JOHN GASSMAN: Hi, and welcome to FSCast 176. JAWS, Fusion, and ZoomText 2020 are just days away from being released, and Eric Damery is here with a few last-minute reminders. Debee Armstrong is here with a JAWS Power Tip. And Rachel Buchanan will join us from the Vispero Training Department, here on FSCast 176.
Welcome to FSCast 176, John and Larry Gassman. We have an exciting program scheduled for you this time around.
LARRY GASSMAN: You always say that.
JOHN: Yeah, I know.
LARRY: I hope it’s true.
JOHN: Well, it’s written into the contract. I have to say it.
LARRY: Got you.
JOHN: If you’d like to contact us with your questions or comments or suggestions, you can do that in a couple of ways. You can contact us here at FSCast via email, and that email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And Vispero is V as in Victory, I S P E R O dot com. So email@example.com. Or you can call us on the listener line. And when you do, if you need us or want us to respond to you, please also leave your email address on that voice message. The phone number is (727) 803-8000 at extension 1010.
LARRY: Well, as we begin FS 176, Eric Damery is back with us once again to talk about JAWS and ZoomText and Fusion and the last-minute details that are about to happen shortly before release. Eric, welcome to FSCast.
ERIC DAMERY: Well, good, Larry. It’s great to be back here joining you guys. And we’ve made it; right? The 2020 release is imminent now. So by the time people are listening to this, you should just be days away from finding the final release on the website. And for everybody who has installed and helped us out with the Public Beta cycle of the JAWS release, we thank you. And we got some great feedback. We’ve made a lot of adjustments. We’re still making adjustments in a first update that’ll be coming out in December.
But we’re ready to go with the release. And if you have the Public Beta 1, 2, or 3 installed, you’ll be getting the announcement about the final release, and it’ll do an auto update for you. So you should be all set. And we’re happy again to be able to announce that we’ve managed to get the ZoomText and the Fusion builds also ready to go at the same time. So we’ll be releasing all three products here simultaneously and get off and running here with 2020.
And as I mentioned, we’re ready for our first update that’ll hit in the early December timeframe as we generally do. So if you get installed, if you see some issues, please don’t hesitate to get a hold of tech support at that point. Let them know. And if we haven’t already got those addressed, we’ll make sure you get yours entered in and see if we can identify what’s happening.
LARRY: Authorization is very important, especially this time of the year, because we’re going to a brand new version of JAWS or ZoomText or Fusion. And maybe we can cover some of that quickly again, just to make sure everybody is aware of what’s going on.
ERIC: Yeah, that’s a good point. Authorization, this time of year everybody’s got to be thinking about it. So if, first of all, we haven’t – if you’re listening to this now, we haven’t quite released. You’ve still got an opportunity. If you have not renewed your SMA or added an SMA to your 2019 license, now is the time to get it done and get the best price. And the best way to do that is to go to the Freedom Scientific home page in the United States. Look for the link called “SMA & Upgrade.” Check your serial number. And if you click on that link, you’ll be put in an edit field. You can type in your serial number and just verify the version that you’ve got. And if you need to get the SMA renewal you can order it right from that point. Make sure you’re up to date.
Now, if you’re up to date, if you have the 2019 license installed today, and you had updated your SMA renewal over the summer or at some point here in the past couple of months, you probably noticed recently that you got a message popped up and said your SMA has been updated, or your authorizations updated. Would you like to fix your key on your computer now? And you go off, and it just takes a couple of seconds. You do the activation. It’s basically phoning home to the server here. It’s getting the updated license, and it’s bringing it down, and it’s fixing the key on your computer. So you’re ready to go. When 2020 is installed, it’ll already have the updated authorization that you had purchased over the summer or whenever you got it. And you’re up and running. You don’t have to fix your authorization at that point to begin with.
Now, a lot of users in the U.S. are also looking at and considering the Home Annual Licenses. And I think that is a good option. So if your license is older, if you’re not current, if you’re not up to date, and you’re looking at a more expensive upgrade just to get current and then add an SMA on top of it, it can get pricey. And we put that Home Annual License in place just for you. So take advantage of it. You can go to the eStore in the United States and acquire the Home Annual License for under $100 and avoid having to buy that more expensive upgrade.
