Skip to Content


Delphi Programmer Says Freedom Scientific Does Not Play Nice with the Mainstream Developer Community

July 3, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We already know that Freedom Scientific’s JAWS end user license agreement is not friendly to mainstream developers and testers as they work to implement accessibility into their products, services and web sites. As a follow on to this concern, we now hear from Craig Stuntz who reports that no developer program exists for those who have purchased JAWS for this critical purpose. In his most recent blog article, he writes:

One would think that the makers of JAWS would want software producers to test their products with JAWS. But according to a salesperson for Freedom Scientific, there is no developer program for the tool. JAWS is moderately expensive — about $900 — but this is not a barrier for us. What we would really like is to have access to a defect reporting system for JAWS and early access to future versions of the software.

We in the connected online blind community very much do want to see developers striving to improve the accessibility of their applications! The accessibility or inaccessibility of technology makes the difference between our inclusion or exclusion from participation in critical life activities such as those involving education and employment. We urge mainstream developers to continue their efforts using screen readers from companies and open source projects that actively invite and request participation from the mainstream developer community:

We ask all mainstream developers to increase the accessibility of their software and to do so in the most favorable economic manner. Spending a thousand dollars on a screen reader for testing purposes is unnecessary. Download free evaluation copies from companies with more friendly license agreements toward developers or take advantage of free open source alternatives. Accessibility need not break the bank. We’re not asking you to go out of business. Instead, we are just asking for the reasonable accomodations that can afford us the opportunity to learn, work and participate in leisure activities.

Blind computer users struck by a very unusual Trojan attack

January 22, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We have just received a disturbing report from Vanja Svajcer on the SophosLabs security blog indicating that a recently distributed “unofficial” build of Freedom Scientific’s JAWS 9.0 screen reader making the rounds on various blindness related mailing lists contains dangerous code that disables the use of JAWS and most other screen readers. In his article, Blind computer users struck by a very unusual Trojan attack, Vanja describes a scenario in which a blind user’s computer may essentially be reduced to something about as useful as a very large paperweight, at least until a sighted person can come along to help clean up the mess with appropriate anti-virus software. We should all keep two critical lessons in mind when considering whether or not to download and install software onto our computers:

  • Is the software being offered legal? “Cracked” or otherwise illegal copies of software may contain Trojan Horse code or other malware that may cause damage to your computer’s operating system, applications or data. Not only is the download and use of illegal software unethical, it may actually be detrimental to your digital life.
  • Is the software being delivered by a credible source? In addition to the advertising of a “cracked” copy of JAWS 9.0, it is also believed that the malware mentioned in Vanja’s article may have been distributed under the guys of an “unofficial” JAWS build provided to a customer by Freedom Scientific’s technical support team in order to solve specific issues. Those issues were never clearly specified. The software was being provided by a third party, not directly by Freedom Scientific. The lesson here is that we should check with the company developing the software before downloading and installing any updates. In the case of shareware, free software or open source software, we should take care to download from a reputable source, such as, FileForum or SourceForge.

Our computers and, even more so our data, are too important to place at unnecessary risk. Let us all take care to protect our valuable digital resources.

Categories: JAWS, open source, security

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

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

Update: Accessible Version of CallBurner

July 8, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

It appears the CallBurner team has not yet made their accessible version available to the public. Since many of you have asked how you can get started right away, please feel free to download a copy of the accessible version. Since this version of CallBurner is not currently provided on the company’s web site, this software should be considered to be a beta release, with all the “play at your own risk” caveats that status entails. Stay tuned for another update as soon as the CallBurner Team has informed us of the public availability of the accessible release.

Categories: JAWS, reviews, Skype, tips

CallBurner: Finally, Fully Accessible Skype Call Recording is Here at Last!

July 7, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The people at Netralia, developers of the Skylook Skype call management and recording application for Microsoft Outlook, have recently released a new Skype call recording product that does not depend on Outlook. The new CallBurner application enables annotation and recording of all Skype calls while providing a clean, simple user interface.

