I have just got home from an enjoyable night at BBC Television Centre reviewing the #BBCPAPERS (Not quite sure why I would use a hash tag in a blog but there you go).
I have just logged on to the internet to look at updating my screen reading software (Jaws for Windows) - the software that allows me to access my Windows PC since I cannot see the screen.
Now I'm a big believer in paying for software rather than banjaxing it - and if you're not, well then you're very naughty - but I can certainly see why blind and severely visually impaired computer users may be tempted to be naughty in this regard when you consider the AMAZING cost of doing nothing more than being able to use your computer like anyone else.
Let me put some meat on the bones here. I currently own Jaws for Windows 12 Professional - purchased for me under the government's Access to Work Scheme - but this software belongs to me personally. I have already had an update approved by the excellent Access to Work Scheme costing £169.00 to update to Jaws for Windows 13 - and the advantage of the update is better access to PDF files. I think my own contribution to this is about £50 - but since I have not got round to doing this in the last few months, I note that Jaws 14 is now out which offers better accessibility for Windows 8.
My gob was truly smacked when I entered my details and was quoted £337.00 to update the software. That's £169.00 to update to version 13 and another £169.00 to update to version 14.
I would be really interested if you could tell me, does that seem fair?
I am a huge fan of Jaws by Freedom Scientific - but I do feel that you (yes, I know you media monitor) are taking the micky BIG time. It is staggering that as an existing licensee - of a product that costs about £1,000 GBP by the way that I should not only have to pay £169 to update - but because I've missed an update, you want me to pay £337.00 - that's OVER a third of the software's value.
So how do they get away with it?
Well simply - it's fair and right that Freedom Scientific need to charge to develop their product. There is a supply and demand situation going on here where Freedom Scientific would surely argue that since Jaws has a limited market place, they need to charge more to continue providing valuable updates.
Yes, there is a limited market place for Jaws - but we should bear in mind that it is the benchmark product around the world, beating by far rival products, in my own view, such as Window Eyes and Hal. I think Hal still exists.
But however you cut the cake - they're making a lot of money - and good luck to them on that endeavour I say... but their success in high charging depends on schemes like Access to Work, and Disabled Student's Allowance for Students paying for the software and updates. One might say fine, well they can afford it. I question this logic since quite rightly, Access to Work would want to satisfy themselves that there is a real Business Case for updating to newer versions. And they should be cost aware because it is taxpayers money - but what about all those people who aren't in work?
What about all those people whoa re trying desperately to find a job and can't afford to spend out fortunes?
Well actually, in mitigation of Freedom Scientific, they could run a free 40 minute demo version of Jaws and keep restarting their PC for limited access - but it's not really practical to do so.
And what about me?
Well I'll end up contributing £50 to update to version 13 - and then I'll probably spend £169 on top of that to update to version 14. Why? Because the product is head and shoulders better than any other product out there.....
BUT - and listen up Freedom Scientific.... it's not fair and these glory days are numbered.
Last year, I bought a MacBook Pro for £1,000 - the same cost as the Jaws Professional software on it's own - only for that you get a MACBOOK PRO with all sorts of bundled software AND a built in screen reader called VoiceOver.
No, VoiceOver's not as good as Jaws - but it's dam good. It is a bit odd to use for traditional Jaws users like me because it interacts differently with the screen, but it does let you write, view and edit documents - surf the net - read your emails and write / compose new ones. In fact it pretty much lets you do most things. It's not as responsive as Jaws but I say again, it's DAM good.
So as Apple races against it's own impeccable record of making their products universally accessible - and as they weak and improve their costless access technology, Freedom Scientific and Jaws for Windows are clawing on to a quickly passing era of exploiting disabled customers for every last penny of their savings - or in most cases, taxpayers money.
In this writer's opinion - the end users experience will not suffer through lack of excessive funding. Apple and others have got money - and that money combined with a strong sense of corporate responsibility means Freedom Scientific will have to shape up, or ship out!
Post Script - Apologies to regular political content seekers. I know this is a subject that verges on the technical blindy related - but I do feel it offers a genuine insight in to the outrageous practice of some at the expense of the most vulnerable.
yes FS will get my money - but not everyone has silver to cross their palms with.
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