[Nfbmo] Serotek declares war

fred olver goodfolks at charter.net
Tue Mar 2 17:17:49 UTC 2010

Accept for the fact that Serotek is the new kid on the block and some of the 
other vendors have state contracts locked up. E.G., when I tried to get 
talking software through the Tap program, Serotek was not on the list even 
though their software is 1/3 the price of Jaws or Window Eyes, and probably 
just as functional.

Fred Olver

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bryan Schulz" <b.schulz at sbcglobal.net>
To: "NFB of Missouri Mailing List" <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 9:55 AM
Subject: Re: [Nfbmo] Serotek declares war

> hi,
> 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"
> <chapter-presidents at nfbnet.org>
> 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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