After learning of the existence of this new product, I downloaded a trial copy of the software. While finding it reasonably usable for basic call recording, I found the call detail window largely inaccessible with any screen reader, including JAWS, System Access and Window-Eyes. I promptly wrote a short note to the company’s support e-mail address requesting accessibility enhancements to permit full use of CallBurner with screen reading software. On Thursday, July 5, I was absolutely flabbergasted to receive a response from the company’s senior developer offering a beta copy of an accessible version of the software for my testing! This response came in less than three weeks of my initial request!

After downloading the test copy of CallBurner, I immediately began to put it through its paces. After enabling “Screen Reader Compatibility” in the Accessibility sub-menu of the program’s System Tray icon, I was instantly delighted to discover extensive keyboard navigation, a tabbed Call Details dialogue box and full accessibility without need of screen reader configuration or scripts. Follow these steps to enable “Screen Reader Compatibility” after downloading and installing CallBurner:

  1. Minimize all running programs and focus on the Desktop by pressing Left Windows+M.
  2. Press JAWS Key+F11, Modifier+F11 (System Access) or Insert+S (Window-Eyes) to open the System Tray menu.
  3. Down arrow to CallBurner and press enter to right click its System Tray icon.
  4. Press enter on the Accessibility sub-menu.
  5. Press enter on “Screen Reader Compatibility”. This is the only option currently found in the Accessibility sub-menu.
  6. The following dialogue box is shown: “Screen Reader Compatibility is now turned ON. NOTE: You need to restart CallBurner for this change to become effective.”
  7. Press enter on the OK button to accept the change.
  8. Press JAWS Key+F11, Modifier+F11 (System Access) or Insert+S (Window-Eyes) to return to the System Tray menu.
  9. Down arrow to CallBurner and press enter to right click its System Tray icon.
  10. Up arrow to the Quit option and press enter.
  11. Press the Left Windows key or CTRL+Escape to open the Start menu.
  12. Press p to open the All Programs menu.
  13. Down arrow to CallBurner and press enter to open its sub-menu.
  14. Press enter on CallBurner to start the program. The Call Details window opens, presenting a tabbed dialogue box that delivers a fully accessible user interface to all CallBurner functions.
  15. Press the End key to move to the Help tab.
  16. Press the Tab key once to select Browse On-Line Help and press enter to open CallBurner’s documentation in a typical web browser window. This help will serve to get you started with CallBurner in short order.

The latest version of CallBurner, incorporating the “Screen Reader Compatibility” enhancement, has been made available as of Saturday, July 7, 2007. I highly recommend CallBurner to anyone, blind or sighted, who needs to record Skype calls. The ability and willingness of the developers to make their software accessible in less than three weeks of such a request demonstrates the commitment of this company to high quality, reliable customer service and technical support. We should all send a quick note of thanks to the CallBurner Team expressing our appreciation for their prompt attention to our accessibility needs and encouraging their developers to continue the excellent work in this area for all their software. Stay tuned to Blind Access Journal and other blind community online resources for demonstrations, reviews, tips and other information covering the use of this excellent application.

Categories: JAWS, reviews, Skype, tips

JAWS for Windows 8.0 Update Released, Many Users Disappointed About Unresolved Issues

June 21, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Today, Freedom Scientific has released their fifth update to JAWS 8.0. Many users are continuing to report unresolved issues, including the following:

  • Blank virtual buffers in Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and other applications.
  • Unexplainable crashes pointing to FSBraille when no Braille display is in use.
  • Persistent canned responses and lack of responses on issues reported to technical support.
  • Various concerns with Windows Vista support:
    • Many dialogue boxes are not readable except by way of the JAWS cursor.
    • Issues accessing Windows Mail included in Vista.
    • Problems reading the sliders in the Windows Vista Volume Control.
Categories: JAWS

Skype 3.2 Update, Skype 3.5 Beta and New JAWS Scripts Now Available

June 14, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Doug Lee has made Revision 455 of his JAWS scripts for Skype available at

This revision now supports the new Skype 3.5 Beta, which features a new, exciting, more accessible text chat facility. It is now possible to navigate in chat windows using the arrow keys!

