[Nfbmo] Serotek declares war

Bryan Schulz b.schulz at sbcglobal.net
Tue Mar 2 15:55:17 UTC 2010


some of it like the pricing is true but mostly sounds like frustration 
similar to folks quoting me client choice.

Bryan Schulz

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "fred olver" <goodfolks at charter.net>
To: <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>; "NFB of Missouri Mailing List" 
<nfbmo at nfbnet.org>; "NFB Chapter Presidents discussion list" 
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Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 7:11 AM
Subject: [Nfbmo] Serotek declares war

> Subject: [leadership] Serotek declares war on the traditional adaptive 
> technology industry and their blind ghetto products
> This is no warm fuzzy of a read, but something well worth the read and in 
> my opinion long over due.  Kudos to SeroTekCited from 
> http://blog.serotek.com/
> The Serotek Ultimatum
> Serotek declares war on the traditional adaptive technology industry and 
> their blind ghetto products. With this announcement we are sending out a
> call to arms to every blind person and every advocate for the blind to 
> rise
> up and throw off the tyranny that has shaped our lives for the past two
> decades. It is a tyranny of good intentions - or at least what began as 
> good
> intentions. But as the proverb says, "the road to hell is paved with good
> intentions." And for the past two decades the technologies originally
> conceived to give us freedom have been our shackles. They have kept us 
> tied
> down to underperforming, obscenely expensive approaches that only a small
> percentage of blind people can afford or master. They have shackled us to
> government largess and the charity of strangers to pay for what few among 
> us
> could afford on our own. And we have been sheep, lead down the path,
> bleating from time to time, but without the vision or the resources to 
> stand
> up and demand our due.
> That time is past.
> We stand today on the very edge of universal accessibility. Mainstream
> products like the iPod, iPhone, and newly announced iPad are fully
> accessible out of the box. And they bring with them a wealth of highly
> desirable accessibility applications. The cost to blind people is exactly
> the same as the cost to sighted people. It's the same equipment, the same
> software, the same functionality, and fully accessible.
> What Apple has done, others are doing as well. The adaptive technology
> vendor who creates hardware and software that is intended only for blind
> folks, and then only if they are subsidized by the government, is a
> dinosaur. The asteroid has hit the earth, the dust cloud is ubiquitous, 
> the
> dinosaur's days are numbered.
> But dinosaurs are huge, and their extinction does not happen overnight..
> Even as they die, they spawn others like them (take the Intel Reader for
> example). Thank you, no. Any blind person can have full accessibility to 
> any
> type of information without the high-cost, blind-ghetto gear. They can get
> it in the same products their sighted friends are buying. But let's face 
> it;
> if we keep buying that crap and keep besieging our visual resource center 
> to
> buy that crap for us, the dinosaurs of the industry are going to keep 
> making
> it. Their profit margins are very good indeed. And many have invested
> exactly none of that profit in creating the next generation of access
> technology, choosing instead to perpetuate the status quo. For instance,
> refreshable braille technology, arguably the most expensive
> blindness-specific(and to many very necessary) product has not changed
> significantly in 30 years. Yet, the cost remains out of reach for most 
> blind
> people. Where's the innovation there? Why have companies not invested in
> cheaper, faster, smaller, and more efficient ways to make refreshable
> braille? Surely the piezoelectric braille cell is not the only way? And 
> what
> about PC-based OCR software? It's still around a thousand dollars per
> license, yet core functionality hasn't changed much; sure, we get all 
> sorts
> of features not at all related to reading, along with incremental accuracy
> improvements, but why are these prices not dropping either, especially 
> when
> you consider that comparable off-the-shelf solutions like Abby Finereader
> can be had for as low as $79? ? And let's not forget the screen reader
> itself, the core technology that all of us need to access our computers in
> the first place. Do we see improvements, or just an attempt to mimic
> innovation with the addition of features which have nothing to do with the
> actual reading of the screen, while maintaining the same ridiculous price
> point.
> This maintaining of the status quo will, inevitably, face an enormous 
> crash,
> worse than the transition from DOS to Windows based accessibility. You can
> expect a technology crash that will put users of the most expensive
> accessibility gear out of business.
> Why? I won't bore you with all the technical details, but the basic story 
> is
> that some of these products have been kept current with patches and fixes
> and partial rewrites and other tricks we IT types use when we haven't got
> the budget to do it right, but we need to make the product work with the
> latest operating system. That process of patching and fixing creates an
> enormous legacy barrier that makes it impossible to rewrite without
> abandoning all who came before. But you can only keep a kluge working for 
> so
> long before it will crumble under its own weight. That, my friends, is
> exactly where some of the leading adaptive technology vendors find
> themselves today.
> There are exceptions. Serotek is an exception because we have completely
> recreated our product base every three years. GW Micro is an exception
> because they built their product in a highly modular fashion and can 
