Monday, December 28, 2009
Main Menu begins 2010 with a bang! We first hear a greeting from ACB president Mitch Pomerantz. Next, your host is joined by J.J. Meddaugh of Blind Bargains and Rick Harmon of The Blind Geek Zone to discuss the top news stories of 2009 as published on Blind Bargains. The number one story of the year will be posted on the site just hours before the panel discussion airs on Main Menu. Finally, the three of us predict what stories will rank in the top ten list for 2010. Take notes and see how close we are!
Main Menu airs on Saturdays at 1:00 UTC; that’s Fridays at 8:00 Eastern time in the U.S. Subscribe to the Main Menu podcast feed at: http://mainmenu.acbradio.org/rss.php
Call the Main Menu comment line at (206) 338-7823
I won't take the time to write a fancy announcement. I will just let you know that AccessWatch isn't going away. I spent a lot of time doing some soul-searching and visiting privately with some members of the blind community who I respect greatly. I believe in AccessWatch and have spent too much time on the project to let it die. I will redouble my efforts to make the current site thrive over the next year and to possibly take it in some new directions. My thanks to Rick Harmon of the Blind Geek Zone, J.J. Meddaugh of Blind Bargains, and the loyal AccessWatch users who took the time to write me privately. Your comments are much appreciated.
May you all have a blessed and prosperous 2010.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
It is hard to believe that AccessWatch is approaching its sixth birthday I truly believe that the site has been a service to the blind community, and the creation of a review system for accessible software has been a truly unique service as well.
Since the creation of AccessWatch, I have had the privilege of accomplishing other goals such as creating some tutorials which have been a positive influence as well. Although my blogging has been very minimal, I have enjoyed that too and have come to respect those who do it regularly and well. While I am reminiscing, I mustn’t forget my brief podcasting career either. Since May of this year, I have been honored to serve as producer and host of ACB Radio’s Main Menu technology show and continue to enjoy the work that I and others on the Main Menu team do for ACB Radio and the blind community at large.
Unfortunately, I feel that AccessWatch has begun to slip more and more into the background over the past year or so; I have updated the site once in that time and I can’t recall the last software review I submitted for the site. This brings me to the purpose of my e-mail. (Remember when AccessWatch users got at least one of these per year?) I feel that it is time to put AccessWatch.info to rest. I will continue to maintain the AccessWatch blog and may even attempt to revive it in the near future, but the AccessWatch Web site and review system will be taken offline as of December 12.
I would be interested to receive feedback from those of you who have benefitted and perhaps continue to benefit from the site. If the responses indicate that I should change my mind regarding this matter, I will consider doing so. If not, then AccessWatch will cease to exist in its present form as of this Saturday.
Please send all comments to
Thanks to those of you who have been such loyal supporters of the Web site over the past nearly six years. It has truly been fun!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
On this week's edition of Main Menu:
David Tanner talks with David Andrews about the new NLS digital talking book players soon to be released and David Andrews gives us a demonstration of the player. Next, David Tanner takes us on a quick tour of the NLS BARD site
For downloading digital talking books. Lastly, Shane Davidson reviews Loco Locution from
Main Menu first airs on Saturdays at 1:00 UTC; that's Fridays at 9:00 Eastern time in the
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Freedom Scientific Files Patent Infringement Suit against GW Micro
by Daniel B. Frye
When two of the leading producers of access technology in the blindness field have
differences that can apparently be resolved only in federal court, blind consumers
deserve to know what is going on. How might the dispute affect this small market?
Will the actions of either party influence consumer access to diverse, responsive,
and competitive products in the U.S. and international blindness communities?
Mindful of the importance of access technology to blind people and curious about
the rationale and implications of the row that has developed between Freedom Scientific
and GW Micro, we are reporting what we have discovered at this stage of the argument
so that our readers will understand the issues involved in this litigation. Here
is what we know at the moment:
On July 15, 2008, Freedom Scientific--the company that developed and promotes the
JAWS screen reader and the PAC Mate Omni as well as other blindness and low-vision
products--filed a patent infringement lawsuit against GW Micro, a smaller access
technology company known primarily for its rival screen-reading software, Window-Eyes.
The Freedom Scientific lawsuit alleges that GW Micro has ”willfully infringed" and
has "induced" others to behave similarly with respect to its U.S. Patent No. 6,993,707,
issued on January 31, 2006, for a "Document Placeholder" by ”making, importing, selling,
offering to sell and/or using within the United States computer software covered
by this patent.” The case was filed in the United States District Court, Middle District
As background, the Document Placeholder technology in question is the feature in
both JAWS and Window-Eyes that allows a user to identify a particular place or bit
of content on a Website and return to this same point on the Webpage (using a few
simple key strokes) repeatedly while originally viewing the page or during subsequent
visits. This technology is designed to make large and cluttered Websites more convenient
and accessible for blind computer users.
