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July - August 2008 – Volume 7 Issue 3 – @Freedom Scientific Newsletter

@Freedom Scientific is a free newsletter packed with the latest information about Freedom Scientific technology. Please feel free to send us your feedback.

  1. Joining Forces with JAWS®
  2. Pumping Up the Productivity - PAC Mate Omni™ 6.1 Has Arrived
  3. When Put to the Test, ONYX™ Excels
  4. New Deaf-Blind Accessibility Options
  5. Sharing a WYNNing Attitude
  6. FSCast - Your News and Information Source
  7. From the Training Department
  8. Taking Command with PAC Mate Omni

Joining Forces with JAWS

“JAWS is the key to this endeavor,” states Jack Sands, CEO of Vforce. “Anyone who is proficient with JAWS is ideally suited to be a successful part of the team we are assembling.”

The endeavor, Jack explains, is twofold: to build a successful nationwide business, and to provide as many employment opportunities as possible for people who are blind.

Vforce has contracted with AAA motor clubs across the United States to handle membership renewals. They have created a “virtual call center” where team members work from home and are connected via the Internet to the Vforce sales and customer tracking applications. “There are many benefits for both the company and the employees when they work from home,” says Jack. “This is especially true for our blind team members who can avoid transportation concerns and costs.

“When we started out, we knew we’d need to build an innovative combination of systems and technologies that would enable us to outperform the competition,” says Jack. “We created new customer relationship models based on our highly-customized sales and tracking applications.

“Once we felt comfortable with our proprietary technologies, I hired an outside consultant to test it. I did not realize at the time that Bob Mitchell, who has a Ph.D. in Business Administration, was blind. Bob conducted all his tests of our processes and systems using JAWS, and he came away very impressed.”

“I told Jack that his systems and applications performed beautifully with JAWS,” says Bob. “They were, in fact, perfectly matched. Because of that, the front-line positions the company needed to fill would be dream jobs for JAWS users. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, and I was sure other blind people would want to be as well.”

“I have always been interested in hiring people with physical disabilities and challenges,” says Jack. “Once Bob explained how JAWS users could excel with our applications, I was that much more committed to expanding our employment opportunities for the blind. We have found blind computer users to be among the most efficient, productive, and, therefore, most successful of our employees.

“Today, approximately 15 percent of our staff is blind, and we are actively looking to grow our numbers,” says Jack. “People who can use JAWS have an opportunity to be really successful with us — a real win-win for everyone.” He then adds, “When hiring the blind, we only consider JAWS users, not the users of other screen readers. The learning curve for other screen reader users is just too steep. For JAWS users, it’s seamless.

“Sometimes I wish our sighted team members would use JAWS. With its advanced navigation features, data retrieval is so much easier and quicker. We’ve noticed that JAWS users have a decided advantage in these jobs.

“I really appreciate that this technology is available,” adds Jack. “When I researched JAWS, I learned that it was initially developed so that the blind could compete with sighted people for employment opportunities. I’m thrilled that our company — thanks to JAWS — can provide employment for the blind. Our visually impaired employees have a high degree of job satisfaction, and I think that’s due to JAWS being so compatible with our applications. JAWS is truly remarkable technology.”

Vforce is collaborating with the South Carolina Commission for the Blind to facilitate the training of its blind representatives. “We are eager to add more visually impaired people to our team,” says Jack. “People interested in learning more about us and our expanding employment opportunities should call 877-880-2025.”

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Pumping Up the Productivity – PAC Mate Omni 6.1 Has Arrived

The feature-packed upgrade to the PAC Mate Omni 6.1 is now available. The new release includes capabilities that have never before been available in a portable, instant-on device with a speech and braille user interface.

“We’ve added features that notetaker users have long requested, but until now could not get with any notetaker product,” said Jonathan Mosen, Vice President of Blindness Hardware Management. “There is no doubt that this release further establishes the PAC Mate Omni in a class by itself as the most powerful, flexible, and functional portable device for the blind on the market today.

“Notetaker users also have long requested the ability to read PDF files. Now they can, with PAC Mate Omni’s new Reader Mode. PDF and other file types not previously accessible due to lack of a system cursor are now instantly readable when you switch to Reader Mode. Essentially, any program that contains a text view area can now be read on a PAC Mate Omni,” added Mosen.

“We’ve also expanded our Navigation Quick Keys in 6.1, making Web browsing easier and more efficient than ever,” said Mosen. “For example, you can now press 'r' to get to radio buttons, 'x' for checkboxes, 'e' for edit fields and so forth.”

