Advancing Technology Inspired by the Blind: The Vispero Journey Leads to Independence

MARK RICCOBONO:  We do have two more presentations.  I urge you to hang with us.  We're running a little bit behind but we'll get there quickly and this next one is important:  Advancing technology inspired by the blind.  The Vispero journey leads to independence.

This gentleman has been on our stage before when he was very new with Vispero.  I had an opportunity to visit them not too long before the pandemic hit, to witness firsthand the work that he is doing to change or maybe refresh is better said the brand, the culture, the perspective of Vispero as a company in terms of being rooted in customers completely.  And I have been impressed with the work that he's doing, the team that he's building, and the vision he has for where to go with the Vispero company.  We've talked very honestly with each other and open about what the future should look like, and I think his experience is rooted in a lot of what we just heard from Dr. Bennett.  He asks a lot of questions, and he doesn't think he knows all the answers.  He's seeking them from blind people.

Here is a friend of the National Federation of the Blind from Vispero, Tom Tiernan!

(music playing "Let's Groove" by Earth, Wind, and fire).


MARK RICCOBONO:  How you doing, Tom?

TOM TIERNAN:  I'm doing fine, President Riccobono.  Am I coming through okay?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Great.  Yeah.

TOM TIERNAN:  Okay.  Good.  Well, thank you so much for that introduction and a bit on Vispero.  It's been great to be part of this event, and we're just so happy to be here.  Just like to wish everybody a very Good Friday afternoon, and thank NFB for inviting Vispero to present at your annual convention, the largest gathering of the blind in the world.  It's really exciting to be here at this first-ever NFB virtual event.

I'm Tom Tiernan, President of Vispero.  And I did, soon after I joined the company almost four years ago, I presented at your convention that year.  And really excited to be back. 

You may not have heard of Vispero directly, what Vispero means by the way is it's a combination of two Latin words meaning to see or to envision hope, but think of Vispero as the umbrella company for many of the leading assistive technology and digital content accessibility companies in the market, such as Freedom Scientific, Enhanced Vision, etc.  These companies and those that preceded them go back as far as the mid-1970s, and several were founded by blind and low vision people who were themselves pioneers in their respective fields.  They are the creators of category leading products that you likely use every day, such as our JAWS and ZoomText software, such as our focus Braille displays, such as our Ruby or contact or clear view or Merlin video magnifiers, just to name a few.

True to our heritage, these industry-defining products are conceived of and inspired by blind and low vision people throughout our company.  Approximately one in six of our colleagues in Vispero are blind or low vision.  And many more of us, myself included, have family members who are blind or low vision.  Our blind and low vision colleagues work in every function of the company, from R&D, to sales to manufacturing to support, and at every level of the company, from entry level interns through and including executive management.  And our company is what it is because of our blind and low vision colleagues.  We could just not function without them.

At Vispero, our colleagues and our families depend on our own products to learn, to perform their jobs, to be productive, and to be independent.  And as the proverbial saying goes, you may know eating your own dog food.  Well, that certainly applies to us except we think of our products more as a fine cuisine.  We live, we breathe, we experience every day our empowering and liberating assistive technology can be, at work, at school, and at home.  And that motivates us continually to innovate and advance technology that people can achieve in helping them gain their independence.

As a company and for everybody in it, this is sour singular and our only focus.

As a company, Vispero is totally aligned with NFB's mission, believing in the hopes and the dreams of the nation's blind, working together every day to help blind people live the lives they want.  And I want to thank President Riccobono and the NFB community for continuing the fight on behalf of the blind.  We are very proud sponsors of this event and active participants in it, through many of our colleagues, all of whom we are very proud of.  You may have attended over the course of the week some of our sessions.  Our What's new with JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion software session with Eric.  Our empowering independence session with Rachel.  Our, it happened in Florida session, with Douglas.  And our OS Trap session with Ron.  These four Vispero colleagues, three of whom are blind, are all inspirational leaders in their respective fields and they are key leaders in our company and perfect examples of who our company is.

