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November - December 2007 - Volume 6 Issue 4 - @Freedom Scientific Newsletter

@Freedom Scientific is a free newsletter packed with the latest information about Freedom Scientific technology. Please feel free to send us your feedback.

  1. The PAC Mate Omni™ is Now Shipping
  2. Driven to Help Others: Nancy Stevens Shares Her Success
  3. JAWS® 9.0 Delivers
  4. A Fun-Filled Literacy Competition for Students
  5. Professor Realizes Success with WYNN™
  6. News to Use and Enjoy
  7. From the Training Department

The PAC Mate Omni is Now Shipping

The PAC Mate Omni is now shipping to customers! The demand for upgrades to the new PAC Mate Omni is expected to be high, therefore Freedom Scientific has set up a “reservation” process so that upgrade orders can be processed in the most timely and efficient manner.

“Providing users with a definite upgrade date will minimize the time that any PAC Mate user will be without their unit,” said PAC Mate Product Manager Ron Miller. “We realize the PAC Mate is an important tool for users, and this process removes guesswork and reduces the waiting time between when the unit is shipped to us and then returned to you. This is a first come, first served reservations process, so we strongly encourage users to plan ahead and reserve their upgrade as soon as possible.”

To reserve your place in the upgrade queue, simply complete the online PAC Mate Omni Upgrade Form. Once your completed form has been received you will be contacted — by the end of the next business day — with an RMA (returned materials authorization) number and the date reserved for your PAC Mate upgrade. Be sure to send your PAC Mate (without its braille display or other accessories) to Freedom Scientific so that it arrives prior to the upgrade date. Please note that you can use your PAC Mate Portable Braille Display with JAWS on your computer while your upgrade is being completed. Freedom Scientific’s goal is to ship back all upgraded units no later than five days after the scheduled upgrade date. When returned to users, the package will include an information-packed audio CD entitled “Introduction to PAC Mate Omni” featuring Jonathan Mosen.

Important information about the details of the upgrade process can be found on the New PAC Mate Omni upgrade page. This page includes information about upgrade pricing, special considerations, battery replacement, and saving your data, and will link you to the Upgrade Form.

Customers outside the United States and Canada should contact their dealer to coordinate their upgrade.

If your battery is two years old or older you may also wish to take advantage of the special pricing to get a brand new battery for only $125 while your PAC Mate is with us for the upgrade.

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Driven to Help Others: Nancy Stevens Shares Her Success

To say that Nancy Stevens is “driven,” is the epitome of understatements.

“It’s one thing to have the inner ‘want to,’” says Nancy, “but desire alone is rarely enough. We all need facilitators, helpers if you will, that enable us along the way. For me, in my journey to the person I am today, two major facilitators have been JAWS and my PAC Mate.”

As for the person she is today, Nancy is someone who dreams big and then makes those dreams come true. Nancy, blind since birth, is:

In her “spare time” Nancy has participated in rapid-water kayaking, rock climbing, hang gliding, and even some cliff diving in Hawaii. She also is an accomplished musician with a CD entitled “And I Will Sing Every Day of My Life.”

In spite of all she’s accomplished, and all she yet expects to accomplish, one of the most important things to Nancy Stevens is helping others. Helping them overcome fear, helping them reach new heights, helping them help themselves. On her Web site, NancySpeaks.com, she details her efforts to help people turn thoughts of “I wish I had,” into statements of “I’m glad I did.”

“There is very little in life we do without the assistance of other people or things,” said Nancy. “I have been so fortunate to have the support of family, neighbors, sponsors, my sighted race partners, guide dogs, etc. After fulfilling a dream by participating in the Nagano Paralympics, I found myself asking ‘What’s next?’ That’s when I realized I needed help again.”