JOHN: By the way, just a quick reminder that JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion will be available as a download link this year from the Freedom Scientific web page. Back in the old days, Freedom Scientific used to send those updates out on floppy disk, and later CD, and most recently DVD. All of that is gone and into FS history. Right now it’s a download link, and you’ll get that notification when the product becomes available, if you have one of the JAWS 2020 betas running. The other way that you’ll get a notification is, if you’re a United States citizen, you’ll get a note in the mail directing you to a specific link on the Freedom Scientific web page.
LARRY: Eric, thanks so much for being with us. And thanks so much for giving us a look at the authorization and also the upgrade process in terms of what we can foresee as we have an imminent release here coming up in just a few days. And by the way, thank everyone please at Vispero for all of the seamlessly endless work that they do to make our lives better, and for all the work that they’ve done over the last year to make JAWS 2020 so terrific, and for what they’re doing in the year to come as we get to JAWS 2021 next year. And again, thanks so much for all that you guys do.
JOHN: We’ve gotten a lot of reaction from people asking that we bring back some tips using JAWS. And so we’ve changed the name a little bit to the “JAWS Power Tip.” And Debee Armstrong just happened to write in with a great Power Tip which we’re going to use right now. And then when we come back we’ll tell you about what she won and what you can win if your JAWS Power Tip is submitted and selected. So now, well, I was about to say here’s Debee Armstrong, but they all sound like Ava when they’re on this program. I’m not sure why that is. Here’s Debee Armstrong’s JAWS Power Tip for October.
DEBEE ARMSTRONG: If you get lots of newsletters in Outlook, you’ve probably heard JAWS read “Click here to download pictures.” To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of some pictures in this message. If there are problems with how this message is displayed, click here to view it in a web browser. You can prevent Outlook from displaying this message by simply pressing the APPLICATIONS KEY when focused on the message in the list view. You can also press SHIFT+F10. Either keystroke pulls up the context menu for the currently focused message. From that menu, choose Junk from the context menu that appears. Select Never Block Sender. A dialog box with an Okay button appears confirming that the sender will not be blocked. After that, Outlook will download pictures and remain quiet.
JOHN: Thank you, Debee Armstrong, for the great Power Tip in October, and there’ll be another one next time around. And because Debee’s Power Tip was submitted and accepted, she has won a prize. Tell her what she’s won, Larry.
LARRY: A new car.
JOHN: That’s right. Every blind person in the United States and throughout the world wants to win a new car, especially if it’s self-driving, I guess. But no, Debee actually has won a product upgrade of her choice. I’m assuming...
JOHN: SMA, yeah. Or Home License, if she lives in the United States.
LARRY: She does.
JOHN: And I don’t know whether Debee uses JAWS or Fusion or ZoomText or, you know, maybe a little of all of those. When you submit, the Power Tip will need your name, email address, serial number, and a phone number. And if your Power Tip is selected, you will be a winner. And then that individual will win an extra year free of charge for JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion. That’s a great prize and great incentive to submit your Power Tips to us here at FSCast. Thanks again, Debee. We have another one coming your way next month on FSCast.
JOHN: From time to time on FSCast, we like to bring to you a lot of the people who work behind the scenes to make everything possible, and we’re doing that again this month, but also because we have the launch of a brand new web page available, as well. So we’d like to welcome to FSCast the project manager for training, and that’s Rachel Buchanan, whom you’ve heard on FSOpenLine, if you’ve tuned in or listened to the FSCast. But we want to welcome you to FSCast and maybe hear a little bit about how this all got started for you, Rachel.
RACHEL BUCHANAN: All right. Well, so thank you, John. Thank you so much.
JOHN: How did you come to Vispero and Freedom Scientific?
RACHEL: Well, I came to Freedom Scientific a little more than a year ago. I was recruited by the management we have now and was actually working at a disability office at a university, but had spent a lot of time, of course, in vision rehabilitation – that’s what my degree is in – and worked at several different nonprofit centers around the United States. So I had the experience and had distributed my résumé and was found, more or less, by Freedom and brought on the team.
JOHN: Now, you are partially sighted; is that correct?
RACHEL: Yes, yes. I’m a JAWS user.
JOHN: So you use the products.
RACHEL: I do, yeah. I have used JAWS, and then for a while I used MAGic. Now I use Fusion. But I use the computer non‑visually.
JOHN: Okay. So you depend really on JAWS for most of your navigation.
RACHEL: Yes, yes. Any magnification I do is purely supplemental.
JOHN: So how was it that they decided, let’s put Rachel in the training department?
