[nfbwatlk] FW: [gps-talkusers] what do you think about this

Mike Freeman k7uij at panix.com
Thu Mar 4 05:13:23 UTC 2010

Premature at best.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jacob Struiksma" <lawnmower84 at hotmail.com>
To: "'NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List'" <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 1:42 AM
Subject: [nfbwatlk] FW: [gps-talkusers] what do you think about this

> -----Original Message-----
> From: gps-talkusers-bounce at freelists.org
> [mailto:gps-talkusers-bounce at freelists.org] On Behalf Of Cheree Heppe
> Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 12:01 AM
> To: gps-talkusers at freelists.org
> Subject: [gps-talkusers] what do you think about this
> (Begin forwarded message)
> Subject: [leadership] Serotek declares war on the traditional
>> adaptivetechnology 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 SeroTek.
>> Richard
>> ***
>> Cited 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 3 comments  facebook Add to
>> del.icio.us
>> Labels: Accessibility Is A Right, Apple, Blind Ghetto, community,
>> disruptive technology, GW Micro, Intel, Mike Calvo, rant, Serotek,
>> System Access, Unive
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