by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: Curtis Chong has a long history of advocacy for blind people, holding many offices in the Federation, working as our director of technology at the Jernigan Institute, and working for several state agencies in roles involving the purchase of or training in technology. He has now retired and has moved to Colorado. “For all the free time I’m supposed to have, I still find myself incredibly busy,” he says.
One of the major problems for blind people wanting to use computers has been the initial and ongoing cost of screen-reading software. Just as the software industry is changing to become subscription-based rather than purchasing and upgrading, so too is the assistive technology industry. Here is Curtis’s announcement about Vispero and the way it is now marketing its assistive software products:
I am pleased to pass along some exciting information about new annual licenses for JAWS and ZoomText that are now available from Freedom Scientific. With these new annual licenses, blind or low-vision computer users in the United States can now purchase ZoomText Magnifier/Reader or JAWS for as little as $80 or $90 (respectively) per year without paying hundreds of dollars up front. Instead of spending $400 for ZoomText, $600 for ZoomText Reader/Magnifier, or $900 for JAWS, you can now shop online and pay as little as $80 a year for ZoomText Magnifier with Speech or $90 a year for JAWS. You have the option of purchasing options for one, three, or five years, and as long as your license is current, you will always receive the most up-to-date version. You will not have to pay any more to obtain new versions of ZoomText Reader/Magnifier or JAWS as they are released. Moreover, you will be able to run these programs on up to three of the computers you use, and if needed, you can remove the license from one computer and activate it on the computer of a friend or family member whom you may happen to be visiting.
The ZoomText or JAWS annual home licenses are currently available only through the Freedom Scientific eStore at https://store.freedomscientific.com/. Here, you can search either for "ZoomText Magnifier/Reader Home Annual License" or "JAWS Home Annual License."
Admittedly, this may not be a big deal for those of us who have already spent the money to purchase ZoomText or JAWS licenses; it is certainly not of any interest to people who need the ZoomText or JAWS professional licenses because they use these programs in an employment situation. However, for blind people who have not purchased JAWS or ZoomText because of the hundreds of dollars that they cannot afford to spend, or for people who have avoided paying maintenance charges to keep their JAWS or ZoomText licenses current, this is a really big deal.
I have had some conversations with the folks at Freedom Scientific, and it is clear to me that the long-term plan is to have this subscription model available for both the home and professional user licenses. For now, I think that Freedom Scientific should be commended for taking this first cost-saving step to reduce the cost for JAWS and ZoomText.