi Darrell and everyone. I’d think that this would’ve been accomplished long ago, but I guess it’s better said than done. Each posting of the DisabilityNation podcast includes Word and pdf versions of the transcript for each episode, and the transcripts are always well done. As great as FSCast is, I too would like to see them include transcripts of the spoken material.

  4. Yeah Darrell, and of course we all appreciate the transcripts that you do for main menu every week. I am DeafBlind myself, and at least I can read what’s new in JAWS, information on the new Pack Mate etc from Freedom Scientific, even if I can’t hear the audio from the pod cast. You continue to shut me right out of Main Menu. Isn’t it time you stopped complaining and took a look in the virtual mirror? Yes it would be nice if Freedom Scientific would do this for us, but at least they don’t lock me out the way you are doing.

  5. I appreciate comment #4, and I have decided to take it on directly, without defense or deflection. The point is well taken, though it most certainly could have been delivered in a more constructive manner, in a similar way as the original article concerning the state of the FSCast.

    Unfortunately, I feel I need to start by expressing two serious problems with this comment. First, it was written anonymously, which, IMHO, significantly reduces the credibility of the poster. Second, it is rather destructive rather than constructive. We have numerous channels through which constructive feedback concerning Main Menu is accepted with open arms. These include the direct e-mail address and the mailing list.

    Now, please, allow me to get straight to the meat of my comments. I am not by any means defending the fact that Main Menu currently provides no alternatives for the deaf-blind. There are some show notes in the On Demand section of the web site, we do have a blog and a Twitter page. Admittedly, however, these facilities really do not provide anything approaching equivalent content at this time. We will work on making this state of affairs better in the future. Some good ideas have already been presented for making transcripts available, and I welcome any additional ideas not already covered.

    I do feel there is a bit of a difference involved between the lack of transcripts for Main Menu versus their lack on the FSCast. While Main Menu is run by a small team of volunteers working under the auspices of a non-profit blindness organization, FSCast is produced by the largest player in the blindness assistive technology industry that sells multi-thousand-dollar products to deaf-blind people. I feel it can easily be argued that Freedom Scientific should be able to spend the relatively small amount of financial resources on the production of transcripts to go along with their podcasts, especially after such accomodations were directly requested by its paying customers.

    I just feel that the accessibility bar should be set highest for agencies and companies doing business in the blindness field. It is disappointing to see that, instead of advocating for Freedom Scientific to do a better job for its deaf-blind customers, there is a person out here in the blind community who would rather deflect the issue to Main Menu. How unfortunate.

  6. Hi All,

    Well, guess Jonathan Mosen didn’t completely rule out providing some sort of transcripts for the deaf blind–although, perhaps it would have been better to say that FS would look into the matter, rather than to say he didn’t know if they had the resources.

    Also, in checking the HumanWare media page just now, although they haven’t had an audio newsletter for the United States market since July of 2006, they did indeed provide transcripts of those newsletters when they were being issued.

    Vicky Collins

  7. Anonymous is probably on the FS payroll and is getting Jaws for free. Quit being a coward all of you anonymous people on the blogs being critical of us
    and have the guts to say who you really are. We are critical of FS when necessary and show our names when doing so. why can’t people like yourself have
    the guts to show your face here and on other blogs. Your comments mean nothing as long as you hide your identities here and on other blogs.

  8. This is he last comment I will ever leave on this board, since different opinions are obviously not welcome. I left the comment about Main menu and am glad I did. I thought that my name had been included, because there was a place that asked me to type my name. Maybe that was for something else. I tried to get an account but there was a question asking me to type numbers on the screen, and because I am DeafBlind, I can’t hear the sound either. That makes me wonder, why does someone who says he cares so much about us, not only host a pod cast that has no access for DeafBlind, but also have a Board on a site that shuts us out too?

    So to make sure my name gets in this time, I will write it here. It is Dave Richardson. It is very insulting that because I am pleased with all that Freedom Scientific has done to give me access to their information in a way I can use, I am said to be on their payrole. How stupid.

    I decided to come out and say what I did because it takes a lot more effort to say when you think someone has done a good job and I think Freedom Scientific has and as far as I know I am the only DeafBlind person who has commented here.

    As for ACB radio, all it does is distribute information, that is why it exists. Yet it choses not to distribute it in a way us DeafBlind people can use while its staff criticise others who are doing much better.

    I think Mr Harmon, who was so harsh, also has a pod cast? Where are his transcripts?
    Say what you like about me because I will not read or post to this board anymore since only Freedom Scientific haters are welcome.

  9. Dear Dave,

    It is certainly not my intention to offend anyone on purpose, especially a blind borther who is just trying to make his way in the world. Although the audio CAPTCHA is the current state-of-the-art, we know it locks out the deaf-blind. We disagree very strongly with that lockout, and do advocate for alternatives to audio or visual CAPTCHA. Having said this, if you change your mind and are still reading, please feel free to e-mail me at and I’ll help solve the audio CAPTCHA and create the account. Please, everyone, do this only if you really are deaf-blind and, thus, truly unable to solve the audio CAPTCHA. Of course, you can write to Google if you like, but I can probably get it done faster… :-)
    You may even feel free to add to MSN / Windows Live Messenger and I’ll be happy to help as time permits.

  10. Well Dave that is your right to not post if you feel your being treated poorly here. Darrell isn’t posting one comment over another here. It’s my right to comment as well. I do have a podcast but I don’t make millions a year either and am not targeting my audience as deaf / blind. FS does include in it’s target the deaf / blind community. If I could do more I would, but at this point I honestly do not have resources to do this. FS does and that’s what we’ve been trying to say to you. I apologize for the comment about you being on the FS payroll if it offends you that much. But I don’t apologize for being critical of anonymous posters on blogs.

  11. It is, in my opinion, sad that people cannot post comments that do not fit with others’ views of a company without being accused of being a shill.

    I’m a GMail fan. Am I being payed by Google? Nope. I’m a fan of the Rail Racer audio game. Am I being payed by the developer? Nope. I read the Blind Access Journal blog. Am I being payed by Darryl Shandrow to say this? Most certainly not!

    I am not a Freedom scientific fan, but I understand that there are people out there who are. I am not trying to flame anyone here, but, in my mind, people who will not accept the views of others without assuming them to be bought are the true cowards.

  12. I’m certainly no coward if you are refering to me. I respect your right to post and still say making comments anonymously isn’t fair when that poster is going to throw stones. I apologized for the comment I made to the other poster already. And again I say be brave enough to say your name when commenting. Even if you don’t want to or can’t setup an account, you can certainly put your name in along with your message. You may not agree with my views and I’m sure I don’t agree with others but when being critical of someone don’t compare apples with oranges. Saying that myself or Darrell should also have to have transcriptions for the deaf is much different than us saying FS should have them. 1. FS is in business and targets the deaf / blind community. Neither me or Darrel can say the same. 2. FS has the funds and resources to do this as they are a for profit organization. Neither me or Darrel has the money or resources to do this in our situations.

    And just so everyone is aware. I’m not an FS basher. I praise FS often and am criticl of them when it’s necessary to be so. In most cases FS does a very good job of things.

  13. There comes a time when a large company has to realise that it’s customers are the very people who got them where they are today. Ignore your customers and you fall by the wayside. Your reputation is your future bank account.

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