Even the upgrade process is easier than ever with this release. “In PAC Mate Omni 6.0, we safeguarded data so that it isn’t lost, even after a hard reset,” said Mosen. “Now we’ve taken that one step further. With PAC Mate Omni 6.1, you can update the firmware and keep your data and installed applications in tact.”

Get the details on all the new features available in version 6.1 and learn how to complete the upgrade process at PAC Mate Omni 6.1 Update.

“PAC Mate Omni users are really going to enjoy all the enhancements available in version 6.1,” says Jonathan. “I think they’ll get great satisfaction from knowing that their PAC Mate Omni is far and away the best notetaker device available.”

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When Put to the Test, ONYX Excels

As the Program Manager for the Adaptive Technology Center and Office Skills Training at the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, Bill Bielawski is often asked his opinion about the capabilities of various assistive technology products. “People know that I put these products through their paces, and I’m pretty demanding when it comes to quality,” says Bill.

Recently, the president of a Wisconsin-based company that provides employment opportunities for people with visual impairments visited with Bill to identify a low vision solution for a particularly demanding new job. The job, quality assurance operator, requires employees to very carefully inspect the material used to make privacy screens for computer monitors.

“I needed a magnification camera that could be easily positioned over a light table,” says Bill. “There are a few different models of these products on the market, so I suggested we conduct a side-by-side comparison test of the major brands using actual samples of the material to be inspected. Two of the inspector candidates, each with a different degree of low vision, inspected several fabric samples on each of three magnification cameras - including Freedom Scientific’s ONYX Flexible-arm.

“With the ONYX, the inspectors were easily able to identify the tiny flaws in the materials. Not only that, they could actually see the overlapping micro-louvers that the fabric is constructed of. The magnification power and image clarity of the ONYX far exceeded their expectations. The other products we tested did not come close to the performance of the ONYX. They left here extremely impressed and fully intent on adding the ONYX to their inventory of assistive technology solutions for their visually impaired employees.

“The results - based on the reactions I get from many of my clients - did not surprise me,” adds Bill. “I keep models of each of the various magnification cameras on hand for use by clients. I have two of the ONYX Deskset models that I demonstrate and will lend out. The ONYX Deskset is far and away the most sought after of these products. In fact, I find it difficult to keep them here because one or both is constantly in use as a loaner. Clients have other choices, but the design - especially the fact that the camera shifts so easily from one side of the monitor to the other - and the ease with which it can be taken from place to place keeps the ONYX Deskset in the highest demand.”

Go to ONYX multiple-view cameras to get information on the different models and many features of this versatile low vision solution.

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New Deaf-Blind Accessibility Options

SARA™ Now Provides Braille Support

One of the terrific new features included in the recently-released version of the SARA scanning and reading appliance - SARA 9.0 - is the braille support it now provides. This gives deaf-blind users an exciting new option for accessing printed text using either a Focus braille display or a PAC Mate Portable Braille Display.

The SARA uses optical character recognition technology to scan and read aloud a wide variety of printed materials, including books and magazines, mail, bills, contracts, and other printed text. “Among the best features of the SARA is its ease of use,” says Brad Davis, Vice President of Hardware Product Management. “The SARA works right out of the box and requires no special training or previous experience. It’s an affordable reading solution that enables people who are blind, deaf-blind, or who have low vision to maintain their independence.”

Go to SARA Scanning and Reading Appliance to learn more about SARA 9.0.

Real Time Deaf-Blind Communication

There’s even more good news for people seeking a deaf-blind communication solution. Freedom Scientific recently introduced a new, easy-to-use, and very affordable deaf-blind solution called FaceToFace™ PC Communicator.

“This innovative solution provides real time communication for deaf-blind individuals who read braille,” says Brad. “It allows their families, friends, and others who need to communicate with them to do so efficiently and directly without the need to learn finger spelling. With the FaceToFace PC Communicator application, conversations can be saved for future reference, and users can even copy and paste information into new conversations for faster and more accurate communication. This technology provides a means for the deaf-blind to communicate more effectively, more frequently, and with more people.”

The FaceToFace PC Communicator package includes the software application and a CompactFlash® Bluetooth™ card. It can be run on either a PAC Mate BX or QX accessible Pocket PC, available with either a 20-cell or 40-cell braille display. This unique combination of technologies creates a practical and efficient way for people who are deaf and blind to engage in communication with other people, whether sighted or not. The new FaceToFace PC Communicator package sets a new standard of affordability in deaf-blind communication solutions.

To learn more about this innovative deaf-blind communication solution, visit the FaceToFace information Web page.

