JOHN GASSMAN: Welcome to FSCast #171. On this podcast we’ll hear from Eric Damery, talking about the summer shows once again. Debee Armstrong is here to talk about a JAWS Tip.
LARRY GASSMAN: And Dave Wilkinson will join us to talk about the partnership between Vispero and the American Printing House for the Blind. That’s all on Episode #171 of FSCast.
JOHN: Welcome to FSCast #171, and we want to thank all of you who contacted the show last month. A lot of great reactions. Got a couple of really good suggestions, and we’ll be talking more about those in the coming months. But if you’d like to contact us here at the FSCast podcast, you can email us, email@example.com.
LARRY: Or you can call us at area code (727) 803-8000 extension 1010.
LARRY: As many of you already know, we have had free webinars now since about January of this year. And the first and third Thursdays of each month we have had webinars on various topics related to JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion, all put on by the Vispero training department. So kudos to Rachel and to Liz and to Dan for a terrific job. They’ve got more coming out, and we’ll be talking about that in more detail in future FSCasts. But going out further, there’s some live events, and you can also go back and hear some recorded events. In case you missed any of them, you can go to www.freedomscientific.com/training/webinars. And they’re all archived, and you can grab any of them, download them for free, and listen to them. They are a wealth of knowledge.
JOHN: Now, some of them are live. Most of them are live. But there are a couple here and there that are coming up that are prerecorded and will be released to the website. For example, by the end of July we should have the Zoom Platform webinar. So for those of you who have not yet learned how to use the great Zoom Platform that we use on FSOpenLine and so many other areas of communication, they’re going to be doing a free webinar, and that’ll be released by the end of July.
In August they will be doing one with Microsoft Outlook and JAWS. And that is early, early August. On a third Thursday of the month there is a skill-building session for each of the webinars. So in August it’ll be all about Outlook. You’ll have a chance to ask questions and go through various aspects of the webinar with them, live in the Zoom Room.
In September, Google Chrome and JAWS. So that means on the third Thursday there’ll be a skills-building webinar all about Google Chrome. Also in September there will be a pre-recorded webinar that’ll be released by the end of the month in September, and this one concerns Skype 8 and JAWS. So they’ve gone out through September with regard to a schedule. If you want to read more about that schedule, go to the training page on freedomscientific.com, click on or press Enter on the webinars, and you can read the description as to what each is all about and register for them. And even if you forget to register, don’t worry about it. They are recorded and made available online on the training page as a part of the archived webinar.
Now, it is our goal to have this FSCast out and available to you before the next FSOpenLine talk show. That FSOpenLine talk show will be heard in the United States on Thursday, June 27, 8:00 Eastern time, 5:00 Pacific in the United States. And you in the rest of the world will be able to figure out where it lands in your time zone. And Rachel and Eric and Glen will be together to talk about the summer shows and all kinds of things. Maybe even some of the new things in the latest June JAWS Update. So it runs about an hour. And if you miss it, that’s okay. It’ll be rerun as a part of an additional FSCast in between now and the one that we do for July.
Now, if you’d like to find out how to find the Zoom Room and what number to put in and all the additional details, there was a blog entry done on June 19th by Elizabeth, all about the next FSOpenLine. So if you just go to the Freedom Scientific web page and maybe do a search for “blog,” press Enter, you’ll see the latest blog entry, which at the time of this recording is June 19, and that has all the information about FSOpenLine coming up on June 27.
LARRY: Well, as you’re already aware, the summer shows are about to take place. And there are a couple of them, and Eric Damery is with us again to talk a little bit about the activities that’ll be happening specifically with regard to Vispero. I know that this year you’re headed off to Las Vegas for the National Federation of the Blind Convention. Even before that, ACB has its convention starting on Saturday, July 6th, in Rochester, New York. It’s going to be a busy summer. Eric, once again, welcome back to FSCast.
ERIC DAMERY: Hi, Larry. Thanks. I’m glad to be back here with you and really geared up and ready to go for the summer conventions. So we’ll have a crew heading off to Rochester, New York, for the ACB Convention. And all of the activities begin there on Saturday morning. People should look for the What’s New in JAWS and ZoomText session. Douglas Gerry will be there and lead everyone through a presentation for an hour, hour and a half.
