March 2007 Issue  Volume 8  Number 2

Access Issues

Are We Ready for Vista?

With all the hoopla about Microsoft's release of Vista, its new Windows operating system, on January 30, 2007, AccessWorld readers may have been wondering how long they would have to wait to be able to have access to this long-promised product. The good news for most screen reader users is, you don't have to wait at all.

Vista Versions

According to PC World magazine, Dell and Gateway began selling Vista-based PCs on January 30. Other companies will offer Windows XP as long as supplies last. There are five versions of Vista. According to Microsoft's web site, these are:

  • Vista Ultimate: The most complete edition; provides the power, security, and mobility features needed for work and all the entertainment features that you want for fun.
  • Home Premium: An edition for home desktop and mobile PCs.
  • Home Basic: Designed for homes with basic computing needs, such as e-mail, browsing the Internet, and viewing photos.
  • Business: Designed specifically to meet the needs of small businesses.
  • Enterprise: Designed to meet the needs of large, global organizations with complex information technology infrastructures.

After Microsoft released Windows XP in October, 2001, it took a few months for screen readers and screen magnifiers that worked with XP to be released. This time, some companies are ready with public beta versions of their products at the same time that Microsoft releases Vista. Here is a rundown of when you can expect screen readers and screen magnifiers that work with Vista to be available.


On January 11, Serotek Corporation announced that FreedomBox and Key to Freedom with System Access software were now integrated with Microsoft Windows Vista and available for download. Any current FreedomBox user or anyone with Vista can download the software from the company's web site <>.


GW Micro released a public beta of Window-Eyes 6.1 on January 30. The beta works with Vista, and can be used as demonstration software by any Vista user, regardless of whether they currently own Window-Eyes. The release date for a final version depends on how the beta-test goes. According to Doug Geoffray of GW Micro, "The biggest problem we have so far is the lack of Vista users to test Window-Eyes." Other companies mentioned a problem with finding testers as well.

Window-Eyes 6.0 users can get the 6.1 upgrade for free. GW Micro will provide a downloadable upgrade file on their web site. This can be used for Windows 2000 and XP. However, if you want to use Vista, you will need a full installation, requiring the company to send a Window-Eyes 6.1 CD. The only charge for the upgrade will be a small fee, probably $5.

Doug Geoffray says: "Vista has been a challenge, but, I believe in the end it will offer many benefits over XP. Vista has allowed us better access to information. The new Ease-of-Access features in Vista allow us to better support loading on secure web pages and reading information displayed on secure desktops, such as the Consent dialog.

"Microsoft is continuing to add more MSAA [Microsoft Active Accessibility] support to applications that ship with Vista. Perhaps the largest benefit of Vista is its new level of security. We'll continue to work with Microsoft to enhance Vista even more on the accessibility level."

JAWS for Windows

Freedom Scientific is planning to release a version of JAWS that will work with Vista by mid-February. This update will work for everyone using JAWS 8.0 and windows XP or Windows 2000. It will be a free update for all JAWS 8.0 customers who intend to use it on Windows XP and 2000. For JAWS 8.0 users who intend to buy Vista, Freedom Scientific will ask that they all participate in the JAWS software maintenance agreement (SMA) program to ensure that their JAWS 8.0 license will authorize in Vista. Those users will still receive the next SMA upgrades as expected, so this does not mean that installing in Vista will result in losing an SMA.


Ai Squared plans to release a public beta of ZoomText 9.1 during the second week of February. The final release is planned for late March or early April. ZoomText 9.1 will be a minor upgrade for owners of ZoomText 9.0. For this group, the upgrade price for ZoomText Magnifier will be $75. The upgrade for ZoomText Magnifier/Reader will be $99. Users of ZoomText 8.1 and earlier can upgrade their ZoomText Magnifier product for $149, or their ZoomText Magnifier/Reader product for $199.

Hal and Supernova

Dolphin Computer Access currently plans to release a version of Hal and Supernova that is compatible with Vista sometime in the second quarter of 2007. This version 8.0 will be a free upgrade for anyone who buys 7.03 after January 31, 2007. Hal users can expect access to Vista that is very similar to access provided to Windows XP.

Assistive technology companies have put a lot of hard work into their development of products that work with Vista. It is extremely encouraging to be able to inform you about products that are ready just as Vista is released. This is a welcome change from the delays when Windows XP was released, not to mention the battles that many of you remember following the release of Windows 95. AccessWorld will feature much more coverage of access to Vista in future issues.

Related Articles

How Accessible Is Windows XP? by Joseph Lazzaro

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