Feature Writer John Christie – Freedom Scientific Lowers Prices on Popular Products

Freedom Scientific is lowering their prices on the Pac Mate and the Braille displays that go with them. However, are these prices low enough so that the average person can afford them? Freedom Scientific says that more people will be able to afford these devices. Will you be one of them? Read on and see.

On October 27, Freedom Scientific announced a $500 and $1,005 reduction on their Pac Mate notetakers and the Braille displays that go with them. The Pac Mate Omni with speech now only costs $995. It previously cost $1,495. The Pac Mate Omni with twenty cells of braille costs (Don’t have a heart attack now) $2,390. This was formerly $2,895. The Pac Mate Omni with 40 cells of Braille costs $3,690. It was formerly $4,695.

The Braille Display prices are lower but still out of reach for the average person as well as the notetakers. Freedom scientific claims that a speech-only Pac Mate is less than half the price that competitors charge. Freedom Scientific is charging 40 percent less for a 40 cell braille display than what their competitors charge for a 32 cell braille display.

The Pac Mate is based on The Microsoft Windows mobile operating system and runs the Microsoft suite of products. This includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. Because this notetaker runs products from Microsoft, the blind person can share their work with their sighted peers. “A notetaker is a huge productivity tool for a blind person – one that is critical in leveling the playing field for educational and employment opportunities,” states Dr. Lee Hamilton, President and CEO of Freedom Scientific. “Unfortunately, notetakers and Braille displays have always been expensive, which has meant that not everyone could get one. Freedom Scientific wants to provide opportunity to as many blind people as possible by making this key assistive technology more widely available.” However, their attempts in making these products widely available has failed because most blind people don’t have that kind of money. In addition, many of them are not working. For those who have the Pac Mate and braille display, it can make learning braille and using it easier. The Pac Mate also has a Braille tutor which speaks when the user runs in to an unfamiliar symbol. You also put hundreds of books on to a memory card or thumb drive as well. Freedom Scientific also claims that their Braille displays are the most reliable in the industry.

The Braille displays and notetakers that Freedom Scientific manufactures are still out of the reach of most blind people. The only way that they may obtain these devices might be through Rehab. Other than that, most blind people won’t be able to afford these devices. It’s certainly an improvement, but I’m not sure it goes far enough. What do you think?
Source: http://www.freedomscientific.com/news/pressroom/2011/PACMate-price-reduction.asp

One Comments

  1. I cannot imagine wanting a PAC Mate and I led the software team that invented the thing. At FS back then, many of the hardware requirements were defined by software people like Glen Gordon and I. Along with Eric Damery and Tobias Winnes, also software guys, we pushed hard for a removable braille display. The result was the biggest and heaviest notetaker on the market.

    As far as I see things today, though, is that any blink who doesn’t choose an iPhone 4S with any number of Blue Tooth braille displays and keyboards completely confounds me. You get the flexibility we hoped to design into PAC Mate as you can choose when to bring a keyboard or display with you or not while getting many, many more accessible apps than the PAC Mate has ever known. To boot, the apps are cheaper and Windows Mobile is going away so no one is developing for it anymore.

    The PAC Mate braille displays are a good product at a good price but, without blue tooth, I won’t be going with them either.