3. mars 2010
Opið bréf til Freedom Scientific frá Þjónustu og þekkingarmiðstöðinni
Reykjavik, March 3. 2010
Dear Customer Service Manager
We are writing to you on behalf of the Icelandic National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind. Our names are Mr. Birkir R. Gunnarsson and Mr. Hlynur M. Hreinsson, Consultants at the Institute.
We are responsible for selecting AT hardware and software for the National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind in Iceland. As such we are indirectly responsible for the purchasing of such software as any Icelandic person that is legally blind and entitled to our services can get the necessary hardware and software through us. After purchase we oversee technical support and user training to maximize the effectiveness of the AT device or software.
Whereas we do not make the final purchasing decisions our role is to select the most appropriate technology solution based on multiple criteria, such as the needs of the specific user, the cost of the software, the future dependability of the product and effectiveness of the vendor's customer service.
For many years the National Institute and its predecessor have provided our blind computer users with the Jaws screen reader software solution, believing that the quality of Jaws is as good as, or exceeds, the quality of its competitors.
However recent developments, both internally as well as in the AT industry at large have given us reasons to re-evaluate. As part of that process, we wish to address a few concerns as well as asking a few questions regarding the Jaws screen reader. We realize we represent a very small market but we hope you do find the time and resources to address these concerns.
The main reasons for our concerns are the following:
1. Decrease in the flexibility of Braille support: In Jaws 10, and all previous versions we have worked with, there has been the possibility to insert a user defined Braille table that goes with a specific language. In version 11 this ability for the user has been removed. At the same time we have just published the first official Icelandic Braille standard for both 6 and 8 dot Braille and we wish to deploy it across all Braille solutions for printing and computer devices, as well as being able to update it in the future (though such updates will be infrequent).
Since Icelandic is a relatively small language with a small user base, we worry that Freedom Scientific will either omit Icelandic Braille support in future versions or charge us for the inclusion of such support. As Jaws is already the most expensive screen reading software, any additional cost levied on us may make it prohibitively expensive and thus not a viable solution for our users.
2. Freedom Scientifics’ stance on Braille display driver licensing: In Jaws v.11 and, we presume, beyond, Freedom Scientific charges Braille display manufacturers $9000 for certifying their Braille drivers and $5000 annually to include their driver and, thus, support for that Braille display (these are amounts reported on various Blind technology related web sites). We are worried that such expenses may cause Braille display manufacturers to concentrate on support for other screen reading solutions and, possibly, eventually drop Jaws support altogether, which might leave some of our users with a display and software combination that is no longer usable.
3. Lack of localization support for Icelandic. We no longer feel it is acceptable for us to distribute or service a screen reader that has not been translated into Icelandic. If possible we wish to know who paid the necessary expense to translate Jaws into the other Nordic languages or what the company´s policy on translation/localization is. We know we pay a significant premium for Jaws compared to the U.S. retail version but, as far as we are aware, we receive an identical product. Thus we do not feel it unfair that Freedom Scientific provides us with a translated version of Jaws, or at least participate in the expense. We already distribute one screen reading solution that was translated by the vendor at no cost to us.
We would therefore like to receive the company’s perspective on the matter as well as a price quote if the policy is that we pay for the translation of the software, fully or partially. Keep in mind, as previously stated, that with such added expenses, Jaws may become unattainable for us as a software solution.
All this being said, we would like to make it absolutely clear we do not wish to discontinue offering Jaws to our users because we still feel it is the most advanced screen reading solution and, in some cases, clearly superior to other solutions on the market, especially for advanced users. We did an independent side-by-side screen reader test in October of 2009 and Jaws scored the most points out of the 5 screen readers tested.
However, with the advancements of different screen reading solutions, both open source ones as well as from other AT companies that cost significantly less than Jaws, we feel confident that Freedom Scientific is willing to ensure Jaws continues to meet our needs, support our language and Braille specifications, and will continue to be a superior solution when it comes to screen reading.
Thank you for your kind attention and we look forward to hearing from you.
Mr. Birkir R. Gunnarsson, Consultant
Mr. Hlynur M Hreinsson, Consultant.