These are great user group presentations where people come with their questions, and we share information about what we’ve been working on, what’s coming up. We’re going to be showing and demonstrating and talking all about the new Home Annual Licenses of JAWS and ZoomText and how people can take advantage of that and actually do a demonstration of what it takes to go and make a purchase through there. And then we’ll talk about the renewal process for those Home Annual Licenses in the future. People are going to be really excited to see how easy it is to take care of, and you’ll be able to do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So watch for Douglas Gerry on Saturday morning.
Then, if you do attend that session, and you get there early, there’ll be some 50 percent discount coupons handed out that people will be able to use on the eStore in the United States and purchase the Home Annual Licenses of JAWS and ZoomText. They can get the one-year, three-year, or five-year option. And they’ll apply the discount to whatever the price of that product that they chose would be. So it turns out to be a great deal. And just a for instance, if you bought a five-year JAWS Home Annual License that would normally cost $450, you’ll get it for $225 with the 50 percent discount coupon. So that’s a great deal for five years of use. Get there early and take advantage of it.
Now, if you don’t arrive and get the 50 percent discount, there will be 20 percent discount coupons available after the 50s have gone. And anyone else who attends the event that didn’t get it, or if you just come by the booth during the week, we’ll also have those 20 percent discount coupons you can pick up. Now, the nice thing about these coupons is you can use them throughout the course of the summer, and you can share the code. If you’ve already got JAWS with an SMA, maybe you’ve got a friend back at home that doesn’t have a JAWS or a ZoomText, and they’d like to get and take advantage of your coupon. You can share your coupon with them.
So swing by the booth and pick those up. You’ll also be able to get 20 percent discounts on hardware, and you’ll be able to get discounts on OpenBook. So you can get OpenBook, I think it’s $125 instead of the $995. It’s a great opportunity. So pick up OpenBook and a PEARL camera if you haven’t got it. The show is the place to do it.
Now, shifting to the NFB Convention, which is going to be in Vegas, we kick that off on Sunday the 7th, 8:30 in the morning. I’ll be doing a presentation at the convention, as I’ve done each year for many years. And, well, maybe the past 10 or 12 years we’ve been doing this. And I’ll be doing the same thing that we have up at ACB. We’ll be handing out 50 percent discount coupons at that Sunday morning event. Once the 50 percent run out we’ll have 20 percent for people. And we’ll also have some 20 percent discount coupons to hand out at the booth. So if you don’t make it to the event, at least come by the booth and make sure you pick up your coupon there. It looks like it’s going to be a great convention at both places.
And once we wrap up, I will leave towards the end of the week and head off to the U.K. And for those of you who are in the U.K., let’s see, in Dublin we’ll be there on the Monday following the conventions, and Tuesday in Glasgow. So if you haven’t registered for those two events, and you’re in those areas, and you’re interested, you can visit the Freedom Scientific home page, go to Events, search for either Dublin or Glasgow on that page, and you’ll find the email address that you send an email to with the Sight and Sound people to get registered. Look forward to seeing you there. And as always, they’ll have specials for the people in the U.K. to be able to take advantage of it during the Sight Village show that happens the same week as NFB and at those events that we do the following week, Monday and Tuesday.
So it’s going to be a busy summer. We’ve got a lot of great things to show and talk about, and I’m really excited to start to educate everybody and show them just how to get those Home Annual Licenses. So look forward to seeing everyone at the conventions.
LARRY: Eric, thanks for coming on with us on FSCast, and thanks for being with us to talk about the shows this summer. And before you know it you’ll be here to talk to us in a couple of months about JAWS 2020, because it’s coming up soon. Thank you so much, Eric.
LARRY: Usually we get several reactions to something that has happened in earlier podcasts. People write in with little tips and tricks, et cetera. And this last month Debee Armstrong wrote in and it was an especially interesting one that I hadn’t thought of before. Debee, tell us all about it.
