[Nfbmo] Serotek declares war

Gary Wunder gwunder at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 3 20:01:03 UTC 2010

Hi folks. I'm all for this transition from expensive blindness products to 
those we
can share with the sighted and reap the benefits of lower prices. Let us
work to see that future technology is blind friendly, and in the meantime
ensure we still have braille displays, screen reader companies who have
enough capital to invest in chasing the state-of-the-art, and OCR packages
which are simple enough they can be used by people with little computer

My observation of the field doesn't reveal too many big software companies
beating down our door to ask how they can become accessible though there are
several good guides to tell them what they need to do and several tools
designed by Microsoft to assist. My world is comprised of many software
products which, despite our best access technology, just don't talk, and
they are not the kind of products which are likely to change because sighted
people are getting older and losing vision. They are the kind of products
young people use and the kind we better have access to if we want to keep
getting jobs in the world. We are proud of the legislation which has been
passed to promote equal access, but many main-stream companies haven't a
clue about what we need and Section 504 and 508 are numbers they've heard
somewhere but not something they've shared with their software engineers.

I am often dissatisfied with the responsiveness of assistive technology and
the companies which make it because the climb is always uphill, but I have
to ask - Is this war, or evolution? As long as we benefit, maybe it doesn't
matter. As long as the struggle is as uphill as it is, I'm going to welcome
and applaud all of the main-stream companies which make their technology
accessible, and at the same time try to support the assistive tech companies
which give me access to those which don't.
I'm not against a war, but I want to make certain I'm throwing rocks at the
real opponent, and it just may be that my biggest opponent isn't any one
company but apathy - apathy in recognizing we have needs, and trying to
figure out how to make a business case for the corporations to meet them.

For me, getting along means working for H.R. 4533, writing letters to
companies talking about my need for access, encouraging them to pursue 
non-visual solutions, and working on procurement
policies to see that what is purchased is as accessible as the marketplace
can offer. We must see where the wings meet the body, and I'm not sure it is
the rich assistive technology companies. A few people have become rich from
our pocketbooks, but most of those who serve us are small to mid-size
businesses by any reasonable standard - companies which are overwhelmed by
the rapid changes in technology and frantically trying to decide how to
allocate their limited resources to make the most difference.

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