[Nfbmo] Serotek declares war

David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Thu Mar 4 03:18:44 UTC 2010

As you say ... some of what Serotek says is true, but it is not as 
sophisticated as JAWs and Window-Eyes, and does not cut it in some 
work situations.  By helping the market, they could actually hurt it, 
if we loose job-capable tools.


At 09:55 AM 3/2/2010, you wrote:
>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 
>>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
>>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
>>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
>>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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