[bct] (Please read) Blind individual in need of technology assistance.

  • From: "Jay Pellis" <jalucard@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <pmlist@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <BlindusersLGVXPhones@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <exploders@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <fte@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 20 May 2006 16:25:12 -0400


I am a blind college student from Northeastern Pennsylvania. I am having
problems with assistive technology thus I am posting this message to as
many places online as possible. This message is quite long so please
feel free to disregard it if you would like. However, if you or anyone
can help me in this matter, feel free to contact me. If possible, please
also send this message to any mailing lists or individuals whom you
think may be able to help.


My story involves the pacmate PDA by freedom scientific I own and the
many many problems I've had with it, both hardware and software but
mostly hardware.

I owned a Braille lite during my high school years and it served me well
until it unfortunately started to function strangely around the middle
of 2004. I was in college at the time and needed something to take notes
with, luckily my local Blindness and Visual services agency were willing
to purchase a note taker for me. I have always used Jaws for windows as
my screen reader so it was logical that I would gravitate towards the
Pacmate. What also lead me towards this product was the ability to
install third party applications such as aol instant messenger, audio
recorders, drivers for using wireless and Ethernet compact flash cards
etc. For example, I used the linksys wcf54g card which supported W p a
security which was the setting my network was set to. Back to the
pacmate, things started going wrong even before the order went through
for the unit. A computer consultant met with me, showed me a unit then I
went on the FS website and told them what I wanted. For example, they
recommended a modem, I told them I wouldn't be needing it, figured it
would save them some money you know? So they end up going ahead,
ignoring all of my requests/recommendations and going with what the
consultant wanted to order. I even ended up receiving an e-mail with her
order recommendation, to which I responded with my own recommendations,
this was right before the order was finalized and as I said above, I was
ignored. I luckily saved the last e-mail I sent, so here are the
specifications with my comments in parentheses--


Note taker: PacMate BX 420 note taker

To include Software and Hardware Product Maintenance Agreement


(I received this and this agreement runs out in September and as it
stands now, I will not renew it.)


10 MPS Ethernet Card


(Received it, package did not include all hardware in order to use card
even though package was sealed when received.)


Spare Battery


(The battery is for older pacmate units, I advised people of this many
many times, I did not receive the battery but it was paid for.)


Mobile Planet 56K Modem with Bluetooth


(Received a modem which came in a bubble rapped package with no cd or
any info on how to use it. I think it was by socket communications)


SanDisk 1GB compact flash storage card


(Received it, will explain below)


Carry Case


(Received laptop style case which came with unit, had to eventually
purchase separate case in order to use unit when it was inside case)




(All software was paid for but only software included with pacmate was
received such as pacmate documentation cd, pocket pc cd etc. The
following was not received)


PocketPrint CE


Resco Audio Recorder

Pocket Backup


Items were received in late 2004.


I contacted the consultant after all of this was discovered as well as
talking with my BVS case worker. The consultant never responded to my
e-mails or calls and my contact at BVS basically told me there was
nothing she could do since everything was already paid for. At the time,
I was finishing my undergraduate degree and did not have much more time
to keep e-mailing and calling and to speak frankly, begging it seemed to
me, for them to help me.

When I first started out, the pacmate seemed to work fine. The Ethernet
card was by socket communications and included a strange cable with
internet jack at one end and a strange connector at the other. It also
included a laptop PCMCIA adapter and that's it. The instructions didn't
really tell how to insert what I thought at the time was the card. The
cable seemed the right size for the cf slot and it did actually fit but
the pacmate didn't recognize it or anything. Please keep in mind this
was my first experience with anything like this, I've always been a
desktop/Braille lite user. After a while, the first compact flash slot
stopped recognizing the sandisk 1gig card. In calling freedom scientific
tech support, they told me the Ethernet package was to include a cable,
the laptop adapter and also a small cf card to fit between the cable and
pacmate. I told them it did not include such a card and they kept
insisting I should search for it. Now this happened a few months after I
received everything, my original box and packaging were put away in a
closet in my dorm room the evening I received the unit and barely
touched, only used to extract the cds, manuals etc. Needless to say, the
tech support person and I almost got in to an argument about the non
existent cf card. Finally I changed the subject to something else, which
was the right most advance button on the Braille display and the whiz
wheel. The right button would move the display but I wouldn't get the
physical click feedback that I would get with the other buttons and the
right whizwheel took a few pressings of it up/down in order for it to
move the display. The display worked fine for a while when it was
received, this happened soon after. Also the unit was acting strangely,
it froze/crashed every so often when turned on, requiring a hard reset
and reinstalling of programs and changing default settings etc, which
takes time. When resetting the unit, it would sometimes reset fine,
sometimes I would have to disconnect the display in order for it to
reset. The display also, after a time of use, would freeze and stop
following the speech. Or sometimes, it would not come up at all when the
unit was turned on and it had to be disconnected then reconnected.  I
sent the units back to FS after spending time filling out support forms
and getting material authorization numbers. I also sent back all of my
cards. They contacted me and told me it would cost in the $200 range to
get some bent pins in the cf slots fixed, since it wasn't covered under
my agreement for some reason. I paid it, I had no choice. Now if you
remember, this was all thanks to me not having the proper parts for that
Ethernet card. I would still like to know why on earth it seems like
tech support did not believe me, that card was not included in the
package. And in case you are wondering, yes, I did have sighted
assistance throughout this, looking for the card, sending everything
back etc. I received the units back a while later, the braille display
was not fixed. So I sent the braille display out again. It got fixed.
Now the pm worked fine for I'd say 4 or 5 months or so. In
october/november of last year, the same problems started to happen. Now
I would like to tell you right up front, I take good care of all of the
equipment I own, keep them clean, keep them in their cases etc etc. I
never miss use computer equipment. These problems started happening with
the first slot, even though the units were kept in the case I purchased.
Oh and also when i received the unit back the first time,freedom
scientific advised that I throw away my cards, the modem, parts of the
Ethernet card, the 1 gig sandisk card. I did so and had to buy new
cards. I purchased a 4gig flash card to use. I also purchased the
linksys wcf54g wireless card as well as the socket communications EA2912
Ethernet card. The linksys stopped detecting my network in the first
slot for no reason whatsoever after a while so I then used the second
slot. Last month, I upgraded to pacmate 4.0 firmware. The unit kept
freezing even more then usual, for example when leaving the unit off for
up to a day or even a few hours, turn it on, hear the start up click
then it would freeze. Sunday evening (may 14th), I was trying to backup
files to my flash card from the unit, suddenly the second slot stopped
recognizing cards. Now since the unit kept freezing, I did not restore a
backup from the sprite backup program I had installed, left the unit at
default settings. I fiddled with the switch on the cf card to switch
partitions, nothing was recognized. The Braille display started then
displaying random 6 dot Braille sells, even in the middle of a hard


