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Remote Access Features in Serotek’s Product Save the Day!

February 21, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

It was a Thursday afternoon when I was sitting in the lounge in University Center wondering what to do. I was frantic. I had completed my journalism ethics assignment, copied it to my USB flash drive, then discovered I had left the device at home! I was at school and my completed assignment was at home. Turning it in late was simply not an option. I had an hour before the start of class, so running home on the light rail was an option just out of reach. So, did I give up and accept the inevitable? Heck no!!!

Fortunately, I happen to be a Serotek customer and loyal supporter of the company’s innovative products. I decided to avail myself of the remote access facilities of the System Access Mobile Network in order to gain access to my home desktop computer, locate my assignment and e-mail it to myself using SendSpace. I didn’t have my USB flash drive on hand, and I had no Serotek software installed on my netbook computer, yet I was able to get the job done using the web based access solution. Major kudos and thanks go to Mike and the gang at Serotek for helping me save my academic life!

Categories: Serotek

The SMA May be Dying, But I’m Not Celebrating

January 29, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Serotek has just announced that it will no longer charge its customers for a software maintenance agreement (SMA) in order to keep their products updated. This development is, of course, good for consumers in that it eliminates a nagging cost of owning assistive technology. It can, unfortunately, also be bad for us. At this point, you may be asking how on Earth can the removal of an SMA be a negative? The answer is, alas, remarkably simple. Without ongoing revenue, what is the ultimate motivation for a company to constantly enhance its product to cope with a dynamic, ever-changing environment full of inaccessible technology?

As a blind person who has worked in the mainstream technology industry for over 13 years and is now completing his college degree, I need a screen reader that is both capable and reliable. When new technology is developed, I need my screen reader to support it as soon as possible. It is absolutely critical that my screen reader not stop working or cause other problems that halt or limit my productivity. If other assistive technology companies follow suit by eliminating or reducing their SMA fees, I am concerned that we will be left even further behind than we are right now. Let’s just make sure we are wisely considering questions besides the all-too-often asked “how much does it cost?” We had all better be careful for that which we wish, as we might just get it and suffer some unintended negative consequences.

Categories: opinion, Serotek

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.

Serotek Summer Sizzle Contest

May 31, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Serotek Summer Sizzle: Enter to Win a Complete Digital Lifestyle Makeover

Serotek’s Accessible Digital Lifestyle is a hot topic and getting hotter. Here’s your chance to add some sizzle to your life by participating in our online survey and enrolling to win a complete digital lifestyle makeover. Here’s what you can win:

The digital lifestyle makeover is worth more than $2,000 and all you have to do is answer a few really easy questions. What’s to lose? Maybe you’ll get hot and warm up your life with Serotek’s fully accessible
digital lifestyle.

Of course you don’t have to wait to win to get access and be accessible. You can start your makeover now. This summer we’re putting the fun in accessibility. If you’re one of the first 100 people to sign up for Serotek’s four-year software as a service (SAS) package, for only $24.95 per month, in addition to System Access Mobile for two computers; a four-year membership to the System Access Mobile Network, and Neo Speech, we’ll send you a Zen Stone MP3 player at no charge. Who says accessibility is all work?

Access life with Serotek’s digital lifestyle.

Start your makeover today!

Categories: Serotek

Why Not Enjoy a Little Fresh Air?

February 9, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

On January 31, 2008, the Accessibility Is a Right (AIR) Foundation was launched. The foundation’s first initiative is to provide a free screen reader to all blind computer users, or those who would like to be able to access computers, around the world. The blind still suffer at least a 75 percent unemployment rate in the United States and the other developed nations, and it is much higher in the rest of the world. Though initiatives do exist to get computers and even Internet connectivity into the hands of the less fortunate, these well-intentioned efforts almost always leave blind people behind. The result is that, though many blind people may be able to acquire a computer, it would be totally useless to do so without the needed access technology to read the information displayed on the screen. In the vast majority of cases, the less fortunate members of the blind community are not even able to afford $1,000, $600 or even $24 per month for the privilege of using a computer. This statement is not intended as one of complaint regarding the plight of a miserable, poor, small minority, but simply one of fact for tens of millions of blind people living outside the confines of the United States, United Kingdom, Western Europe and Japan.

The current assistive technology industry is based almost exclusively on the status of people with disabilities in the developed world. Blind and visually impaired people here in the United States have a number of ways to obtain expensive assistive technology products costing thousands of dollars. If they are children, parents and the school system work together to ensure the necessary hardware and software is made available. If they are working toward a career goal, Vocational Rehabilitation agencies may purchase all or most of the equipment. If they are employed, they may be able to afford some of the costs outright, arrange a payment plan with the assistive technology company directly or even purchase it on credit. Finally, in some cases, service organizations such as Lions International may step in to cover the costs. The availability of all these pools of funding helps to set the price of assistive technology. Companies in the field determine their research and development, overhead and other costs, then make wise business decisions concerning the price they can charge according to the basic economic principles of supply and demand.