RACHEL: You know, I have a lot of experience in this area with curriculum development and program development. And I know that user education and training is an area that, you know, wasn’t a huge – wasn’t getting a lot of attention or work at the time when I was brought on. So I know that it was an area that Miguel and everyone agreed needed some TLC and some modernization.
JOHN: I remember training as a user, long, long, time ago, and a private beta tester. There would be things coming up on webinars with Dan Clark and people. And then all of a sudden things just stopped. And so you, I guess, were really involved with not only bringing training back again, but maybe clearing up the web pages and updating them as time moved along.
RACHEL: Yeah, definitely. As you said, we had a lot of great raw material. People like Ryan Jones and Dan Clark and everybody, a lot of people have contributed to training in the past. And that was the whole goal in bringing me on was really to bring all of our training content up to date, taking a close look at what not only end users, but everybody who deals with our softwares wants and needs from training, and really strengthening that department. So that’s really what our user education team is about.
JOHN: And earlier on we had free webinars every so often or so. And we had paid webinars which were a little bit more in terms of content, and they spent more time on those webinars. But when you came aboard, everything eventually became free. Was there a reason behind making those paid webinars free and doing away with paid webinars altogether?
RACHEL: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s part of the evolution of the company and just also the way that we get information online. So the decision was made, it was one of the first big decisions we made for the user education department, was that all of our training from now on was going to be free and accessible to everyone. There was different learning trends that went on before, and it was really common to pay for different types of training as it got more complicated and advanced. But now, you know, we support the current online open learning model that really encourages information to be available freely to anyone who wants to utilize our technology.
JOHN: Do you have a criteria for what gets attention with regard to a training course or webinar?
RACHEL: We do. We try to address the most common questions we get, working with tech support and people who write in directly to training. We try to address what we get the most common questions about and cover the most widely used softwares like Office, Skype, Zoom, things that you’ve seen us cover more recently. But one of our goals in the future is to really make a concentrated effort to gather analytics about what the pain points are within the software and hardware that we make and create training directly targeted at those pain points.
JOHN: And I see you’ve done things on Google Chrome, as well. And a lot of people are asking about that because that’s a relatively new browser in comparison to, say, Microsoft Internet Explorer. So that gets a lot of attention with people who want to jump to it, but aren’t really sure how to use it.
RACHEL: Yeah, definitely. It’s a hot topic about which browser is the best. And we tried to frame it as a tool. You know, a lot of people prefer different browsers for different web pages. And Chrome is just one of those tools out there; although you’re right, it was a really popular training topic, and we got a lot of questions, continue to get a lot of questions about it.
LARRY: I think I have four or five on both of my computers because each of them do different things better. So...
RACHEL: Right, absolutely.
JOHN: You mean browsers; right?
LARRY: Browsers. What did I say?
JOHN: Well, you didn’t say.
LARRY: Oh, well, it was understood. I knew what I meant.
JOHN: Okay, well, you know, people are sleeping while you and I are talking, so I just wanted to make sure that they were awake.
LARRY: But they’re only sleeping when you’re talking.
JOHN: Yes, that’s right, okay, yeah. So one of the nice things that’s happening now in addition to all of the terrific webinars is that you’re pretty much revamping the training page, and maybe you can talk a little bit about that.
RACHEL: Yeah, we are trying to make some real improvements to the training page, not only updating content and modernizing it, which is of course really important, but making things easier to find, more user friendly on mobile devices, and just overall a better experience for people who visit our training center so that they can find what they’re looking for and hopefully come back to it as a reliable resource over and over again. So we’ve changed the look and the feel of the page completely. We feel as though we’ve made things easier to find in certain areas.
We initially had taken Surf’s Up off of the main landing page and moved it back on there. That’s a really minute change. But the feedback we heard from people was that they really wanted Surf’s Up on the main training page. It’s something that they access with their students or for their own use a lot. And so it’s back on the main page. And we’ve also added a direct jump-off point from our landing page to our YouTube channel that is youtube.com/freedomscientifictraining and has a lot of short tutorials on a variety of topics. So that’s another little change we’ve made.
JOHN: I visited the YouTube page, although it wasn’t from the training page. So are the things that I might see on just the general YouTube pages, when you look for Freedom Scientific, different than what you have produced and make available from the link on the website?
