Freedom Scientific’s Secure and Compatible Braille Display Initiative
Freedom Scientific is committed to providing our JAWS customers with seamless access to refreshable Braille displays. We are also committed to the expansion and support of Braille Literacy. That is why a few months ago, Freedom Scientific announced the Secure and Compatible Braille Display Initiative. The goal of this program is to improve the user experience for JAWS® for Windows® customers regardless of whose Braille display they use. Under this program, Freedom Scientific will test Braille displays to ensure compatibility with JAWS and then digitally sign the driver. Starting with the JAWS 11 release, only drivers that have been digitally signed by Freedom Scientific will work with JAWS.
Freedom Scientific has already signed all 32-bit Braille drivers that have been historically included with JAWS, and these drivers will continue to be included with JAWS. However, all Braille display manufacturers will need to develop new 64-bit drivers to support 64-bit Microsoft Windows. If you have a question about the status of a driver for your display, call Freedom Scientific Technical Support or the manufacturer of your Braille display.
The program provides a driver development kit for third party Braille display manufacturers and a test suite that Freedom Scientific will use to ensure compatibility of the driver and its installer with JAWS before digitally signing the driver. This new driver development kit is easy to use, and it typically takes only a few weeks for a manufacturer to develop and test a new driver.
This is an open program and we hope all Braille display manufacturers will participate. The cost of the program is $9,000 for the first year which includes technical support and testing of the Braille displays. After the first year, the cost is $5,000 per year to cover Braille display compatibility testing with new releases of JAWS. These costs are very reasonable and Braille display manufacturers will recover them several fold in reduced customer support costs.
Braille display manufacturers that wish to participate should send an e-mail to: email@example.com.
Question: Given the benefits, low cost, and ease of participation, why am I still waiting for a driver from my Braille display manufacturer?
Answer: Many manufacturers are developing drivers using the new driver development kit. See Participating Braille Display Manufacturers below. A few have chosen not to sign up because they think they can gain a competitive advantage over Freedom Scientific by attacking the program…these few have taken this approach even though it hurts customers that have purchased their Braille displays.
Question: If Freedom Scientific can sign the existing drivers that work in 32-bit, why can't they sign them to include in 64-bit?
Answer: Freedom Scientific does not have the source code for these third-party drivers, so it cannot create a 64-bit version. More importantly, Freedom Scientific has created an updated driver model for 64-bit which is more responsive, supports more Braille display features, and is faster to implement. Since Braille display manufacturers would need to develop a new 64-bit driver anyway, this was the natural time to transition to the updated driver model.
Question: If a Braille display manufacturer develops a new signed driver, will customers have to wait for the next JAWS upgrade to use this new driver?
Answer: No. As soon as the driver is signed, the manufacturer can post it on their Web site for download.
The following Braille display manufacturers are developing secure and compatible drivers for their Braille displays. Check their Web sites or contact them for more information.
American Printing House for the Blind
BAUM Retec AG
hedo Reha-Technik GmbH
KGS (Extra Corp – Japan)
Optelec Tieman Group
Seika (Tsinghua Star Inc.)