Two new versions of Skype are now available.

Skype version is now available and one place where you can download it is at

Here are the changes in this version:

feature: Added Latvian localization done by Intars Students
improvement: Audio calls improved
change: Do not accept multichats from unauthorized contacts
change: IE plugin updated
change: Extras Manager updated to version
bugfix: CCleaner removed 2 Skype related registry entries
bugfix: Tray icon menu not translated during login
bugfix: Skype crashed on password change notification
bugfix: On rare occasions, Skype crashed when opening options.
bugfix: Skype may have crashed in large multichats
bugfix: NTLM proxy authentication did not work

Also Skype version beta is now available and one place where you can download it is at

This is a direct link to the .EXE file for Skype 3.5 beta. Here are the changes in this version:

feature: Auto redial
feature: Call Transfer
feature: Device Indicators
feature: Edit chat messages
feature: Message history loading granulated
feature: Private Telephone Numbers
feature: Send contacts inside chat
feature: Visual indicators for Audio In / Audio Out in options
feature: Show examples of notifications / alerts in options
feature: Added Latvian localization – Intars Students
feature: In-Client Hardware store button
change: Extras Manager updated to version
change: Options categories smoothly slide open and close when changed
Updated language files: Arabic (Eriksen Translations Inc.), Bulgarian (Nikolina Filipova & Nikolay Filipov), Czech (Petr Silon), Danish (Eriksen Translations Inc), German (Claudius Henrichs & Dick Schiferli), Estonian (Eve Loopere), Greek (Panagiotis Sidiropoulos,French (Fabrice IMPERIAL & Bruno Lépaulard), Italian (Daniele Conte), Japanese (Mayu Shimizu), Hungarian (Mark Bender & Laszlo Koncz & Gabor Stefanik),Latvian (Intars Students), Lithuanian (Viktoras Kriukovas), Norwegian (Stig Auestad), Dutch (Kees Koenders), Polish (Karol Szastok), Portuguese-Portugal (Francisco Ferreira), Portuguese-Brazil (Leslie Predrotti), Finnish (Heino Keränen), Swedish (Anders Olsson), Russian (Eriksen Translations Inc), Romanian (Péter Henning and Mónika Iancu), Turkish (Ömer Emin Dede)

Categories: JAWS, Skype

Freedom Scientific and Serotek Reach Agreement to End Lawsuit

June 7, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We here at Blind Access Journal are very glad this matter has finally been settled in a manner that permits both Freedom Scientific and Serotek to continue their business operations and retains the ability of innovators in the field to provide the products and services we must have in order to participate in the world of technology alongside our sighted peers. This news calls for celebration!

(St. Petersburg, Florida, and Minneapolis, Minnesota – June 4, 2007) Freedom Scientific and Serotek jointly announced today that they have reached an agreement whereby Serotek has agreed that it was inadvertently infringing Freedom Scientific’s federally-registered trademark.

“It is unfortunate that we had to take this action,” said Lee Hamilton, President and CEO of Freedom Scientific, “but trademarks are valuable corporate assets, and they must be protected, or they are lost. This agreement accomplishes that, and we have agreed to dismiss the lawsuit. As part of this agreement, Serotek has agreed not to use our trademark or any other trademark that is similar.”

“We are pleased with the settlement agreement,” said Mike Calvo, CEO, Serotek. “We will be renaming the FreedomBox and other affected products and services in a separate announcement in the near future.”


See the Freedom Scientific and Serotek Agreement press release for public confirmation of this wonderful news.