So what's Vispero been up to recently?  Well, a lot.  Not the least of which has been dealing with the challenges brought forth by the pandemic.  The last time we actually saw any customers in person was during the CSUN conference in Anaheim, which was back in March 11-13.  I was there.  I must say it was a bit of a surreal event is that is when COVID-19 was just hitting the U.S., around that time.  But it was a well worthwhile event and we did see a lot of people there and it was fun to participate.  And during that conference, we debuted several innovative new products, starting with the stand outcome pact 10, like an awesome new 10-inch handheld magnifier with full page OCR and speech.

My aunt, Mary Jane, has long suffered from vision loss related to glaucoma and she love there's product.  She uses it all the time.

We further rolled out a full line up of highly portable and foldable feature-rich video magnifiers the size of laptops across all of our hardware brands, Freedom Scientific, etc.  These are perfect for low vision students in school or those requiring a small footprint in the house for daily living.

And we introduced the ElBraille running JAWS, especially relevant for blind K-12 students who can now start their educational journey with a full-fledged Windows device running JAWS eliminating the need to transition to a Windows environment later when those students are in higher ed or the workplace.

Since the CSUN conference we've largely been sheltering in place and being as resourceful and creative as possible to meet the needs of our customers around the world, as both they and us adapt to the changing landscape of virtual environments.  We recognized very early on the challenges our customers and colleagues would face in quickly accessing their accessibility software as they shifted to working and studying from home.  We wanted to make sure that the blind and low vision had equal access as they moved to these virtual environments, and consequently, we provided the home edition of JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion for free in the United States, an offer that continues to be available through the end of August.

Further, about a month ago, we announced that 20% discount on all of our software and most of our hardware through the end of July.  A web page has been set up for NFB members, showing both our schedule for this convention as well as methods for getting the free software, for purchasing upgrades to your existing software, and for purchasing new software and new hardware.  That website is

I would like to mention that one of the key investments the company has been making is in our training department, who have been very hard at work creating new webinars and training materials.  This is an example where you spoke, members of the NFB spoke, and we listened by providing you with training content delivered on any of your preferred devices.  Yes, any device that would include Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple iPhones, just to name a few.  So to learn about our software products, for example, just ask your device to play freedom scientific training podcast to learn about our software.  You can either ask the device to play the podcast or set up your phone's podcast catcher to play the episodes.  We are adding content every week, so try it out.

I also want to let you know about our company blogs and YouTube channels.  For example, you can find the Freedom Scientific channel and can sign up to receive the blog in your email.

You can also find content for each of our products on YouTube.  Search for Vispero or any of our brands, freedom scientific, enhanced vision, Optilec or the Pacciello group.

I would like to thank you all for continuing to fight for the blind.  It is critical we continue to push, demand for accessibility at all levels, government, private sector, public, seeking and learning from NFB and its members, who help us to continually innovate and deliver products and services that help you live an independent life, whether at home, at school, or at work.  This is our passion as individuals in the company, and it is the mission of our company to do so.

So thank you again.  Thank you for the invitation.  Thank you, President Riccobono for inviting me to speak.  We have heard it's been a fantastic convention, and kudos to everybody at the NFB for pulling this off in the way you have.

Thank you very much.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you, Tom.  It's a pleasure.

You know, Tom and I have had a number of conversations, and I told him, you know, Vispero has a big target on it.  And he is up for the challenge of really raising the expectations in the technology field.  And I appreciate you being a good partner and open, and I know that we'll be continuing more conversations about the leadership that Vispero can provide for screen readers and in other product areas to really advance opportunities for blind people.  And thank you for what you've been doing over the last few months to enable blind people while they're working at home.

This last -- thanks, Tom.  Appreciate it.  I look forward to next time we can be in the same space.

TOM TIERNAN:  Totally agree.  It will be fun.