These days, there is so much you can do on your smartphone or tablet, like browsing the Web, staying current on the news, reading eBooks, and finding your way around an unfamiliar city. However, for now, at least, there are still any number of tasks more easily accomplished on a PC. Creating and entering data into a spread sheet is still more than a little awkward on an iPhone, for example, and though you can use a Bluetooth keyboard to compose documents, nothing beats a desktop or laptop PC to add citations, tables of contents, and print formatting to that research paper upon which a large part of your semester's grade will be determined.

Low-Cost Computers from Computers for the Blind

Users of screen access software may already be familiar with Computers for the Blind (CFTB), a Texas-based organization that refurbishes donated computers and offers them at low cost to the vision-impaired. For $130 or $185 you can purchase a fully equipped desktop or laptop, respectively.

Recently, CFTB and VFO partnered for a new free offering with their computers—an annual license from Freedom Scientific with software that comes pre-installed and provides full access to the latest versions of JAWS screen reader, ZoomText screen magnification software, or Fusion, which combines both.

The version that comes with CFTB computers is a single install home version good for one full year. However, according to VFO Vice President of Software Product Management, Eric Damery, "I'm sure that if a user who had need to install on another computer contacted us with their CFB serial number, we'd be happy to accommodate them with another key and pass them the authorization code."

Perhaps you already have a desktop PC and need a notebook for college and want to use the same screen reader on both? Or vice-versa?

When the annual subscription is going to expire for your Freedom Scientific annual license, you will have the opportunity to participate in the Freedom Scientific Home Use program and buy into the SMA program or subscription model available at that time for the home user. Current SMA prices that cover two full years of upgrades and support for the Home Editions are: JAWS, $120; ZoomText, $100; and Fusion, $200.

If you do not renew after that first year, your installed Freedom Scientific software will continue to run in 40-minute mode, requiring a restart of the computer every 40 minutes to use it again. "We encourage our users to set aside a few dollars a month to save for their SMA purchase," says CFTB's Executive Director, David Jeppson.

Full software phone and email support is included with the partnership. "All the training material we offer is also included," says Damery. "The JAWS training bundle is even installed on the computer. Essentially, this program enrolls the recipient into our Home Use program and covers the first year's cost."

Considering the full retail costs for perpetual licenses of this software are $900 to $1,200, this is the least expensive way we know of to obtain these products. Says Damery:

We are pleased this organization is working with us to make sure the experience for the end-user has the best opportunity for success. For someone who does not have access to a trainer, or a formal course where step-by-step instructions are provided, they can really benefit from CFTB setting it all up for them and helping them get started. Making sure the right access technology product is installed, authorized, and ready to go, and that training material is in place to help get them started. All of this really improves the odds the user will succeed. Our company is successful when our customers, today and in the future, are successful.

CFTB Hardware Specifications

Computers for the Blind relies on donated hardware, which they receive in a variety of brands and models. Every computer their 50+ volunteers refurbish and send out meets these minimum specifications:

  • Dual Core Processor @ 2GHz or higher
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 120GB Hard Drive
  • Windows 10 Pro - 64 Bit
Desktop Specifications
  • Blind individuals: 15-inch Monitor
  • Low vision individuals: 17-inch Monitor
  • DVD-ROM Drive (reads DVDs and CDs)
  • Keyboard, mouse, and speakers
  • Ethernet Interface
Laptop Specifications
  • Low vision individuals: 14-inch Screen
  • Integrated keyboard, mouse, and speakers (external solutions if needed)
  • WiFi adapter

Certain upgrades are also available for minimal additional costs:

  • Additional RAM (2GB, 4GB)
  • Larger hard drives
  • Larger screen Sizes
  • WIFI adapter for desktops
  • Webcam for desktops
  • External speakers for laptops

Note: Agencies are eligible for the VFO partnership offer.

How to Obtain a CFTB Computer

You can complete a brief application for a computer on the CFTB website or call 214-340-6328.

Comment on this article.

Related articles:

More articles by this author:

Bill Holton
Article Topic
Access Issues