RACHEL: You might stumble upon our YouTube channel that has more of our marketing content. So you want to make sure you’re at youtube.com/freedomscientifictraining, all one word. And what you’ll find there are short tutorials about different tasks. And you’ll see that everything’s arranged into playlists. So if you want to watch all Fusion videos, you can sort and filter the videos like that. You can sort by topic. If you would like to watch videos pertaining to Microsoft Word, you can filter videos like that. So make sure you’re on the training channel, and you should only see training content, with the exception of one playlist that you might encounter called “Support,” which has a few different support-related videos on it.
JOHN: So that’s going to be totally different than, say, something a user might post to YouTube; right?
JOHN: Okay. Because I’ve seen some of that, too. And I just wanted to clarify that. Now, you mentioned mobile devices. Are you working on the training page with regard to accessing it from your phone just as extensively as, say, from somebody who might use JAWS or ZoomText to access the training?
RACHEL: I wouldn’t say that that’s our complete end goal right now, to make it mobile device friendly, although it’s definitely in mind, I think, when anyone does web design these days. So we do want to make those pages cleaner, easier to navigate, but not specifically just for mobile devices. It’s just something we have in mind. Obviously we want that experience to be really good for our users. So that’s our first priority.
JOHN: And a lot of the things that are coming up in the future, maybe you can talk a little bit about some of the webinars and YouTube projects that people might look forward to in the next few months.
RACHEL: Yeah. You can continue to see content on our YouTube channel. We’re going to be continuing to add short tutorial task-based videos there. So you can always subscribe to that channel on YouTube. That way you get updates every time there’s a new video. And we also know by the way that you comment or like videos whether or not you want to see more videos like that or other content in the future.
In addition, on the web page, we’re going to be adding some special sections for different learner groups. We know that there’s a lot of different types of professionals and individuals who come in contact with our technology. And it’s not always users. We have to address other learner groups. And that’s something that you’re going to see a lot of in the upcoming 2020 year, not exactly at the 2020 release time, but during the calendar year, is us pushing to have more information available for groups like teachers, IT professionals, families and parents, every group that could possibly come in contact with our technology.
JOHN: How do you decide how quickly to move through individual topics? Because you have a lot of different user experience, from beginner to mid-range to somebody who’s advanced. Do you go for what might be called the individual who is just learning for the most part and hope everybody else stays with you? Or how do you mix and match that?
RACHEL: It is a task, since we do have a wide range of users and abilities and independence levels. What we try to do is focus on doing a broad covering of the basics, so get all the basic tasks in. We break things down to their smallest point, which is the task at hand, and then just break it into small chunks. So we’re really covering a lot of basic tasks together even, you know, for the most advanced tasks. You’re essentially just doing a lot of small tasks put together.
So we try to cover the basics really thoroughly. Obviously there’s a lot of ways to do things. So break it down to the simplest point, and then we move from there. You know, we try to follow the analytics and the feedback from users and participants about what they want to see and what they need help with. And with our new web page and the abilities that we have to see where people are visiting, we’re going to have even more information on what to cover next.
JOHN: One of the things that I thought might be kind of interesting, I don’t know whether you had plans to do this, but there are a lot of third-party script developers and people out there who do things that are JAWS related. I’m thinking of Brian Hartgen with Leasey and J-Say. Do you intend to do anything with regard to maybe a training module or at least, you know, one webinar, say, devoted to some of those people who work with JAWS?
RACHEL: You know, we’ve talked about a lot of different options for that. We do want to highlight other people’s work on training content because there is so much good out there, like you said, people who develop training content that’s already out there, or scripts. And we’ve worked with Brian in the past. We worked with him when we made our Zoom training because we’ve all been using his professional scripts for Zoom. And of course now the basic functionality of those scripts has been included in JAWS. And people will see that, you know, if they’re using the most recent versions of JAWS. We used David Kingsbury’s book as a reference, definitely, whenever we did our trainings on Word. And we want to continue to do things like that and support other content creators and people who are just contributing to the knowledge base overall.
LARRY: So if someone has some ideas about things that they would like to see covered in training, can they reach out to you?
RACHEL: Oh, absolutely, please. We are always gathering feedback and information and suggestions. You can always send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And another thing you’ll see in the very near future on the new web page is a place where you can give feedback on the landing page, so a quick survey where you can visit that survey and give us suggestions and feedback, either on individual trainings or broader ideas overall.
JOHN: I get this question all the time. Do you have plans to cover any of the older Freedom Scientific/Vispero products such as OpenBook and some of the other things that aren’t getting as much attention, but we still have a lot of people using them?
