A lot of people come to Florida on vacation for sunsets, fishing and, of course, Mickey Mouse. But, if you only had one place to visit would you visit an old office building in St. Petersburg?
“I was shocked,” said one Freedom Scientific employee.
“Floored,” said another.
When 18-year-old Andrew Zeman walked through the doors, it turned heads.
Andrew was born without eyes and with “severe renal failure," according to his mom, Karen. Doctors expected him to need a kidney transplant before his first birthday. Instead, his kidney lasted over a decade before Andrew ultimately received a transplanted kidney from his uncle.
The transplant qualified him to get a wish granted from the Make-A-Wish foundation. There was no doubt where he wanted to visit.
“He has had this dream for years that he wanted to visit Freedom Scientific so there was so surprise,” Karen said with a smile.
Andrew was greeted by a few of the men who helped change his life. Andrew needs the products that Freedom Scientific creates in order to use a computer in the same way that a seeing person would be able to use it.
The company created J.A.W.S., which stands for Job Access With Speech.
“J.A.W.S. basically gives you the ability to do what sighted people do: look at the screen and have the screen read to you,” said Program Manager Dan Clark.
Clark started webinars at Freedom Scientific in 2009. Andrew latched on those teachings and became glued to the voices of Freedom Scientific.
Voices like Ryan Jones’.
“He could have done anything and he chose to come see us,” he said. “It floored us.”
Andrew sat between Clark and Jones on Wednesday morning to participate in Freedom Scientific’s latest live webinar. He helped listeners understand some of the facets that he’s come to love about J.AW.S. and chatted with users from as far away as the United Kingdom.
There was even webinar participant from Andrew’s home state of Wisconsin.
“He feels he knows the people that he hears every day when he uses it so it was his dream to meet them and thank them,” said Karen.
The Freedom Scientific team gave Andrew loads of gifts to take home to remember his time in Florida. He hopes to return someday to work for Freedom Scientific and help make life easier for others facing vision challenges just like his.
“This is like one of the best days that I can recall working here,” said Clark.