DEBEE ARMSTRONG: Here’s a JAWS Tip for people who use braille displays, but don’t have one handy at the moment. This is Debee Armstrong, and I was traveling, and I didn’t have my braille display and had to email a lot of people. Couldn’t figure out how their names were spelled. Then I remembered I can get the same flexibility with speech history. Just hit the JAWSKEY with the SPACE key to invoke a layered keystroke, hit H for History, and you see everything that the speech would have said in the virtual viewer. But what’s great about that is you can arrow through it and see how any item is spelled, or what punctuation is there, if you have your punctuation on a lower level. Thanks for listening.
JOHN: And now it’s time for another Mosen Alert. Yes, Jonathan is in the news again. Somebody’s saying, “What, did he change jobs again?” No, no, he didn’t change jobs again. He’s still the CEO of Workbridge. But a couple of, oh, at least about a month ago he mentioned in an alert that people had been asking him for a long, long time to write a book about his career and his life. And he didn’t really have the time to sit down and do that, which is, you know, he’s a CEO now, and he’s backed off on a lot of writing projects that he normally would do.
And he thought, well, maybe what I could do is dictate my life’s story, or just maybe better than that, have somebody ask me questions. And he reached out to somebody who is very, very good at interviewing and asking questions. And so Glen Gordon has been sitting down with Jonathan for the past several weeks, and they’ve been basically recording Jonathan’s life story based on questions that Glen has asked.
And those stories, nine chapters’ worth, are now being released, one chapter at a time, one week at a time. And there are a couple of ways you can hear Jonathan’s life story, which by the way is called “In the Arena: The Jonathan Mosen Story.” You can go to his website, mosen.org, so that’s M O S E N dot O R G, and you can download them individually from there. They’re listed on a weekly basis. Or you can subscribe to Jonathan’s longtime running podcast, which hasn’t been updated since he left Freedom Scientific, but there’s a lot of good stuff up there.
But anyway, these nine chapters are going to be released right there. So it’s very convenient. If you go and search for “The Blind Side Podcast, with Jonathan Mosen,” or “blind side” will probably get you there, subscribe to it, and it’ll come right down to your iPhone or computer on a weekly basis. Now, they usually are released, well, for me in California, around noon or so. And so it’s Sunday or Monday, depending upon where you live in the world.
And it is an outstanding podcast. They’ve done a great job with it. And I think that you’ll thoroughly enjoy it, if you decide that you might want to do this. They may eventually put them all up on the website in a zip format, if you want to wait till it’s all over and done with. But if you want to get them a week at a time, as I am doing, then you have those two alternatives. So I just thought we would let you know about that since Glen and Jonathan have been longtime fixtures here at Freedom Scientific, and they have a lot of fans and a lot of people interested in what they’re doing and what they have done. So we are more than happy to bring that to you on FSCast.
JOHN: Joining us on FSCast is somebody well known in the assistive technology field. Dave Wilkinson has been with a lot of different companies over the years. He worked for Freedom Scientific for a while, and then of course spent a lot of time at HIMSS, and now is with the American Printing House for the Blind. And we can talk a little bit about that as we move along. But Dave, welcome to FSCast.
DAVE WILKINSON: It’s great to be here. It does kind of feel full circle after being with Freedom Scientific years ago, now to be back on one of the FSCasts.
LARRY: Now, you were with them in the early 2000s, weren’t you?
DAVE: I was there from 2000 to 2003, so it was right after the initial merger that made it Freedom Scientific.
JOHN: And what role were you doing as a part of Freedom Scientific?
DAVE: I was the South Central Regional Sales Manager. I had six states. It was more Midwest to West than South Central. I’m not quite sure where that came from. It was states like Colorado and New Mexico. Who would have thought Colorado was South Central? But we weren’t really worried about geography at that point as much as we were just having people in place.
DAVE: So I traveled around, it was a six or seven-state region, and promoted Freedom Scientific wares, everything from JAWS and MAGic to OpenBook. At that time we had the Blazer Inferno, which was an embosser that didn’t stick around for too long, but embossed really fast and was bright red. We had the Braille Lite Millennium, had all kinds of stuff. That was before there were any Focuses.