When it came time to pursue a new career, Nancy discovered that her past experience with DOS-based computers had not prepared her for the new computer-driven business environment. “I realized I needed to catch up to the rest of world in terms of my computer acumen,” said Nancy. “So I got my first copy of JAWS and set about teaching myself how to take full advantage of a computer. At first, all the different applications gave me fits and the Internet was an even bigger mystery. But thanks to JAWS, I soon became proficient and more employable. The skills I learned with JAWS led to a position with the Social Security Administration where I worked with people who had disabilities and were in need of training and support. It was there that the foundation for wanting to help other people was firmly established.”

As for her PAC Mate, “I probably use it too much,” Nancy said. “I mean, I can’t function without it, it’s my brain. I love being able to correspond with friends and family anywhere in the world. As hectic as my life sometimes gets, my PAC Mate keeps me organized, on task, focused, and, most importantly, on the move. For all that it does, it’s so compact, enabling me to take it anywhere and everywhere — and, believe me, I do!”

Nancy’s efforts to help others reached a new level last April when she organized and hosted the inaugural Tri-It Triathlon Camp in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. With the assistance of the Roaring Fork’s Women’s Triathlon Team and a grant from the Women’s Triathlon Commission, Nancy fulfilled a long-time desire to create a developmental camp where both blind athletes and sighted guides could learn the techniques necessary to compete in triathlons. “The camp was all about learning to work in partnerships and relying on others to help you on your journey,” said Nancy. “Watching each of the participants grow in confidence, take bold steps, and trust in one another was tremendous.”

In fact, in a year when she won another gold medal, retained her world record in the triathlon, saw her speaking career blossom, and reached many personal goals, the success of the Tri-It camp remains the highlight. The next camp has been tentatively scheduled for April 17 – 20, 2008. For information about the camp, along with comments from some of last year’s participants, go to Tri-It Camp.

“To me,” said Nancy, “the tandem bike is very symbolic. Whatever I’ve accomplished, it’s because there were people willing to work with me and guide me. When you ski you rely on your guide to call out the turns; when you run you are attached to a guide by a tether; when you swim you are attached by a Bungee cord; when you bike you need to use the tandem bike in unison, as a team, to maximize the effect of your mutual effort. These endeavors make me appreciate the links that bring people together. Reinforcing these links is what I try to help other people do.

“I’m very thankful for the many tools Freedom Scientific develops to help people overcome obstacles. For me, personally, I’d never be where I am today — active, independent, and loving life — if it were not for JAWS and my PAC Mate. With them, all things are within my reach.”

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JAWS 9.0 Delivers

JAWS user Mark Martin’s job involves braille embossing route schedules for a suburban bus company. Prior to the release of JAWS 9.0 he had to go through a tedious process of accessing and reformatting individual schedules because he could not create a Microsoft Excel® spreadsheet directly from the company Web site. This meant pulling others away from their jobs and, at times, a good deal of delay in turning schedules around. But now, because JAWS 9.0 retains original formatting, he can readily and easily paste the requested schedules onto a spreadsheet without delay or the need to reformat them.

“This has not only saved me time and frustration, but I know the people I work with appreciate the fact that I can do my job with greater speed, accuracy, and independence,” said Mark. “Thanks very much for this terrific new feature in JAWS 9.0, as well as all the other new enhancements.”

“Feedback like this is why we continually work to address the evolving functionality of computers and computer applications in our new product releases and upgrades,” said Eric Damery, Vice President for Software Product Management. “All computer users want ever-enhanced ease of use, productivity, and efficiency. That’s why with each new version of our products we try to anticipate and address new functionalities that may be needed by our users. We want our customers to maximize their computing experiences whether they are at work, at school, or at home.”

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A Fun-Filled Literacy Competition for Students

While conducting a recent JAWS training session at the Chicago Lighthouse, Dan Clark, Freedom Scientific’s Training and Tutorial Developer, learned about a fun, educational competition being hosted by the Illinois Instructional Materials Center and the Lighthouse. The event is a part of The Braille Challenge™, a national reading and writing contest in braille literacy skills. The Illinois Regional Braille Challenge will be held on February 23, 2008. Similar regional competitions will be held throughout the United States and Canada between January and mid-March, 2008.

