Thursday, May 8, 2008

Serving More People, Better, And For Less

“The baby boomers are coming! The baby boomers are coming!” You can hear the cry ringing out in agencies and organizations that work with blind and low vision people throughout the country. And, just when they need more money and resources to deal with the influx of newly blind seniors, the Federal and state governments, feeling the crunch of a poor economy and a raging Federal deficit, are scaling back. Our brave, blind services militia is standing exposed, running out of ammunition, and seeing the hoard descending upon them. Wise people know that if this first line of defense fails and cannot contain the influx of newly blind seniors helping the majority of them to live independently with a high quality of life, society will feel the impact several times over with Medicare and Medicaid costs soaring and a huge demand society cannot fill for specialized housing, transportation, personal attendants, and more.

You might think that the adaptive technology industry and the vendors who have, for years, made a healthy profit selling traditional screen readers, hardware, and services to this community, would now step up to the plate and help the home team meet the challenge. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. So far it looks as if traditional screen reader vendors will simply sit back and profiteer with little concern for the social impact of failure.

Guerrilla Tactics

When conventional forces cannot prevail the only option is to use guerrilla tactics. Fortunately guerrilla tactics are what Serotek knows best. And we’ve created the tools our blind services militia can use to reach out to more people, provide them with an almost instant ability to live independently, and do it even as budgets are being squeezed.

First, Serotek has given the home team an unlimited supply of free accessibility software. That’s right. System Access To Go (SAToGo) is Serotek’s award-winning access tool available at no charge to anyone connected to the Internet. Compare that to licenses costing $1,000 or more from traditional vendors. How many more customers can you serve on your budget? As many as you can introduce to SAToGo – that’s how many. Your organization doesn’t need to spend scarce resources buying software and maintenance licenses for your clientele.

Not everyone will want to use an Internet-based accessibility tool For those who want the software resident on their machine and want the ability to interact between their home and work computers you can point them to Serotek’s software as a service offering (SAS). For less than $25 per month they can have it all: System Access Mobile, NEO speech, and four years of System Access Mobile Network. This is a cost within almost anyone’s budget (less than a cup of coffee per day).

Even with free software, though, your agencies resources will be taxed to the max. How can you physically serve the number of people who will be begging for help in the coming decade? The answer is Remote Incident Manager (RIM). RIM is Serotek’s powerful distance learning tool. Your trainers can work from the office or from home directly contacting clients at home. RIM allows the trainer and client to share the client’s “desktop.” The trainer can adjust the client’s computer, if necessary and then either using a separate voice line or Voice over Internet Protocol, teach the application in a hands-on fashion. Everything the client sees, the trainer sees. The trainer can intervene as necessary, point out errors, and gently steer the client to right process. Any application can be trained remotely including those overweight, overpriced conventional screen readers that some people insist they need.

Does it work? Joe Devine said, “In my experience, the one hour a week [remote] session was a more effective and efficient use of the instructor’s time. I was able to progress much more rapidly than in the three hour classroom session. My proficiency has greatly improved. I am happy and relieved to have improved enough to be functional on my computer.”

How about System Access? Can it handle real screen reader duties? Larry Klug of Clovernook in Cincinnati reports: “I am proud to announce that my consumer Jim Keller, who uses System Access, received the Blind Employee of the Year award last Friday at the annual Clovernook Center for the Blind Annual Banquet.”

And we just heard from a user who walked into a job interview at a company where the systems were not accessible. She accessed SAToGo, demonstrated that she could do the work, and got the job.

The fact is that thousands of users are now looking to System Access and System Access to Go for at least some of their accessibility needs. Major institutions, like Ohio State University, are making their entire network accessible using Serotek’s enterprise solutions.

If you are sitting in a state blind services organization or a vocational rehabilitation training facility and wondering how you are going to survive this imminent crush of baby boomer demand, look no further. The Serotek team is on your side with solutions that work, that are far less costly, and that allow you to do so much more with the precious resources you have.

You see, at Serotek we view the challenge differently. Conventional AT players see accessibility as their only opportunity to make money from blind folks and the current government subsidized software approach works just fine for them. But Serotek sees the opportunity as selling fun, digital lifestyle products to people who already have accessibility. And that means anything we can do to increase the number of people with accessibility makes our opportunity grow. You may be groaning when you see the hoard of newly blind seniors on your doorstep. We’re licking our chops. As soon as we can help you get these folks online, we can reach out and sell them devices that will improve their quality of life ten-fold. Your success is our opportunity.

And together we can make it happen.

3 comments:

Will Pearson said...

Hi,

It's pretty neat that OSU are using your products considering that they once employed a professor called Dr. Lee Hamilton in their EE department. I bet you had a big grin on your face when you got OSU and Hamilton's bunch didn't.

I still think there is a lot that System Access could do that it currently doesn't. There are UI concepts that could reduce the amount of training that people need in order to use a screen reader, and the same concepts would also lead to users who were more efficient. The gains aren't just in terms of ease of use and efficiency but the same concepts would mean that keyboard accessibility problems and problems with AJAX web pages would disappear overnight. As problems disappear then hopefully more things would be accessible without the intervention of accessibility consultants or without the need for application developers to introduce anything special to facilitate accessibility.

Will

Mike Calvo said...

Hello Will:
Here at Serotek we have never been afraid to push the envelope. While I don't believe that any access technology, including ours, is perfect at everything. I do believe that Serotek's products handle today's evolving software programs better than just about any other AT solution available. This isn't what I say, it's what's stated in review after review and awards I have been humbled to received on behalf of a group of "out of the box thinkers."

YOu stated "I still think there is a lot that System Access could do that it currently doesn't. There are UI concepts that could reduce the amount of training that people need in order to use a screen reader," Keeping in mind that we are never afraid to try a new thing, why don't you submit a private or even public analysis of SA and give us some suggestions as to what we could do to enhance our product. YOu may even want to take advantage of our free trial and take part in our, really active, user's forum. I think that if you get involved as an active part of the SA community, you will have much to offer that can ultimately contribute to a better product for all.

As far as your comment about OSU, I don't have nor have I ever had, any knowledge of past OSU staff. They ar a customer and OSU's money is as welcome as any other's. Smile. We smile when ever a purchase is made. I can't think of one time that we have ever received money that I haven't smiled when I heard about it.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone doing work to inform boomers about how to prevent blindness? Are there any techniques they should know?

I write a blog for boomer consumers called The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com
.

Rita