Both Dan Weirich and Doug Geoffray, the two principal executives at GW Micro, agreed
to be interviewed for this article on the condition that their attorney be present
to offer them legal counsel during the exchange. Mr. Weirich began by insisting that
GW Micro is not guilty of violating Freedom Scientific's document placeholder method
patent. While the GW Micro answer filed in response to the lawsuit on September 29,
2008, denies the allegations of willful patent infringement and contains six legal
affirmative defenses in response to the Freedom Scientific claims, we will focus
here on the basic arguments that most blind computer users will understand.
First, GW Micro questions the very legitimacy of the document placeholder patent.
Weirich told the Braille Monitor
that this technology--albeit in a more primitive form--has existed and been used
by various access technology companies since 1999, well before Freedom Scientific
acquired its patent in January 2006. In their answer GW Micro suggests that Freedom
Scientific may have misled the government in applying for this patent by alleging
that this technology was new and innovative, when in fact some version of it had
existed for almost seven years before the patent was issued. In the first GW Micro
public statement about this lawsuit, issued on August 15, 2008, Weirich said, "As
many of our users know, our screen reader--Window-Eyes--has had the capability of
returning to a specific line within a Webpage since version 3.1, which was released
over nine years ago, well before Freedom Scientific's alleged invention." Weirich
went on to note, "The implication in a recent Freedom Scientific press release that
GW Micro is benefiting from Freedom Scientific's investment at no charge is simply
not accurate nor in line with GW Micro's tradition of success and fair play.”
Second, both Weirich and Geoffray point out that the method, design, and functionality
of GW Micro's document placeholder feature are quite different from those in Freedom
Scientific's JAWS product. According to Weirich, the technology that Window-Eyes
relies on will allow the user of this screen-reading software to return to his or
her place even on a constantly changing Webpage; GW Micro officials explain that
the Freedom Scientific version of this technology relies on counting lines on a Webpage
and may not be able to return to a specific location on a Webpage that is often updated.
Further, Weirich and Geoffray emphasize that their version of the document placeholder
technology has nothing to do with HTML tags; instead they rely solely on Windows
MSAA tags to make their version of this technology function.
More important than GW Micro's technical legal defenses may be the sense of inequitable
treatment to which Weirich and Geoffray feel they have been subjected. In discussing
the basis and motivation for the lawsuit, Weirich said: "Both Doug and I have worked
in the blindness access-technology field for over twenty years; GW Micro has been
in business since 1990, and we had both worked for other companies before our time
here. Throughout these years it has always been customary for access-technology companies
to innovate and develop much of the same functionality in our blindness products.
When returning from a tradeshow in July, I arrived to learn of the lawsuit. We had
no preliminary discussions with Freedom Scientific about its concerns--no discussions,
no warnings, no courtesy calls asking us to stop use of the technology, no indication
at all was ever received from Freedom Scientific about this issue until the lawsuit
arrived on our doorstep. I just had a neighbor share the news with me that a tree
on the border of our property was dead. Similarly, I would have expected in a small
market like the blindness access technology community that some collegial exchanges
might have occurred before moving directly to litigation." Weirich went on to say,
"One of the things about this lawsuit that troubles me so much is that we are all
compelled to spend precious resources--precious resources that largely come from
rehabilitation and other government funds--on this lawsuit. We at GW Micro would
rather spend these resources on product development or other projects that will directly
benefit our consumers."
When we asked Weirich and Geoffray what they thought had really motivated this lawsuit,
they were both at a loss to give a definite answer. Weirich speculated that perhaps
GW Micro's increasing success and market share in the screen-reader competition may
have proved threatening to officials at Freedom Scientific. Weirich added that he
knows nothing about Freedom Scientific's finances, but he suggested by implication
that perhaps troubles on this score may have motivated the lawsuit.
In closing, Weirich asked that the Braille Monitor
report that "GW Micro is not going anywhere. We plan to stick around and provide
quality services and products to our customer base. This lawsuit is just a bump in
the road. This legal action will not prevent us from making further enhancements
Lee Hamilton, president and chief executive officer of Freedom Scientific, declined
the Braille Monitor's
repeated requests to be interviewed for this article. We even offered to conduct
Hamilton's interview in the presence of Freedom Scientific's attorneys, but this
did not sway his decision. In a December 19 email response to our interview request,
Hamilton offered the following:
Thank you for the invitation, which I received on Tuesday of this week, to contribute
our perspective to your forthcoming article. As you can appreciate, it was necessary
to seek advice from our legal counsel before responding, and I have only just received
As you are aware, when it was clear that this issue might become a matter of public
interest, we published a press release outlining our need to protect our investment
in research and development for the benefit of our shareholders and customers. I
understand you have a copy of that press release. Our legal counsel has advised that
it would be imprudent for us to comment further at this time. It is my belief that
our press release provides a clear summary of our reasons for taking the action we
have, and this should be useful in balancing your article.
As you will no doubt be aware, we have a close and highly valuable working relationship
with the NFB. This is manifested in our regular meetings with the International Braille
and Technology Center and our active participation at NFB state and national conventions.
We value the NFB's role and function highly. Please be assured that we are not offering
any further comment to any media on this matter at this time; in no way is this a
refusal to speak specifically to an NFB publication on the matter.
In the absence of any further comment from Freedom Scientific about its lawsuit,
we reprint the press release that it offered when the action was first announced.