> update
> modules without destroying the whole. KNFB is an exception because they 
> take
> advantage of off-the-shelf technologies, which translate ultimately into
> price drops and increased functionality.
> But even we who have done it right are on a path to obsolescence. The
> fundamental need for accessibility software is rapidly beginning to 
> vanish.
> The universal accessibility principles we see Apple, Microsoft, Olympus, 
> and
> others putting in place are going to eliminate the need for these 
> specialty
> products in a matter of just a very few years.
> Stop and think. Why do you need accessibility tools? To read text? E-book
> devices are eliminating that need. None of them are perfect yet, but we 
> are
> really only in the first generation. By Gen2 they will all be fully
> accessible. To find your way? GPS on your iPhone or your Android based 
> phone
> will do that for you. To take notes? Easy on any laptop, netbook, or iPad.
> Heck, you can record it live and play it back at your convenience. Just 
> what
> isn't accessible? You can play your music, catch a described video, scan a
> spreadsheet, take in a PowerPoint presentation - all using conventional,
> off-the-shelf systems and/or software that is free of charge.
> There are still some legacy situations where you need to create an
> accessibility path. Some corporations still have internal applications 
> that
> do not lend themselves to modern devices. There will certainly be 
> situations
> where a specialized product will better solve an accessibility problem 
> than
> a mainstream one, especially in the short term. We don't advocate throwing
> the baby out with the bathwater, but we do advocate that we begin to 
> hasten
> the inevitable change by using accessible mainstream solutions wherever
> possible. Even now, the leading edge companies are reinventing their
> internal systems with accessibility as a design criteria, so the 
> situations
> that require specialized products will certainly become fewer as time goes
> on.
> If our current Assistive technology guard's reign is coming to an end, why
> the war? Why not just let it die its own, natural, inevitable death? 
> Because
> nothing dies more slowly than an obsolete technology. Punch cards hung on
> for twenty or thirty years after they were completely obsolete. The same 
> is
> true for magnetic tape. Old stuff represents a comparatively large
> investment, and people hate to throw away something they paid a lot of 
> money
> for even if it's currently worthless. But that legacy stuff obscures the
> capabilities of the present. It gets used in situations where other
> solutions are cheaper and more practical. The legacy stuff clogs the
> vocational rehab channel, eating up the lion's share of the resources but
> serving a tiny portion of the need. It gets grandfathered into contracts. 
> It
> gets specified when there is no earthly reason why the application 
> requires
> it. The legacy stuff slows down the dawning of a fully accessible world.
> It hurts you and it hurts me.
> To be sure, I make my living creating and selling products that make our
> world accessible. But first and foremost, I am a blind person. I am one of
> you. And every day I face the same accessibility challenges you face. I 
> have
> dedicated my life and my company to making the world more accessible for 
> all
> of us, but I can't do it alone. This is a challenge that every blind 
> person
> needs to take up. We need to shout from the rooftops: "Enough!"
> We need to commit ourselves in each and every situation to finding and 
> using
> the most accessible off the shelf tool and/or the least-cost, highest
> function accessibility tool available. With our dollars and our commitment
> to making known that our needs and the needs of sighted people are 99% the
> same, we can reshape this marketplace. We can drive the dinosaurs into the
> tar pits and nurture those cute fuzzy little varmints that are ancestors 
> to
> the next generation. We can be part of the solution rather than part of 
> the
> problem.
> And all it takes is getting the best possible solution for your specific 
> need. Once you have found the solution to fill that need, let the company 
> know you appreciate their work towards better accessibility. Let your 
> friends (sighted and blind) know about these accessibility features; they 
> probably don't know that such features exist. Make your needs known to the 
> vocational rehab people you are working with, and don't allow them to make 
> recommendations for a specific technology for no other reason than that 
> it's been in the contract for years. Make sure  your schools and your 
> workplace understand the need to push technology in to  the accessible 
> space. Show them the low-cost alternatives. In this economy  some, the 
> intelligent ones, will get it and the tide will begin to turn. And then in 
> short order the tsunami of good sense will wash away the old, and give us 
> the space to build a more accessible world for all of us. Let the demand 
> ring out loud and clear and the market will follow.If this message rings 
> true to you, don't just shake your fist in agreement and leave it at that. 
> let your voice be heard! Arm yourself with the vision of a future where 
> there are no social, conceptual, or economic barriers to accessibility, 
> and let your words and your actions demonstrate that you will not rest 
> until that vision is realized. Take out your wallet and let your consumer 
> power shine! You do mater as a market people! You have kept this company 
> alive with your money for 8 years this month! I believe that if we all get 
> together and do our part, we will finally say "NO more!" same old same 
> old! Join the revolution! Together we can change the world!Posted by Mike 
> Calvo at 2:15 PM
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