The event is a two-stage academic competition designed to encourage students in Grades 1 through 12 to strengthen their reading and writing skills in this important communications medium. The contest is divided into five academic tiers, reflecting grade levels. At the Apprentice level (Grades 1 and 2) and Freshman level (Grades 3 and 4) contestants will be judged on spelling, reading speed and comprehension, and proofreading skills. The Sophomore level (Grades 5 and 6) will compete in each of the same skills in addition to a category for speed and accuracy. The Junior Varsity level (Grades 7 – 9) and Varsity level (Grades 10 - 12) will compete in each of the aforementioned categories in addition to demonstrating their skills in working with charts and graphs.

Go to www.brailleinstitute.org to get complete registration details, a listing of all of the regional event locations and dates, and to access downloadable practice materials to help students prepare for the event.

“This daylong event will be a wonderful opportunity for students and their families to participate in literacy activities and meet other braille readers,” said Barbara Perkis, Director of the Illinois Instructional Materials Center. “We are very pleased to host this important event, and we encourage all students who read braille throughout the country to find the competition nearest to them and take part. Last year more than 450 students participated. They used the competition as a means of improving their braille skills, and they had a great time doing it.”

Not only do the regional winners get prizes and the satisfaction of their achievement, the top 60 performers from the regional competitions will be invited to Los Angeles in June to compete in The Braille Challenge Finals for an opportunity to test themselves against the best of the best.

“As a trainer, it really struck me how valuable events like this can be in fostering this important skill set,” said Dan. “Being skilled in the use of braille gives students a real leg up toward their future successes in school and beyond. Effective communication is an important foundation upon which achievements are built.”

Freedom Scientific is a long-time sponsor of The Braille Challenge and wishes all the students participating the best of luck.

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Professor Realizes Success with WYNN

Janet Haynes has a doctorate degree in Education. Dr Haynes also has a learning exceptionality that she was not fully aware of until she was in graduate school. In addition, Dr. Haynes has four children with learning exceptionalities, so overcoming barriers to learning is very important to her.

Despite a record of academic success throughout her formal education, once Dr. Haynes pursued her Ph.D., she could no longer shake the feeling that she was unable to learn in the same ways or as efficiently as her fellow students. It was a feeling she had for several years but dismissed due to her excellent grades throughout school, up to and including her undergraduate studies.

While a notetaker device proved helpful, it was not the complete answer to overcoming her learning challenge which involved an inability to effectively translate auditory information into written words. After struggling to keep up with the volume of reading required in her research project, Dr. Haynes was introduced to Freedom Scientific’s WYNN literacy software as a possible solution. “WYNN did, in fact, prove to be the solution for Dr. Haynes because it provides auditory and visual messages simultaneously, making the material easier to comprehend and retain,” said Roberta Brosnahan, Vice President of Freedom Scientific’s Learning Systems Group.

“I needed a tool that would enable me to transfer written material to the computer for the purpose of online reading both visually and/or audibly,” said Dr. Haynes. “WYNN was the tool I needed.”

WYNN literacy software helped Dr. Haynes get her doctorate degree and continues to meet her needs everyday in her role as an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. The scanning ability of WYNN enables Dr. Haynes to easily organize, store, and retrieve, as needed, the large volume of research she is involved with.

“The bottom line,” Dr. Haynes said, “is that it’s not a matter of intelligence; it’s finding the educational tool that will facilitate learning. Given the right educational tools — like WYNN — people can achieve their full academic potential.”

Read more about how WYNN literacy software benefited Dr. Haynes and about her mission to raise awareness about identifying and addressing learning exceptionalities in the WYNNing Word newsletter.

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News to Use and Enjoy

Timely, useful information, combined with interesting guests who have an array of abilities, experiences, and stories to share. That’s the formula Jonathan Mosen points to in describing the essence of FSCast, the Freedom Scientific podcast he hosts.