RACHEL: The plan is to definitely continue to develop training material for all of our products that are still being sold. We want to continue to support people because we know that people are still using those devices for work all the time.
LARRY: So John just asked about OpenBook and some of the other products that aren’t getting as much attention as they used to. Can users still find some of that old material on the web page going back several years?
RACHEL: Yes. We’ve chosen to remove some training content, if it is out of date or inaccurate. But we’ve tried to keep, for the most part, even older versions, so people can refer to those older versions as long as they’re still accurate and work with the products.
LARRY: We’ve also received inquiries from people who use these products at work. For instance, Microsoft Teams, which has replaced Microsoft Skype for Business. Do you plan on doing any tutorials, any training for Microsoft Teams?
RACHEL: Yes. And we’ve been getting more and more requests for that. Our team has already started looking at Teams and figuring out exactly how we want to go about planning a training for that. And we’ve been talking to Glen about it, as well. So it’s definitely in the works. We know that Teams is on the horizon. It’s something that a lot of people are starting to use, and we need some training out there for it. Another thing we get a lot of requests for, and we just recently released a training for Skype, not Skype for Business, but Skype.
LARRY: And it’s up there right now, even as we speak. And it was a good job.
LARRY: Let’s go back and talk about Surf’s Up for a moment because I want to ask you about it. But first let’s describe it for people who may not know what it is. This really is a great set of web pages, and it’s developed specifically to help someone who is using JAWS or Fusion learn how to navigate and use the available tools to improve their skills, learning how to navigate tables, fill out forms, or use place markers or even flexible web features in JAWS. And it’s a great aid for teachers, in particular. What about updates? Have you done any updates to that particular application?
RACHEL: I don’t know if I mentioned it earlier. I should have. I meant to. We have updated and modernized all of the Surf’s Up content. So go check out Surf’s Up. And we’ve added some new categories and some new information there and are continuing to improve that content, as well. So check back often. We’re just adding to our team. We’re in a real place of growth where our team is growing, and there’s a lot of things happening. So just keep looking back for new content and checking out what we’re doing. We love to hear from all users or teachers, really. So connect with us if you get the chance.
LARRY: Rachel, what about updates to JAWS and FS Basic Training with regard to FSReader? Have there been updates? If so, when will they be finished, and when will you be able to release them?
RACHEL: I am really excited to share that we are in the process, in the very final stages of updating the JAWS Basic Training material. So all of the material that you would normally access with FSReader, that’s included with the software, a lot of people use it as a great reference tool, is being updated. We’re really streamlining it, making it more modern and current and simplified. So you’ll see that very soon after the 2020 release, that you have all new JAWS DAISY Basic Training included with your JAWS software.
LARRY: As a result of doing FSCast, we certainly get inquiries about things like JAWS certification. And John, let’s talk about that for a moment.
JOHN: Bottom of my emails I have “JAWS Certified,” but it’s not 2019 so I need to fix that. Have any advancements been made, or changes in the JAWS certification program?
RACHEL: So the JAWS certification program is still active. We’re still updating the test and cleaning it up. You know, we had the promotion recently in July where we had 80 percent off of certification. So that is still an active program where people can go and take the certifications, prove their knowledge of JAWS, and be put on our certified individuals page, very much keeping it up to date. People enjoy taking that certification test and being able to have it on their email signature, included on their résumés, what have you. So it’s definitely up to date.
JOHN: We want to thank you, Rachel, for spending a few minutes with us and updating us on the training bits going on. There’s always training going on at Freedom Scientific. And we hope that everybody will take a look at the training page, whether you get to it from the Freedom Scientific site or whether you type it into the address bar. It’s available to you with a lot of wonderful resources. And again, thank you again for visiting on FSCast.
RACHEL: Thank you guys so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
LARRY: And Rachel will be back with us again in the near future to talk about other aspects of the training department that we didn’t get to this time around on FSCast.
LARRY: Thank you so much for joining us. It’s been fun. It’s a shortened version because everybody’s busy.
JOHN: And again, if you’d like to contact us, you can write to us, email@example.com, or call us at area code (727) 803-8000 and extension 1010. And again, please leave your email address on that voice message...
LARRY: And a phone number if you’d like.
JOHN: ...if you’d like us to get in touch with you. Lots of things planned for you before the end of the year. Please join us in November for another FSCast.