LARRY: Oh, long before. Long before, yeah, yeah.
DAVE: Yeah, yeah. The Focus, we were still showing PowerBrailles and dreaming of the next braille display so we could get rid of them.
JOHN: Braille has played a big part in your life throughout the years. I know you’re a strong advocate of braille.
DAVE: I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for braille. Braille was introduced to my life at a very young age. My parents always had braille around the house. My mom learned braille when I was two, three years old. She would drive – I grew up in rural Arkansas, and she would drive a couple times a week to a place in Memphis, which is about 50 miles away, and I would go to a preschool that was run by a Lions Club there, and she would go and take the braille transcription course that was being offered by the National Library Service. So braille was emphasized from day one in my life.
My mom still writes me braille notes. When there are things like Christmas packages, the nametags on the packages are in braille. I dropped out of college at one point and moved to Iceland, and I was able to write home in braille, which beat the heck out of trying to figure out how to use the typewriters in Iceland because they were just different enough that it was throwing me off, so that I could write home and let my folks know what I was up to, how I was doing.
So braille has been tremendously important throughout my life. I was incredibly lucky to have a VersaBraille II when I went to college in the mid-’80s, made by TeleSensory. I actually have a VersaBraille II in my basement as sort of a memento of that whole era. It was astoundingly portable at about 14 or 15 pounds, and it had an amazing 32K of memory. And if you needed more than that, you had a floppy disk drive.
LARRY: My older friends and I still talk about the days in 1960 of having the Perkins Brailler, which was 90 – probably 90 bucks or a hundred bucks at that time, and lethal.
DAVE: That’s awesome.
JOHN: I remember the VersaBraille. I read about it. I never got a chance to actually play with it. But it really was very popular in those days.
DAVE: The VersaBraille introduced the concept of refreshable braille. Before the original VersaBraille, there was no refreshable braille. So it was one of those revolutionary moments. It was kind of like when the Braille ‘n Speak came on, you know, it came on the scene years later. It was one of those “oh my god” moments where you could see what the future was going to look like. I will never forget looking at my first VersaBraille in the library of the Arkansas School for the Blind.
Vinnie Rappa and I later figured out that – he was the person who was showing it to us, which was kind of funny when I was then working for Vinnie at Freedom years later. But, and you’re looking at the dots coming up, and you were just like, oh, my god, at some point the dots have got to run out. And they never did. They just kept going and going and going. And it was incredible. Yeah, it was one of the, you know, where you just stood there, and you’re like, wow.
JOHN: How did they get it to do that?
DAVE: They ran off of cassette. The data was on cassette tape. And so they would hold however many pages you could hold on a cassette tape, and it would inch along. And I guess if I’d hit the advance bar enough times, we would have eventually gotten to the end of the tape. But the class period wasn’t that long, and so I didn’t get to find out.
JOHN: So I guess you’re a pretty strong advocate for kids learning braille and taking it with them into schools and eventually college and then in the workplace.
DAVE: I can’t imagine a life without braille. It’s an active experience. When you’re listening to something, you know, when you’re using – and I use speech. And so don’t get me wrong. It has its place. But when I am wanting to remember something, when I want to have it drilled into my brain, I have to actively be involved in that process. And that means reading it, and it means seeing it. And that means braille.
So to me, not having access to braille as a kid is being taken away from reading. And it’s just one of those things that just strikes me as a horrible, horrible thing. So yes. And we’re really proud of things like the BrailleBuzz that we have at APH, which is a toy that’s designed to work with really young children on some of the basics of Braille. Sorry, that’s flagrant advertising of products. But I am in sales. I can’t help it.
LARRY: That’s okay.
