Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Top 11 Stories of 2009: 3. The Signed Braille Driver Controversy

We're almost through our year-end look at the most influencial, ground-breaking, or otherwise important stories of 2009. In addition to our own staff, we consulted with some industry experts including ACB Radio Main Menu's Jamie Pauls, the Blind Geek Zone's Rick Harmon, Ranger from the Ranger Station Blog, and the Fred's Head Companion's Michael McCarty to help create our list. We'll present one item every day through New Year's day, when we'll reach number 1. Today, Rick Harmin, from the Blind Geek Zone blog and podcast, provides commentary and his opinion on our number 3 story, the most controversial story of the year. You can hear more from Rick when we count down the top 11 live along with Jamie Pauls on Main Menu, Friday night at 8 PM Eastern on ACB Radio Mainstream.

Late this summer, Freedom Scientific, the makers of Jaws, the pacmate, the focus and
focus blue Braille displays and other hardware and software items for blind and low
vision users, announced it's Secure and Compatible Braille Display Initiative. Basically
what this is, is a requirement that all 64 bit Braille drivers and some 32 bit drivers
being created by various companies out there would have to purchase a SDK from FS
for the sum of $9000 initially and $5000 for each additional year. FS claims this
is being done in order to make sure all Braille display drivers are safe and fully
compatible with Jaws 11 and later.
My problem with this is that FS for one thing is a Braille display manufacture and
shouldn't really be requiring other Braille manufacturers to have to bow to their
demands. Another problem is that the amount of money is totally out of line. Microsoft
charges companies $250 to have a driver signed and $250 for each additional change.
SO $9000 is insane in my opinion and amounts to nothing more than extortion of their
Next, Freedom Scientific doesn't sign their mirror drivers and other files in Jaws. So my question
to them is why are you requiring others to do this when you have yet to do it yourself?
Freedom Scientific hasn't answered this question yet.

Ranger adds: Look up the definition of Fear, Unknown and Doubt sometime. I bet it mentions this story somewhere. Freedom Scientific wishes to treat JAWS as a platform similar to that of iTunes. In a walled garden one can control hardware and software. Problem is that the Windows ecosystem doesn’t lend its self to that. Nor do people who drop thousands of dollars on a Braille Display are likely to go and do it again just to have compatibility with one program. That would be like Ford telling you that your new Mustang can only use Exxon gas and no other. This issue will continue throughout 2010 and beyond.

The controversy surrounding this program gives it the number three spot on our list.
View more of the Blind Bargains Top 11 Stories of 2009 Source: Go to source
Category: Articles

Displaying 1 comment.
darknexus Friday, 01-Jan-2010 05:34 AM ET:

I'm pretty sure this would fall under a textbook example of anti-trust violation if it were taken to the courts. It wouldn't, though it would still be extortion, if not for the one all important fact here: FS also makes Braille displays. That, right there, would put it in clear violation of anti-trust at least as I understand it. If not for that, it would still be ridiculous and contravertial and very typical of FS, but they wouldn't actually be doing anything illegal. You can't use one monopoly to try and force your monopoly into another market, and that is exactly what FS is doing here: trying to force their monopoly on Windows screen readers into giving them a monopoly on Braille displays as well, and trying to essentially manipulate the price of other displays along with it. They're guessing, and probably correctly so, that this extra cost will be passed on to the consumer (that being us), driving the price of other displays even higher so as to make their offerings look more attractive than they otherwise would.

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.

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