Op Ed with Bob Branco – Slow Down, the Blind Need to Catch Up!

I have become a very active Facebook user. Thanks to a thoughtful lady in the Midwest who taught me over the telephone, I know how to find all recent Facebook postings, access group pages, look up other profiles which are publically available, send private messages, and post and share status updates. I currently navigate through Facebook using Mozilla Firefox 18.2, Jaws 8, and Windows XP.

Two days ago, the Facebook administrators decided to change the process, making it extremely difficult for me to update and share and post my status reports with my current software. I was told to upgrade Jaws. However, in my case, the upgrade of Jaws comes with a tremendous penalty–I would have to get a new computer which will not have Windows XP and Outlook Express, because those two programs will no longer be supported. If I lose Outlook Express and Windows XP, it is believed any replacements, such as GMail or Windows 7 won’t be as accessible. So, I find that I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.

It is believed by many blind people, and those in the field of technical support, that the software manufacturers who continue to update their product at a fast pace have little or no regard for how their products benefit the blind. The blind try like heck to prove they can compete on equal terms with the sighted, yet now there is a new obstacle in their path–the rapid changing of high technology. I think I speak for most blind computer users when I express total satisfaction with Outlook Express and Windows XP, because they serve my purpose and I know them well. Currently, I run two nonprofit corporations, and a total software upgrade or replacement may potentially result in temporary disaster. Facebook is only the tip of the iceberg for me.

With all that said, I don’t pretend to know a whole lot about this subject. I only have knowledge based on my own personal experience and from what others tell me. Therefore, I am open to any suggestions as to how I can resolve my issues, as well as what we can do to work more closely with software manufacturers to make sure that the blind don’t fall behind with these rapid product modifications.

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