Here it is:
Freedom Scientific Files Patent Infringement Suit
(St. Petersburg, Florida — July 24, 2008) Freedom Scientific has taken steps to protect
one of its patented technologies by filing suit against GW Micro, Inc., according
to Dr. Lee Hamilton, president and CEO of Freedom Scientific.
“Freedom Scientific invests more in research and development than any other company
in the blindness technology industry,” said Dr. Hamilton. “We have a talented, experienced
team of developers and testers, many of whom are blind themselves. They develop innovative
solutions to the access issues faced by those with vision impairments and then turn
those ideas into products that make a difference. Along the way, Freedom Scientific
files patents to protect the investment it makes in developing new technologies.”
Freedom Scientific follows the standard business practice of filing patents for good
reason. Not filing for and then enforcing patents would stifle innovation. If Freedom
invests resources into developing new technologies only to find that other companies
can benefit from our investment at no charge to them, then there would be no incentive
to invest. Those with vision impairments would be the poorer for that in terms of
independence and employability.
This practice is by no means new in this industry. Freedom Scientific itself already
pays for the use of patented technologies pertaining specifically to assistive technology.
There you have the press release. At present this lawsuit remains at the preliminary
stages of litigation. The parties have not yet even commenced discovery. Motions
from both parties have been filed in a battle to determine the federal venue in which
this case will be tried. GW Micro would like the case moved to the federal district
court in Indiana; Freedom Scientific continues to urge that the case be tried in
the federal courts in Florida.
We will report further developments in this case as they emerge. In the meanwhile
it will be for consumers to draw their own inferences and conclusions about the ethical
and legal positions that Freedom Scientific and GW Micro have espoused and adopted
in this case. Is GW Micro being subject to legal bullying tactics from a larger and
more powerful player in the blindness access-technology field? Is Freedom Scientific
genuinely working to champion the cause of creativity and innovation for the long-term
benefit of blind consumers by suing its primary competitor in the screen-reading
software industry for infringement of its patents? Only time will tell.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Dear Victor Reader Stream Friends:
The Victor Reader Stream, the world acclaimed accessible audio player, welcomes 2009 with a new download resource page and new software releases.
The first month of 2009 is almost complete and we want to bring you the latest news regarding Victor Reader Stream.
Firstly, a new resource page for finding download content for your Stream is now available on the Stream product and support pages.
Many of you have told us that the Internet is so vast it is difficult to know where to begin looking for content that you can download and enjoy on your Stream. To help you get started we have compiled a web page of sample Internet sources for digital books, music, podcasts as well as information about DAISY libraries. The new download resource page can be found at:
Here you will find sections for English, French, and German download sources as well as links to DAISY libraries.
We are also pleased to inform you that we are busy working on new software releases for both the Stream and Stream Companion. As we near the completion of these projects we will be able to confirm the new features and release date for these free software upgrades.
So stay tuned to this Stream Newswire as we will soon be able to tell you about new and fun ways to use your Stream.
Thank you ,
The HumanWare Team
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
From: Serotek Announcements [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 12:15 PM
Subject: Serotek to Launch Online Radio Station
Please do not reply to this message. If you don't wish to receive any more Serotek announcements, activate the link at the end of this message.
For Immediate Release
Technical Contact :
Serotek to Launch Online Radio Station
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn - January 27, 2009 - Serotek Corporation, the leading provider of internet and digital information accessibility software and services, will launch a new online radio station this week. The station is called SAMNet Radio and can be heard from http://radio.samobile.net. The name of the station is derived from Serotek's online community, the System Access Mobile Network, or SAMNet. SAMNet Radio will air the best music of the last 40 years, the latest technology news, live and interactive voice chats, and a portal for all to know what is happening in the SAMNet community. Directed at an audience who is blind or has low vision, SAMNet Radio's slogan is "Your station, your community." The station's manager is Michael Lauf, former creator, host and producer of HandiTalk, the first interactive internet radio program to discuss the needs of the blind and visually impaired. "I'm excited to oversee a radio station that specializes in the needs and interests of the visually impaired community," said Michael Lauf, SAMNet Radio station manager, "The combination of music, home-grown podcasts, access technology news and interviews, and interactive talk shows, all on one radio station, will make us like no other entity in the world." The inaugural broadcast will stream live on Wednesday, January 28, from the Internet Café of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) annual conference in Orlando, Florida. Those unable to attend ATIA can hear what is happening at the event and stay abreast of news announced at the show. Reactions to the first broadcast will also be discussed during the next installment of Serotalk, Serotek's podcast and interactive blog. For more information about Serotalk, visit http://www.serotalk.com. To add the RSS feed for Serotalk to your web browser, news reader or podcatcher, visit http://serotalk.c! om/feed< /a>.
Serotek Corporation is a leading technology company that develops software and manufactures accessibility solutions under the System Access brand. Committed to the mission of providing accessibility anywhere, Serotek began with the launch of the first online community specifically designed to meet the needs of people with visual impairment. Since then, Serotek has introduced several powerful, affordable solutions that require minimal training and investment. For more information, visit www.serotek.com.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009