Jamie Pauls

Many AccessWorld readers are familiar with Mystic Access, a company that provides technology training for blind people in a number of ways including audio tutorials, webinars, and one-on-one training packages. Mystic Access also sells products such as Bluetooth headphones bundled with tutorials on how to use the product as a blind person. Even if you don't purchase products directly from Mystic Access, you can still buy a tutorial on how to use the product more efficiently. Their regular podcasts feature interviews with a variety of people related to the field of blindness as well as information about upcoming products from the company. Free Zoom webinars cover many topics including how to back up your important data efficiently. It's also possible to get paid one-on-one training from Mystic Access on a number of topics including how to use your iPhone.

Mystic Access uses a variety of employment strategies to produce this diverse range of products and resources. Between contracting individuals to teach classes, record tutorials, and the other services that the company offers, a robust, accessible accounting program is imperative.

The company's founder, Chris Grabowski, needed an accessible solution for keeping his financial records in order. One day while listening to a podcast on the TWIT network, he heard an advertisement for the accounting software known as FreshBooks. He decided to give the product a try, and was pleased with what he discovered.

With FreshBooks, it's possible to track time and expenses related to the various projects you're working on at any given time. Anyone who does contract work with a company that uses FreshBooks can have their own FreshBooks account mirrored into the company's account. FreshBooks makes sending detailed invoices easy as well. FreshBooks can be integrated with PayPal or Stripe to provide a variety of payment options for the customer. Besides using a credit card, it is also possible for the client to pay online or through electronic funds transfers from a bank. When it comes time to do your taxes, FreshBooks allows for the printing out of categorized expense sheets. Clients can be given login information to easily stay up-to-date on the progress of their project. When you send an invoice to a client, you can see when the client viewed the invoice, thereby reducing the likelihood that the client would be able to claim lack of receipt as the reason for not paying promptly. Also, the software can send friendly reminders about a late invoice. It's possible to link your bank account so that purchases can automatically appear in FreshBooks as expenses. While at a restaurant, you can take a picture of your receipt and import it into FreshBooks, eliminating the need for keeping track of paper receipts while you're on a business trip.

FreshBooks offers a range of plans based on how many clients your business will work with over the course of time. FreshBooks Lite starts at $15 per month, and you can try it for free. Premium and Plus cost more, and you can customize plans for larger business needs if desired.

Grabowski says that FreshBooks "just works" with the various screen readers he has used over the years, and the company's mobile apps work quite nicely from an accessibility standpoint as well. Everything can be done using the FreshBooks iOS or Android apps as opposed to the desktop application, and your data lives in the cloud so you can access your information from anywhere. When issues have arisen with accessibility, Grabowski has found the company to be willing to fix the problems.

When asked if he felt that any particular type of business owner should especially consider FreshBooks as an accounting package, he stated that pretty much any interested business owner should give the product a try. Aside from an AppleVis entry dating back to 2014, there doesn't appear to be much discussion of FreshBooks from within the blind community. Whether this speaks more to a small number of business owners in the blind community or to the presence of other viable accounting solutions such as QuickBooks is hard to say. Grabowski certainly makes FreshBooks sound like a software solution worth considering if you wish to keep your business' financial affairs running smoothly as a blind person. Perhaps others should give FreshBooks a try and share your own experiences with AccessWorld.

As this article was being finalized, Grabowski informed AccessWorld that FreshBooks has taken a step backward in terms of accessibility with its latest update. For now, you will want to use FreshBooks Classic which is slightly cheaper and has slightly fewer features. The company is working to restore accessibility to its full-featured product in the near future. Here is an article highlighting the differences between FreshBooks and FreshBooks Classic.

Software Accessibility for the Blind Business Owner

It isn't hard to find interviews such as those on Blind Bargains with representatives from Intuit discussing the accessibility of QuickBooks and many will undoubtedly choose this option for their accounting needs. Perhaps even more important than the product is the fact that such software is being made increasingly accessible to blind business owners. Not only are increasing numbers of blind people becoming gainfully employed, but it's becoming less and less of a challenge for blind entrepreneurs to successfully own and operate their own businesses. No one understands the needs of the blind community better than blind people themselves, and neither can anybody serve the needs of the blind community better than blind business owners.

Gone are the days when a blind business owner must not only figure out which accounting solution to use, but also which screen reader works exclusively with that software. Today, software developers, whether on Windows, Mac, Android or iOS, are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of building their products with accessibility in mind from the ground up. The reduced or even eliminated cost of screen readers has brought costs down considerably for the blind business owner. Finally, being truly able to do business anywhere from an Android or iOS device has boosted the productivity of most everyone, blind or sighted. Here's hoping that trends continue to move in favor of the blind entrepreneur.

The Bottom Line

FreshBooks Cloud Accounting offers desktop and mobile apps that are accessible without the need for scripts or add-ons. The software offers a free trial, and various plans can be purchased starting at $15 per month based on your business needs. While you're checking out FreshBooks, don't hesitate to take a look at everything Mystic Access has to offer as well.

Business Owners With Visual Impairments: We Want to Hear from You

Do you have some experiences with accounting software that you would like to share? Perhaps you have had great success, or possibly you have run into some serious roadblocks. Do you have a list of accessibility concerns you'd like to see mainstream software developers address? Maybe you have questions about running a business from a technology perspective that you would like addressed in future issues of AccessWorld. Whatever your thoughts or feelings, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to drop us a line and sound off! We value your input, and so do the developers of accounting solutions such as FreshBooks. Together, we can make the world a better place for blind entrepreneurs everywhere.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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Jamie Pauls
Article Topic
Product Evaluations and Guides