[blindkid] How to chose a notetaker?

Richard Holloway rholloway at gopbc.org
Mon May 14 19:57:49 UTC 2012

Our daughter's notetaker was in for repair. There was an intermittent failure which they blamed on a drink being spilled on the unit (occasional random reboots). Made sense, only no such spill ever occurred. Easier to blame a "mystery spill" than a defective unit they might have to pay to repair. They also started off the initial $4500 repair estimate with an included $3000 display replacement. That seemed strange since the display was working perfectly when sent in. When questioned, they explained (about the barely-over-a -year-old-unit) it is just "a good idea" to go ahead and replace the displays when they're in for service. 

Sure, that's a good idea, sort of the way it is a good idea to replace the engine on a car when it is due for a tune-up. And if you do that, it absolutely will run like new, so it does make a certain kind of twisted sense. But with that mindset, why not just buy a new car (or note taker) instead? 

(The display was then NOT changed and the $3000 was ultimately removed from the bill.) My suspicion is they tend to do this sort of thing and generally people handling the repair don't know what was or was not working-- this may be a repair division of a school system's IT department which knows NOTHING about the machines and has absolutely no way to test them without going back to a TVI and/or a student. If it were a laptop or desktop PC, the same people could check things out and KNOW what was broken before it went out for repair.

We have great uses for notetakers and I think they are wonderful devices. Kendra could hardly function without having one at this point. With that said, I think the days of the current way of selling and maintaining notetakers are numbered.

It may be a few years away, but I can see a day when there is enough realistic competition with BrailleNotes and PAC Mates (etc.) from mainstream crossover products that they have to finally admit that they do "pad" their profits. ("Admit", as in stop doing it.) I have no doubt that it costs more per unit to make these specialized units as opposed to the massive volumes in which iPads are made, for example, but that doesn't explain routinely attempting to overestimate repairs with additional $3000 displays and the like. And I say "routinely" because I hear of this sort of thing fairly often, and their own comments seem to support this being routine.

It isn't just one brand of notetaker either. I have direct or indirect experience with this sort of situation from numerous companies making note takers, embossers, screen readers, thermoforms... you name it. It is the way the industry works right now.

I'm quite willing to pay reasonable extra expenses for Kendra's needs due to low volume / high support issues, but I really resent being taken advantage of, and that's what it feels like is going on too often with these situations.

On May 14, 2012, at 3:13 PM, Bernadette Jacobs wrote:

> On 5/13/12, Holly Baker Miller <hollym12 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> So...many...choices...
>> Almost 12 yr old, going into 6th grade, fairly tech savvy, new braille user
>> who has appropriate respect for expensive electronics.
>> Only blind child in the district, this is new territory for everyone
>> involved.
>> Mom & Dad are also fairly tech savvy but not brilliantly so :::grin:::
>> Would like to be able to pair with i-devices,  student has an ipod touch
>> and there is a household i-pad.  District is discussing bringing i-pads
>> into the classroom for all students.
>> This is not a deal breaker, I would chose reliability over i-devices but
>> the i-devices would be a nice touch.
>> So wise ones, what would you suggest?  Perhaps more importantly, what would
>> you suggest we avoid?
>> Holly
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> Hi Holly!
> Have a couple suggestions for you.
> 1.  You could attach a blue tooth refreshable Braille Display for the
> Braille part.  You could also use a blue tooth keyboard.  We're going
> through the same thing with our 9-1/2 year-old daughter at MSB.  I
> understand they're going to begin using Ipads for all the students
> next year.
> As for me, I'm so dismayed with the notetakers' world, I'll never have
> a notetaker again because the maintenance agreements are over-priced.
> For the last notetaker I had I had actually had it for two years with
> upgraded software then found out that I had to have a hardware
> agreement and needed enough to upgrade hardware that I could've bought
> another new notetaker for cheaper!  Oh boy was I hot!  Down with
> notetakers.  My idea for me personally, might be to do a netbook with
> four-six gigs so I can install JAWS, use an earbud and be done with
> it.  Why haul around all these extra keyboards, braille displays when
> you can pack one thing up in one case and carry it
> over-the-shoulder?What's the point of being portable if I need to haul
> around an extra keyboard???  Oh Please!!
> Bern
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