DAVE: It’s just incredible. I spend a lot of time on planes and in hotels and sitting around in airports. And just without being able to grab a Notetaker or a braille display and start to read a book, I just can’t imagine it. So I consider myself very blessed and very fortunate to have been brought up in an environment where braille was emphasized. And it was a – I grew up in a reading family. All of my family read a lot of books growing up and still reads a lot of books. If we watched TV, we had to shell peas. If we were reading books, our hands were busy holding the books, and we couldn’t shell peas. And so it was a way of getting out of shelling purple hulls. So reading was very important in my household.
LARRY: I have lots of braille stories. The one that I tell most often is the one about – because I used to love to read Westerns. I still do. And I would read braille, and I would get hooked into the Western. And I remember one day in the third grade I’m reading and reading and reading and loving every minute of it. And I come to breakfast the next morning, and I say, “Mom, what’s going on with this finger? There’s something, it just – I don’t know what it is, but it hurts.” And she looked, and she said, “It’s bleeding, and you went through the first layer of skin.” It was completely gone.
DAVE: Ow. Ow.
JOHN: So somewhere, in some library, your DNA is famous.
DAVE: That’s right. That’s right.
LARRY: Well, I guess there is that.
JOHN: Well, we’ve talked a lot about where Dave has been the past several years. Now you’re with APH, and I’m assuming doing the same thing or similar things with braille that you’ve done before. But you’re in sales now, you mentioned. What is the job description now involving sales?
DAVE: Well, you know, APH is kind of a startup. We’re only 161 years old.
LARRY: Is that all?
DAVE: I know, I know. So we’re relatively new on the scene. And they decided about a year ago that it was time to have a sales and marketing department. And I was brought in as the first director of sales at APH. And my role is, in case there are folks out there who don’t understand the way that APH works, a lot of our business is off of what are called “quota dollars.” And quota dollars are federal dollars that are allocated to school districts based on the number of blind or visually impaired students that are in those school districts. And then you use the quota dollars to buy supplies from APH, whether it be textbooks or specific devices.
In the past we’ve had things like the JAWS-MAGic-Fusion Suite – the JAWS-MAGic-ZoomText-Fusion Suite. I always leave one out. You know, so, I mean, we’ve got a whole list of products. We have a catalog that’s, what, 1,300 items, it’s giant, that you can use to get educational aids to be used in the classroom for your blind or visually impaired student.
Well, that’s a great model, but you’re really looking at a pretty narrow version of student. You’re looking at primarily K-12. And what I’m hoping to do is to expand beyond that and to attract a lot of non-quota or just cash sales and have items that are of interest for lifelong learning so that, I mean, you know, you could argue that you’re a student every day that you’re alive on this planet. I know I certainly feel that way. And so if we’re here to serve students, then we may as well, you know, we should be here to serve students throughout the entire life spectrum.
So I’m here to expand our non-quota sales, which are just straight cash sales to consumers or agencies or whomever. We’ve also started up a line of products called APH Innovations. And APH Innovations will have, when it’s completely filled out, probably about 10 products that are products that range from things that people have been asking for that we can bring to market now instead of going through the quota process and having them be delayed, to products that are experimental in nature that we would like to give a shot to, that we think are quality products, and that we’ve given sort of the APH seal of approval on.
Our first APH Innovations product was our Jupiter Video Magnifier from Vispero. So it launched our APH Innovations line. It was an incredible strong product to launch with. And we’ve had great success with it. We’ve had a couple of products that have been added to the line since then. But it was really an honor and a privilege to get to start out with the Jupiter Video Magnifier, which is a 13-inch video magnifier, has easy definable buttons on the panel for making text bigger and smaller and changing the colors, and just a very basic nice video magnifier that folds down flat, fits into a laptop bag, weighs about six pounds, has several hours of battery life. And teachers and students were craving it, and the folks at Vispero were able to get it for us. And it helped launch our APH Innovations line.
JOHN: Recently, speaking of Vispero, APH and Vispero teamed up again on student licenses, similar to what they’ve done with the Home Annual License. Maybe you could explain a little bit about how that works and where people can get a hold of it.
DAVE: This is a really exciting thing that we’re involved in with the folks at Vispero. What we’re doing – and I guess first to give a little bit of history. This is the part where my son when he was growing up was like, isn’t there a short answer?