“The program is designed to help users get the most utility from their products,” said Jonathan. “Bringing them information that facilitates that process is our main objective. Doing so in a way that enables listeners to gain insight into what other users are doing and experiencing adds to the benefit. We have fun putting these programs together, and I hope that comes across to all the listeners.”

In Edition 13 of FSCast, Jonathan visits with Vice President Brad Davis to discuss Freedom Scientific’s low vision product line. Brad demonstrates the SARA™ scanning and reading appliance and the unique features that make it a powerful solution for both blind and low vision users. Pac Mate Product Manager Ron Miller joins the discussion to talk about the process of upgrading to the PAC Mate Omni.

In case you missed it, in the November FSCast, Jonathan shared information about RSS and podcast feeds utilizing Internet Explorer® 7 and JAWS 9.0. Jonathan also visited with Mark Arnold of the U.S. Blind Golf Association (USBGA) to discuss playing golf as a blind person, the growth of the USBGA, and his experiences as a long-time user of both JAWS and MAGic®.

Remember it’s easy and there is no charge to subscribe to FSCast. With a subscription, the program is automatically delivered to your computer and is then available for you to access whenever you are ready.

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From the Training Department

JAWS 9.0 Basic Training is now posted on the Freedom Scientific Web site. In addition to specific information on the new features of JAWS 9.0, the training includes an introduction to Microsoft Office 2007 for which many users have asked. The training also touches on Excel and Microsoft Outlook®. The entire JAWS Basic Training is available in both MP3 and DAISY format on the JAWS Training Headquarters. The MP3 modules can be downloaded as a whole or as separate modules; the DAISY format is only available as a single file of about 325 MB.

“We will be posting additional training for JAWS and MAGic with Office 2007 in the future,” said Training and Tutorial Developer Dan Clark. “Once available, that new training will be announced on the Training Headquarters page. A great way for people interested in this training to become immediately aware of its availability is to subscribe to RSS feeds from the Training site.” Subscribing to RSS feeds is free and can be completed by going to RSS Training Feeds.

MAGic and JAWS Training for Windows Vista™

Links also are now posted on the Training Headquarters page to access DAISY book versions of An Introduction to Windows Vista for both MAGic and for JAWS. There are separate links for MAGic and JAWS users to ensure the training is installed to the appropriate location.

"Thanks for Sharing"

“I’ve heard it said that the best knowledge is knowledge that is shared,” wrote Anna Dresner, a publishing associate with the National Braille Press, in a recent note to the staff of the Freedom Scientific Training Department. “Thanks so much for including the very useful information about Office 2007 in your JAWS training. While I’ve been using Microsoft Word 2007 for a few months, I still learned a great deal from this training presentation.

“When it comes to enhanced productivity, sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. In this regard, the Quick Access Toolbar discussion was very helpful. Knowing that I can find the document information I need on the Quick Access Toolbar without using an absurd number of keystrokes is wonderful. The discussion on Split Buttons was also enlightening.

”I’ve been asked to write Word 2007 versions of National Braille Press books on Word, and, when I do, I will definitely include this highly-informative JAWS 9.0 training module in the resource section so that others can benefit from it as well. Thanks for putting this wonderful resource together!”

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GET A FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP TO AUDIBLE.COM

Freedom Scientific assistive technology product users – including those who use JAWS for Windows® and the PAC Mate – can get a free trial membership to Audible.com®, allowing them to sample from 34,000 hours of valuable spoken word audio. Audible.com subscribers enjoy daily audio subscriptions to national newspapers, weekly business and science magazines, and more than 6,000 audio books. To learn more, go to the Audible.com information page.


Best Wishes to All for a Safe and Happy New Year from Freedom Scientific!

Freedom Scientific's mission is to develop, manufacture, and market technology-based products that provide equal access to information and computing for those with vision impairments or learning disabilities.

@Freedom Scientific is published by
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