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Sharing a WYNNing Attitude

“Imagine,” he says, “attempting to run a marathon; maybe you could run for 15 or 20 minutes. After that, you still want to run, but you just can’t anymore.” Joel Miller, a recent graduate of St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada, indicates that’s what it’s like to have a learning disability.

He had struggled in school for years, and he was frustrated. Finally, prior to the start of high school, Joel was diagnosed as dyslexic. Once his learning disability was identified, school work became somewhat easier, thanks to special accommodations that were provided to address his situation. Still, Joel wanted something more, something that would enable him to complete the increased workloads he would face in college.

Once Joel set out to find the support he needed, he was introduced to WYNN™ literacy software. “With WYNN, and its many reading and editing features, I was able to read my coursework with more comprehension. It provided me with the coping skills necessary to meet the demands of post-secondary education. Once I had WYNN, I was sure I could get the work done.”

“Joel was proactive. He set out to explore all the possible solutions and determine his most effective course of action,” says Roberta Brosnahan, Vice President of Freedom Scientific's Learning Systems Group. “He was an active advocate on his own behalf. He decided to make something happen as opposed to hoping something would happen.

“Since graduating with a degree in English, Joel has sought out opportunities to share his experiences with other people who have learning difficulties,” adds Roberta. “He is a great example for others to follow regarding the pursuit and use of assistive technology solutions and the benefits they bring to users.”

To get the complete story on Joel Miller and to learn more about the importance of self-advocacy, visit the WYNNing Word.

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FSCast – Your News and Information Source

Be sure to tune in to the August edition of FSCast to listen and learn as Jonathan Mosen visits with Eric Damery. Eric provides a sneak preview of the many exciting features that will be included in the newest version of JAWS screen reading software - JAWS 10.

Get all the latest information featured in the FSCast programs as soon as it becomes available by subscribing - free of charge - to FSCast News Updates.

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From the Training Department

New Workshop Offerings

The Freedom Scientific Training Department will offer three exciting new workshops during the fall of 2008:

  • Basics of Scripting – back by popular demand, this four-day hands-on workshop is designed for users who want to learn how to begin writing scripts with JAWS - November 4-7

  • What’s New in JAWS – a two-day workshop designed for teachers, trainers, and others who are already familiar with JAWS, but who want to get specific training on the newest JAWS features - November 12 - 13 and December 17-18

  • Microsoft® Office 2007 with JAWS and MAGic – a three-day workshop on using JAWS and MAGic with various Microsoft Office 2007 applications including Word, Excel®, PowerPoint®, and Outlook® - November 19-21

“Unlike many training courses that can cost in excess of $325 per day, our offerings continue to be priced at just $250 or less per day,” says Training and Tutorial Developer Dan Clark. “We also are pleased to offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs) at no extra cost, as well as discounts for multiple attendees from the same organization.”

Visit the Freedom Scientific Workshops Web page for information on these and other upcoming training opportunities.

PAC Mate Omni Training

The first of several new PAC Mate Omni DAISY training books is now available for download from the Freedom Scientific Web site. The new training is available in both text and audio formats. The inclusion of text formatting has been requested by deaf-blind users of the PAC Mate Omni, as well as by teachers who often use text for creating ancillary training for their students. Go to the PAC Mate Omni DAISY training book Web page to access this first installment of this new training.

Look for more PAC Mate Omni training books to be posted on the Web site in the weeks and months to come.

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Taking Command with PAC Mate Omni

Did you know you can download a free application, called FSCommander, to use your PAC Mate Omni as an accessible remote control for any appliance that uses an infrared remote control, including your television and recording devices? Moreover, there are several third-party hardware and software add-ons, for managing electronic equipment, and streaming and recording programs via the Internet.

Check out Jonathan Mosen’s presentation, “PAC Mate Omni, Beyond the Basics,” part of the May FSCast, as he demonstrates several remote access solutions, including Slingbox™ and SlingPlayer™, and WebGuide for Windows® Media Center.

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Our product users of assistive technology for the blind and those with low vision and other forms of vision loss - including people who use JAWS for Windows® screen reader and the PAC Mate– accessible Pocket PC for the blind- get a free trial membership to®, allowing them to sample from 34,000 hours of valuable spoken word audio. subscribers enjoy daily audio subscriptions to national newspapers, weekly business and science magazines, and more than 6,000 audio books. To learn more, go to the information page.

Freedom Scientific's mission

To develop, manufacture, and market technology-based products that provide equal access to information and computing for those with vision impairments or learning disabilities.

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