(A quick note here, I never have forced cards in to the cf slots, I'd
put them in until they clicked in to place and remove them gently etc.
Some I left in for a few days at a time, wireless card for example and
some I would remove after use, the memory card. I read all manuals and
followed all directions in using the cards)


I called freedom scientific Monday (may 15th). I gave them a piece of my
mind, though in a nice way. I told them what was going on, how
frustrated I was and even that I would be willing to downgrade to a
Braille lite or other machine, I'd rather have a working unit for taking
notes in classes even if I couldn't transfer files to the pc. They sort
of dodged around what I was telling them, made me fill out the forms
needed to send back the units and that was that. I asked if they would
at least consider replacing the unit, they said they would try to fix
this one. Again. What if I perhaps have the 1 in 10 thousandth badly
built units?

I am predicting that when I receive the pacmate and display back, they
will tell me to throw out all of my cards, just like they did last time.
Then I will have to buy new ones again. Then perhaps in a while, this
may happen again.

At this point, it seems no one will listen to me. Not freedom scientific
when all I am asking for is a unit to be replaced and not blindness and
visual services since they are slowly now helping me out with grad
school preparation and my case worker told me over the phone the other
day that she didn't want to hear about it. What are my options? I'm not
really sure.

I was thinking of buying a laptop in the next few months, somehow
transferring programs over to it from my desktop because someone told me
it could be done and using that. I type faster in Braille then I do on a
pc keyboard for taking notes in classes or from a reader so I'd have to
purchase a blue tooth Braille keyboard that I found some info about
online that is suppose to let you type in grade 1/2 in windows. I don't
know much about this keyboard since there seems to be limited
information online about it but it may be able to solve my problem of
having a reliable machine with storage and other capabilities that will
last, not break down and let me type using the braille language.

Now is it worth it, trying to find a laptop, one with features that let
you turn off the screen/mouse/wireless, or a normal one and buy an extra
high capacity battery in order to get a decent amount of time from it? I
don't know. In doing that, I will also probably not have any access to a
Braille display and in taking notes, I usually have speech turned off
and use Braille to keep track of where I am in a document.

I am moving to Pittsburgh for grad school in mid august so either before
then or during august, I'd like to get a hold of a working machine that
will let me take notes in classes or from someone reading me something.
Other features like internet would be nice but if I can backup my
documents to pc, that would be ok with me.

As I said, I'm not sure if I want to do the laptop thing because it
seems quite complicated. In fact, when I receive the pacmate back, I
don't even know if I will use it, I may just sell it, who knows. As you
can see, I am at my wits end. I am frustrated and confused. I am
saddened by how I've been treated by these so called people who are
suppose to help me.

In terms of computer usage,i'd say I am an advanced, if not a power
user, I have been using both dos and windows systems for around 10 years
now. I love jaws for windows and use it on a daily basis, it's a great
product. Frankly, I did not expect these problems with the pacmate to
happen. In talking to a few other blind individuals who own a pacmate,
they told me they have no problems at all which i find sort of hard to

Well that is my story. I apologize for the length and wordy quality of
the above information, however I think it hopefully summorizes my
unfortunate experiences.

If there is anything anyone can think of, even if it's the smallest bit
of information, please get in touch with me. My contact information is
below in my signature and if anyone would like to speak to me over the
phone or you know someone who may want to speak to me about this
situation, let me know and I will provide my cell phone number.

I thank you sincerely for reading this and have a good day.


Jay Pellis


Jay Pellis

E-mail: jalucard@xxxxxxxxxxxx

Aol instant messenger: ftealucard

Yahoo messenger: ftealucard

Msn messenger, jalucard@xxxxxxxxxxxx

Skype: Jay Pellis

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