With a 75 percent unemployment rate in the developed nations, most blind people simply can’t or won’t make their own assistive technology purchasing decisions. This means the “demand” for such technology is not ultimately coming from the blind consumers who will use it, but from schools, Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies and others. The result is that most of our current crop of assistive technology companies charge the prices they can get in the developed world, while they listen to those who “demand” the technology by spending the money. The people who spend the lion’s share of the money on assistive technology are not those who use it on a daily basis. The incentive on the part of businesses in this field is, thus, to listen to the stated needs of agencies, schools and other organizations rather than to the individual when determining the capabilities, enhancements, pricing and all other attributes of their product offerings.

Outside the nations known as the “developed” world, the situation remains bleak for the blind. In addition to barriers imposed by poor social attitudes regarding the capabilities of blind people, there is almost no access at all to the expensive assistive technology we enjoy here in the USA. While sighted people in these nations also don’t tend to own computers, they are often able to visit Internet cafes, libraries and other public places where computer and Internet access is made available at a reasonable price or no charge at all. Sadly, with very few notable exceptions, these public computers do not feature the necessary access technology to permit use by a blind person. Once again, blind people are left behind with respect to their sighted peers.

The AIR Foundation is here to change this bleak state of affairs for the blind all around the world. Serotek has donated the company’s System Access To Go (SAToGo) screen reader to the foundation for the purpose of making it available to the blind completely free of charge in as many languages as possible. Now, any blind person who can get their hands on a computer with Internet access running either the Windows Vista or Windows XP operating system can also read the screen using a free screen reader provided by the AIR Foundation. A blind person visiting an Internet cafe, public library or any other public computer access facility can now use that computer right alongside their sighted peers, without the need to have a specialized piece of software installed. Any blind person who needs to access web sites, exchange e-mail, write letters, work with the computer’s operating system or perform other common computing tasks will substantially benefit from the free screen reader offered by the AIR Foundation in partnership with Serotek. The foundation is also working with companies such as Lenovo to make the free screen reader available in mainstream computers right out of the box.

Will System Access To Go replace all other screen readers? Certainly not. Many blind people will continue to need the configurability, scripting and other advanced features found in JAWS or Window-Eyes to access complex educational software and the applications used in today’s busy modern workplaces. We can only hope that innovations such as the AIR Foundation and solutions such as Serotek’s Remote Incident Manager will serve to turn the blindness assistive technology industry upside-down, breaking the stranglehold of the agencies and organizations who often want to make our technology decisions for us, making accessibility available to the less fortunate, and compelling the currently entrenched players in the field to stand up and really listen to the needs and desires of those in the blind community who use their technology on a daily basis.

Categories: accessibility, opinion, Serotek

Is Revisionist History at Work in the Blind Community’s Own Online Media Outlets?

July 13, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Is revisionist history at work in the blind community’s own electronic media outlets? Can important information and the opinions of certain people in the community simply be made to disappear from our public knowledge without comment? It appears, unfortunately, that there may be two clear cases of exactly this sort of thing happening in a prominent online technology news magazine produced by the American Foundation for the Blind.

In the March 2007 issue of AccessWorld, an article entitled A View from Inside: A Major Assistive Technology Player Shares Some Industry Secrets, featuring Chris Hofstader, has been pulled from the magazine without explanation.

In the AccessWorld News section in the July 2007 issue of the same magazine, the following brief story is carried concerning the Freedom Scientific Versus Serotek lawsuit:

On May 14, 2007, Freedom Scientific filed suit against Serotek Corporation, claiming trademark infringement for use of the term “FreedomBox.” The claim stated that “Continuously since May 15, 2000, the Plaintiff has used the mark ‘Freedom Scientific’ to identify its products tailored to blind and low-vision users, including software that translates the Internet and digital information into braille or audible synthesized speech, and to distinguish these products from those made or sold by others, by, among other things, prominently displaying the mark ‘Freedom Scientific’ on the products, their containers, the displays, and marketing associated therewith.”

On June 7, Freedom Scientific and Serotek jointly announced that they had reached an agreement that Serotek was inadvertently infringing on 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.” Serotek will rename FreedomBox and other affected products. For more information, visit the companies’ web sites: and .

There is absolutely no coverage given to the Save Serotek Petition or any other efforts made by members of the blind community requesting that Freedom Scientific cease this action.

