#Civil Rights
the world's information and communication technology industry

Today, there is in existence a large amount of software and technology, for example screen readers for computers, and voice assisted MP3 players, PDAs and mobile phones. These remarkable devices allow the visually impaired to access far more information, and enjoy far greater opportunities both socially and professionally than ever before.

However, much of this software and technology is produced and marketed by a very small number of specialist companies, who hold a monopoly on these products. This means that they are sold at an extremely high price, meaning that blind people are forced to pay a much greater amount than a sighted person in order to access the same technology. For example, a voice_sense_s, roughly the equivalent of a net book or laptop, is priced at £1300 excluding VAT. Screen reading software for computers is similarly expensive, costing up to £700 per copy. A computer is an essential tool for most visually impaired people, giving them access both to employment prospects, education and entertainment. Yet they are compelled to pay almost twice the price of the computer for the screen reading software they need to be able to use it. This also applies to such universal items as mobile phones and MP3 players. Talks, a software product that makes some nokia mobile phones accessible to blind people, costs £150, on top of the cost of the phone, and the cheapest MP3 player that is really accessible to the blind is around the same price.

Many blind people are, through no fault of their own, either unemployed or on very low incomes, and this technology is for the most part completely unaffordable to them without the aid of charity. Some of us are lucky, and have charities near at hand willing to put up the money, but far more of us are not, and are therefore denied access to essential information and communication technology, which the majority of sighted people, certainly in the developed world take for granted.

Much of this software and technology is essential to visually impaired people if they are to have equal opportunities to sighted people in both the work place and in everyday life. Much has been said about the right of blind people to be able to read the same books as sighted people, at the same time and at the same price. I feel that they also have the right to access the same technology as sighted people, at the same time and as near the same price as possible. And giving that right to as many visually impaired people as possible is the purpose of this petition.

We the undersigned, feel that the software and technology designed and produced by specialist companies to improve the lives of visually impaired people is ridiculously overpriced.

We also feel that not enough is being done by the producers of mainstream software and technology to make their products accessible to us.

We are told that prices are so high because we are a limited market, and while we acknowledge there is some truth in this, we feel that if prices were lowered, many more people would purchase many more of their products, and so their market would increase.

We feel ourselves held to ransom by the very people who are supposed to be helping us, as we have nowhere else to go for this software and technology, which is essential if we are to maintain a good quality of life.

We wish to see more mainstream companies such as Microsoft make their software accessible, therefore relieving us of the need to purchase expensive specialist software. And we would like to see the price of accessible technology such as Braille displays and accessible PDAs greatly reduced, in order to allow the majority of visually impaired people to take advantage of what today's technology has to offer, instead of just the lucky few.

We feel that these measures would benefit all concerned, as reduced prices would greatly increase the market for these products since many more people would be able to afford them. And this in turn would open up the wider world of work and pleasure to many hundreds of people around the world.

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The End Over Pricing Of Software And Technology For The Blind petition to the world's information and communication technology industry was written by Daniel McGrath and is in the category Civil Rights at GoPetition.