Greetings all, I saw/heard a tweet yesterday with the headline of “why I’ll never pay for Jaws again”, or something like that… I retweeted it not necessarily because I agreed with it, but because I found it interesting. Which doesn’t quite describe how I found the tweet to be necessarily, but that’s the best word I can come up with to describe my feelings. There just seems to be a current within the blindness/VI community to bash all things Freedom Scientific no matter the reason, And if you are a Jaws user, or a user of any of FS’s products, it’s as if you gotta whisper it clandestinely, or somehow express guilt over the fact that you even have to use any FS product, and if you do use said products, it’s like for some people you have to be forced to use their products, I mean, it’s not like you should actually enjoy using FS’s products, because then there’s something wrong with you, you’re stomping on the little guy, or something. Well, let me say first and foremost I’ve used Jaws for Windows since 1997 and upon much reflection, have decided to not only continue to use Jaws but to *gasp* keep my SMA up to date. And no, I don’t like paying $200.00 to keep my SMA for Jaws professional current any more than the next person. But given my own personal circumstances, this is the best decision for me. Which may not necessarily be the best decision for everyone. But I shouldn’t even have to be made to feel like I should have to apologize or explain myself to anyone, which is kinda how I feel when I tell people that I use Jaws for Windows. Personally, it’s been the best screen reader all around for whatever I’m trying to do. And yes, I’ve had instances where other screen readers have worked better, but this has been pretty rare. Jaws hasn’t seemed unstable, or continuously crashed, or done any of the supposedly awful things that many people have said Jaws has done. And I’m sure that anyone can come with any number of horror stories regarding other screen readers too. But that’s not the point of what I’m trying to say. What I’m saying I guess is if you don’t like Jaws don’t use it, if you don’t like FS and their business practices then don’t patronize their business if you so choose. But don’t bash those of us who do continue to use and enjoy FS’s products, either directly or indirectly by talking about how awful and horrible and whatever Jaws and FS are. If Jaws were so terrible, then would it continue to hold the place as the top screen reader in the access technology market? And I don’t think it’s just about the government contracts, etc., either.
I’ll also add that if I were going to switch to another screen reader, which I have considered doing in the past, it’d either be NVDA or System Access. However, System Access doesn’t support the Braille display I use which is a Focus 40 from FS. Now Serotek has their own reasons for choosing only to support Braille displays with certain drivers, but in so doing, as a consumer I then have to make a choice. Do I spend upwards of $1,000.00 (or more) to get a Braille display that Serotek will support with its products (as Braille support is pretty much a must for me if I am making a choice whether or not to use a product), or do I just choose to forego Braille altogether, or do I just take the $1,000.00 or so, and use the money I’d have used to purchase a Braille display compatible with Serotek’s products and instead use it to keep my Jaws SMA up-to-date, or do I just not use that money at all. These are the choices that I will have to make and have made as a blind consumer. The SMA may indeed be dead in some quarters, but that doesn’t mean that blind people may not then need to spend extra money to gain the access to your products that they’d like. So for me, it doesn’t matter if the SMA is dead as far as Serotek is concerned, unless of course I forego Braille support, which I would not like to do if I can help it. Thus, I’ve chosen to stay with Jaws, and to continue to keep it up to date. and I guess if this lessens my street cred among the portion of the blind community who wants to “sitck it to the man” or whatever, then so be it. I’ve always said that I don’t “fight the blindness wars” as it were, whether it’s cane vs. dog guide, Braille vs. speech, or one screen reader vs. another. I’m primarily a Jaws user, but I also use System Access and even NVDA from time to time. In fact, I was using SAMNet earlier today when listening to the radio at work. However, I think my access technology choices should be OK, and it should be OK that I’m not going with a Mac, or an IPhone, or am still choosing to stick with Jaws. Perhaps when I was younger, I’d be more rebellious, but at this point in my life, I just want to get things done, and if it’s Jaws that does it then fine, if it’s something else then fine too. As I said, I’m not going to fight the wars. I’m jus so done with that.