Leasey: An Overview
Jaws is a powerful screenreading program. It places a blind computer user on equal footing with his or her sighted peers by translating visual stimuli into text-to-speech. There are at least 1500 keyboard commands to be learned, in order to use Jaws to its full potential. This can be a time-consuming and frustrating process for the computer novice who just wants to keep in touch with family and friends online. It can be especially discouraging for someone who is dealing with an adjustment to vision loss at the same time. Enter Leasey, a menu-driven program which works in conjunction with JAWS. Leasey stands for Learn, Enable, Advance-So Easy! This software simplifies the use of Jaws, enabling novices to perform popular online tasks with ease, and allowing everyone to achieve advanced functions. You can write and edit documents, check Email, surf the internet, scan printed material, use Facebook and Twitter, find files and folders easily, listen to the radio, read books, and play games, all from within one simple menu. No long list of commands to memorize, no complicated steps, just choose an option and go. Leasey was developed by Brian and Lulu Hartgen of Hartgen Consultancy to ease the learning curve for novice PC operators, and to empower the more experienced technology consumer. While it runs in tandem with Jaws, Leasey uses human-voiced prompts, context-sensitive help, and a menu-driven system that hides its power beneath a cloak of simplicity.
I have used this program for two years, as a freelance writer, and as an internet surfer. When I first heard about it, I wondered if it was only beneficial to computer beginners,and I couldn’t imagine how the product could benefit me as a power user. I was delighted to discover that while very simple to use, Leasey is a feature-rich application in which a million little things add up to huge convenience. In this article, I will give an overview of the product purchase, installation and setup, and an evaluation of its pros and cons. The next article will explore the productive side of Leasey.
Leasey is available for purchase from the Hartgen Consultancy website. There is a demo version of the product, which can be downloaded to your PC, so that you can try before you buy. The cost for an individual user ranges from $62 to $100, depending on whether you want the Leasey manual in Daisy book format, and whether or not you want Leasey to speak using a human voice or text-to-speech voices. Hartgen Consultancy offers a payment plan option, so that Leasey can be purchased in four installments over one year, instead of buying it all at once.
Buying options are also available for multi-user licenses. This purchasing tier is more costly, but still less expensive than many other assistive technology products. Each license for Leasey is linked to a specific Jaws serial number, so you will need to provide that information at the time of purchase.
Installation and Setup
Installation is simple. Download the program from the Hartgen Consultancy website, and run the installation file. If you already have Jaws on your PC, a soothing human voice guides you throughout the process. Setting up Leasey can be simple, or complicated, depending on your level of computer experience, and your online preferences. The Leasey manual recommends installation of a few other programs, and it provides detailed instructions for installing and configuring them to
work effectively. These recommendations are optional. Configuration is simple for intermediate users or above, but if you are new to PCs, I would recommend that you get help with this part of
the process. This is very likely the only time you will need any help with leasey.
Leasey offers help in many formats. First, you can press a context-sensitive help key for instructions any time from anywhere on your PC. If you have difficulty remembering lots of keyboard commands, this feature will be worth its weight in gold, because you will be able to access any of Leasey’s functions through three menu keys. Next, the online instruction manual is just one or two keystrokes away. This manual is also available in Daisy book format, so that you can listen on a player, and follow along on your computer. The guide is read by Brian Hartgen, and his performance makes for an enjoyable listening experience. The instructions are simple and concise, and it may be the first time in history that reading a manual was fun. Finally, the Leasey menu provides an option for remote support, and while I have not needed this part of the application to date, if it is like the rest of Leasey, it will be easy to use.
The Pros and Cons
This product surprised me. I could not imagine how a powerful screen reader like Jaws could be improved upon, but Leasey has made my online life much more efficient.Five positive traits deserve mention. First, it was created by two well-respected blind program developers. Brian and Lulu Hartgen have more than twenty years experience in the assistive technology field, andthey not only teach assistive tech, they use it on a daily basis. Who would be better at identifying the needs of both novice and advanced PC users? Second, the customer service from Hartgen Consultancy is flawless quick, courteous, and efficient. There is an Email list to which Leasey users can subscribe, the developers are responsive on Twitter, and within the Leasey program’s get help menu, an option for remote support is just a few keystrokes away. Third, the product is under constant development. It is immediately responsive to the changes in programs it supports, such as ITunes, Facebook, and Twitter, so that if one of these popular programs updates and changes accessibility, Leasey updates a week later with fixes. Fourth, the help system is phenomenal. Finally, Leasey is available for purchase on a payment plan, and I would love to see this option available everywhere in the accessible technology world. I have only found one downside to Leasey. Its setup is not for novices. There is so much online help
available, that I can hardly call this a negative, but in the interest of a balanced review of the product, this is all I could find on the negative side. Leasey does not hangup. It does not slow down your PC. It does not require a lot of tinkering after installation and setup are complete. In short, it stays in the background, appears when you need it, and works perfectly.
My experience with Leasey made me feel like Alice in Wonderland. At first, I envisioned Leasey as a cute little rabbit hole of technology. I thought it would make life a bit more convenient. However, when I ventured into it, a world of convenience, efficiency, and fun opened up before me. In the next article, we will explore the ways in which Leasey increases productivity with features such as simplified text selection, a clock with stopwatch functions, an appointment calendar, and an invaluable feature called Leasey Cuts. If you are intimidated by computers, I cannot recommend this product enough. It will change the way you view technology. If you are a power user, do not be fooled by the seeming simplicity of Leasey. It will benefit you in ways you cannot even imagine. Congratulations, and many thanks, to Brian and Lulu Hartgen, for a spectacular contribution to the world of assistive technology.
Blog contributor Jena Moffet