RE: Principles That Should Govern the Purchase of Screen-Access Technology for Vocational Rehabilitation Clients
WHEREAS, on January 14, 2014, GW Micro Inc., the maker of the well-known Window-Eyes screen-access program, issued a press release announcing that GW Micro Inc. and Microsoft Corporation had "partnered to make Window-Eyes available to users of Microsoft Office at no cost”; and according to the press release, this "global initiative," available in over fifteen languages, will "enable anyone using Microsoft Office 2010 or later also to use Window-Eyes free"; and
WHEREAS, the sophisticated screen-access technology used by the blind to compete in school and at work has typically cost around a thousand dollars per copy; and
WHEREAS, for blind vocational rehabilitation clients this high cost has usually been covered by the state vocational rehabilitation agency serving the blind in the state where the client resides; and
WHEREAS, although it is true that Window-Eyes is a powerful screen-access program that has enabled thousands of blind people to use Windows and Windows programs independently, and although GW Micro Inc. is a well-established company with a positive reputation among the blind, it is equally true that other screen-access programs (including JAWS for Windows, System Access, and Guide), which are not offered free of charge and which cost several hundred dollars, offer the best solution in specific cases and for specific individuals; and
WHEREAS, for governmental organizations struggling to obtain adequate funding, the ability to acquire Window-Eyes at no cost is a powerful incentive for them to compel individual clients to accept the free Window-Eyes even though, in specific situations, a costlier screen access program would result in greater productivity, success, and independence; and
WHEREAS, another factor to consider is that users of the free version of Window-Eyes must pay for technical support from GW Micro Inc. while users of more expensive screen-access programs (including users of the full-priced version of Window-Eyes) receive technical support at no extra charge: NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona in Convention assembled this fourteenth day of September, 2014, in the City of Tempe, Arizona, that this organization urge the Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration/Vocational rehabilitation which serves the blind in Arizona to incorporate the following principles in their policies for determining which screen access software counselors and supervisors purchase on behalf of specific clients: (1) decisions must be based on which software most effectively meets the access requirements of each individual client; (2) decisions must not be based solely on cost; (3) each client’s knowledge and experience with specific software must govern the decision, avoiding the need for the client to learn a completely new program; and (4) the decision must incorporate the principle of informed choice, a key principle in the federal Rehabilitation Act.