But a few years ago, Freedom Scientific and APH introduced a JAWS-MAGic-ZoomText-Fusion Suite that sold for – that you could purchase in four installments, and after four years you owned the suite of software. And it had its advantages. You could install it on multiple computers. And our hope at that point was that schools would buy it, and that students could use it on their home computers.
What happened instead was that schools would get it, and they would say we don’t want our software on your home computer, and they wouldn’t end up using the multiple installs that they had as part of this program.
So we went to the folks at Freedom Scientific and, like, you know, how can we fix this so that more people can have access to JAWS and ZoomText, which are the primary programs that people are wanting. Those are the preeminent screen reader and screen magnification programs in the world. And so the Freedom Scientific folks came back with the idea of the JAWS and ZoomText Annual Student Licenses. And what they basically are, it’s a single install, $90 a year for JAWS, $80 a year for ZoomText. And it’s a subscription service, so you’re paying as you – just every year the bill comes up, and you just pay it, and you get to use the software for another year, includes all software updates for that year. You get to put it onto a single computer.
And so our hope is that, if a school system wants to use JAWS for the student or wants to use ZoomText for the student, the price is affordable enough that Mom and Dad can purchase the student licenses for use at home, and they’re not running into the issue of having the school software being involved. They’re just using a different license. They basically have their own license for it. So again, it’s just $90 a year for JAWS, and it’s $80 a year for ZoomText. And you’re getting the preeminent screen reader and screen magnification product in the world. So we’re very excited about it.
LARRY: So then it becomes your job really to reach out to the schools and talk to them about the advantages of using the products.
DAVE: Absolutely, to reach out to the schools. I can see this being a big hit on college campuses. Again, I view learning as a lifelong learning process. So if you’ve learned anything today, then you qualify as a student in my book, and grab my JAWS and ZoomText Annual Student Licenses.
LARRY: Now, I’m sure that everyone wants to know, especially students, if these licenses are available yet.
DAVE: They are coming really soon. They should be available by the beginning of the summer. They will be available for quota purchase and for non-quota purchase, so you’ll be able to use your quota dollars or use just your cash or your credit cards. So be looking for them around the beginning of the summer. We’re finishing up the final details and getting all the web gurus, and they do all their stuff to put these systems in place. And then they tell us to hit the switch for go. So I’m just sitting back, waiting to be told “go.”
LARRY: So is it your hope that they’ll be available at the shows – ACB, NFB, et cetera?
DAVE: Easy. Easy.
LARRY: Yeah? Easy? Okay. Okay. Because a lot of our friends around the world go to those shows, and I’m sure they’re probably wondering the same thing.
DAVE: Oh, absolutely. And we’ll also have there, you know, if you’ve got your credit cards with you, don’t stop with JAWS or ZoomText student licenses. I’ll be happy to sell you a Jupiter. We’ve also got the Video Mag HD, which is the handheld video magnifier that we have through the folks at Freedom Scientific. It’s very rugged, very durable, can take a beating. So I’ll be happy to help you spend your money at the summer shows.
LARRY: Dave, if somebody would like to contact you to learn more about products or more about the licenses with regard to JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion, how can they do that?
DAVE: You can always send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can email me directly at davewilkinson, D A V E W I L K I N S O N, at aph.org [email@example.com]. Also, for any of our products you can call our customer service folks at 800-223-1839 and choose Option 1 for customer service, and they’ll be happy to take care of you.
LARRY: Always fun to catch up with you, Dave, whether it be here or at a show or whatever. And it’s been fun. So we enjoyed having you, and thanks for being on FSCast.
DAVE: Thanks a lot. I’ll see everybody at the summer shows. You’ll know it’s me because I’m not shy.
JOHN: We hope you’ve enjoyed the FSCast for June and that you’ll join us next month during July when we have a couple of interviews planned. And you never know what might come along to talk about here on FSCast. In the meantime, we hope that you will give us a call on the listener line, (727) 803-8000 extension 1010; or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Until July, this is John speaking for Larry, thanking you very much for listening to another edition of FSCast.