We all may want to start asking some serious questions about the blindness organizations to which we are members or on which we rely to provide the services we need. Does the organization’s leadership really hold the needs and desires of the blind in their hearts and minds, do they have their own personal agendas or are they catering to special interests? Do agencies, companies and other organizations donate money to these non-profit organizations, then use that fact later to exert undue influence over their actions and policies? After all, how could these organizations bite the hands that feed their small budgets? Can the people in charge of the most prominent organizations of and for the blind be trusted? It is up to all of us to ask and insist on candid answers to these and many other hard questions.

System Access To Go on the Job

June 16, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
I used System Access To Go for the last three hours of my work shift yesterday afternoon to exchange e-mail correspondence and moderate a web-based technical forum.  The results were quite impressive; I was able to complete these tasks as efficiently with SA To Go as I normally do using JAWS.  It is refreshing to see that a company like Serotek is able to keep innovating, pushing the envelope of accessibility and possibility.
Categories: Serotek

Serotek Releases the World’s First Web-based Access Technology Tool for the Blind

June 13, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


For Immediate Release


Janelle Schulenberg

Tacet Consulting


Serotek Makes Web 2.0 Accessible to the Blind

Technology Company Introduces SA To Go

Minneapolis, Minn. – June 13, 2007 – Serotek Corporation, the leading provider of Internet and digital information accessibility software and services, announces the public beta release of a web application called SA To Go (System Access To Go), the first product to make Web 2.0 accessible to the blind and the visually impaired. SA To Go is a web-resident product stemming from Serotek’s award-winning System Access software. More than a screen reader, System Access requires no installation and provides complete control of your e-mail, makes web surfing easy, and offers intuitive access to Microsoft Office productivity tools like Word, PowerPoint and Excel. SA To Go makes System Access available on the Web for instant operation and has no permanence on the using computer. Users can now access System Access software anytime, anywhere that Internet access is available.

“We believe SA To Go will revolutionize the way blind people use the computer,” said Mike Calvo, CEO, Serotek Corporation, “That’s why we felt it critical to leverage the power of Web 2.0 to continue to fulfill our promise of accessibility anywhere.”

SA To Go provides instant accessibility. Once online, users can visit and it appears in seconds. When finished, the user simply closes the program and any personal information vanishes leaving the host computer completely unchanged.

“Microsoft applauds Serotek’s innovation with respect to access for all,” said Daniel Hubbell, Technical Evangelist, Microsoft Corporation, “SA To Go is a revolution for people who need access to computers away from home.”

Because of technologies like Fonix’s text-to-speech and its small size, SA To Go loads within seconds giving the blind user the same access on the go as his sighted peers. And since SA To Go is a true web application, accessibility is no longer an expensive option; companies that want to provide public accessibility to customers can do so for a fraction of the cost.

“Serotek’s new SA To Go application gives blind and visually impaired users quick, convenient access to PC functions,” says Tim K. Hong, VP of Sales, Fonix Speech, Inc. “SA To Go incorporates Fonix text-to-speech, which is optimized to provide clear, intelligible TTS voices without using large amounts of processing power or memory. Fonix speech technology is a good fit for Serotek’s System Access Mobile applications.”

Serotek is putting the system out for public Beta because they are encouraging user input. The company can imagine hundreds of applications but believes users will direct its true potential.

“We think we’ve only scratched the surface of the potential of SA To Go,” says Calvo, “That’s why we’re inviting users to take it for a spin and let us know how they think it might be applied.”
The company will be surveying users on a regular basis and encouraging users to e-mail their ideas and comments to
To participate in the public beta, users can go to and follow the instructions. Immediate accessibility will lead the user through the registration process. For more information about Serotek and its family of System Access accessibility tools, visit

Serotek Corporation

Serotek Corporation is a leading technology company that develops software and manufactures accessibility solutions. Committed to the mission of providing accessibility anywhere, Serotek launched an online community specifically designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Since then, Serotek has introduced several powerful, affordable solutions that require minimal training, including System Access, for which it was awarded the prestigious da Vinci award for innovation in universal accessibility by the National Multiple Sclerosis Association. For more information, visit

Fonix Corporation

Fonix Corporation (OTC BB: FNIX), based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is an innovative speech recognition and text-to-speech technology company that provides value-added speech solutions through its wholly owned subsidiary, Fonix Speech, Inc., currently offering voice solutions for mobile/wireless devices; interactive video games, toys and appliances; computer telephony systems; the assistive market and automotive telematics. Fonix provides developers and manufacturers with cost-effective speech solutions to enhance devices and systems. Visit for more information, or call (801) 553-6600 and say “Sales.”

Microsoft Corporation

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. For more information, visit

Categories: Serotek

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.