Sep 26

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) will stop producing books as recorded cassettes (RC) on October 1st, sooner than expected. Magazines will continue on cassettes until further notice. The cassettes have been replaced by new digital book cartridges. Digital book cartridges are about the same size as a single cassette but the entire book fits on only one cartridge. There is no need to manage multiple cassettes or change sides anymore. The digital books on the cartridges are high quality human recorded audio without the hiss of cassette tapes. NLS will provide free digital book cartridge players over the coming years to all patrons.

Sep 20

GENEVA – World-famous singer-songwriter and UN Messenger for Peace Stevie Wonder called on the international community to take action to enhance accessibility for all those with physical disabilities. Speaking at the opening of the annual meetings of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Assemblies on September 20, 2010, he challenged delegates to conclude an agreement on improved accessibility to copyright protected works by visually impaired persons (VIPs) within a year.

A press release by WIPO stated that Stevie Wonder launched his “Declaration of freedom for people with disabilities” which he said was “a call to action, a plan to empower the independence of people with disabilities by providing them with the tools to learn and grow.” In addressing ministers and policy-makers from WIPO’s 184 member states, he said, “through your legislative efforts, incentives can be created to advance the blind and visually disabled towards the promise of a better life.”

The award-winning musician told delegates, “we must declare a state of emergency, and end the information deprivation that continues to keep the visually impaired in the dark. We must spread the word that the untapped genius of the 300 plus million who have a visual disability are in need of our love and action; today, not tomorrow, but today.”

“While I know that it is critical not to act to the detriment of the authors who labor to create the great works that enlighten and nourish our minds, hearts and souls, we must develop a protocol that allows the easy import and export of copyright materials so that people with print disabilities can join the mainstream of the literate world,” he said. “There are many proposals on the table that will create a safe clearinghouse for the exchange and translation of books, please work towards a consensus.”

The singer stressed that “your work and my work is not done”, and called on those present “to put ideological differences aside and come up with a practical solution.” He said, “I am respectfully asking you to join my declaration of freedom for the many print disabled and visually impaired by giving them the tools to think their way out of poverty and the darkness that is created when the mind does not have access to something as simple, but as powerful as a book.”

“We have the greatest minds in the world right here in this room,” said Wonder. “Please work it out or I’ll have to write a song about what you didn’t do.” He added, “it is our legacy and our gift to the future. Let’s do this.”

The American artist Stevie Wonder is a prolific singer-songwriter with 49 top 40 hits, 32 number 1 singles and over 100 million unit sales including hits such as “I just called to say I love you”, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” and “ Mon Cheri Amour”, excerpts of which he played to delegates.

WIPO member states are currently discussing the question of better access to copyright-protected works for the blind, visually impaired (VIP) and other reading-disabled persons in its Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). A number of proposals aimed at creating an enabling legal environment for better access to copyright-protected works for reading impaired persons are under discussion.
Various practical measures to facilitate access to copyright-protected materials by reading-impaired persons are being implemented. These include the ongoing work of the stakeholders’ platform and the launch in June 2010 of an on-line forum, www.visionip.org/forum, to broaden awareness and stimulate debate on this issue.

This WIPO Assemblies are meeting in Geneva from September 20 to 29, 2010.

Sep 08

From Andrew Savikas on O’Reilly’s “Tools of Change for Publishing” blog:

For years we’ve supplied our digital files to Bookshare, a non-profit that provides accessible reading material to the print disabled. For qualifying readers, our books are made available worldwide, and we’ve really enjoyed working with Jim Fruchterman and the Bookshare team along the way (I’m also on their Advisory Board).

Although the DRM-free EPUB files in our ebook bundles are compatible with many reading systems for print disabled customers, many readers prefer the DAISY format that Bookshare provides, and either don’t qualify for access via Bookshare, or would prefer to pay for the ebooks. Through a collaboration with Bookshare, today we’ve started making DAISY files available within our ebook bundles on oreilly.com for more than 800 titles. If you’ve already bought an oreilly.com ebook, you can find the DAISY files on your account page at https://members.oreilly.com or http://oreilly.com/e on a mobile device.

Our mission at O’Reilly is to change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators, and making our books available in accessible DAISY format helps us accomplish that mission.

There’s more details on the DAISY format from the DAISY Consortium, including a list of software and hardware reading systems.

Aug 26

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic® (RFB&D®), the nation’s largest provider of educational audio textbooks, announced that its more than 270,000 members can now use the Intel® Reader to access and enjoy its entire collection of DAISY-formatted audiobooks.

The Intel Reader captures images of printed text, converts the text into speech, and now also plays RFB&D DAISY-formatted audio for people with a reading-based learning disability or visual impairment. “Intel Reader is another terrific addition to our assistive technology portfolio,” says Peter Beran, Senior Vice President, Information Technology for RFB&D. “With so many of our members expressing interest in developments like this, we’re pleased to offer yet another means for them to access and efficiently navigate our downloadable content.”

Getting started with the Intel Reader is easy for RFB&D members. They can simply log into their online accounts on the RFB&D website to obtain a free User Authorization Key (UAK), install it on the device, and download their DAISY audiobooks. The content can then be transferred to the Intel Reader and listened to anytime, anywhere. The device stores members’ third-party content access keys for their convenience. For more information on the RFB&D UAK process, visit http://www.rfbd.org/intelreader/.

Users will also need to download the Intel Reader 1.0.1 software upgrade to enable their device to access RFB&D content. The upgrade and instructions on how to install it is available at http://reader.intel.com.

“Through personal experience and our work with organizations such as RFB&D, we know that individuals with learning differences thrive on choice,” says Ben Foss, director of Access Technology at Intel. “We’re proud to help RFB&D members enhance their educational success and quality of life by enabling users of the Intel Reader to have effective access to their reading materials.”

About the Intel® Reader
The Intel Reader transforms printed text to the spoken word. It combines a high-resolution camera with the power of an Intel® Atom™ processor. Read on the spot, or store text for later listening. Easy-to-use buttons, audio and visual navigation, and straightforward menus keep things simple. Weighing just over a pound and about the size of a paperback book, the mobile Intel Reader can be used at school, work, home, or on the go. The Intel Reader is the result of the real-life experiences, coupled with decades of technology innovation and Intel’s commitment to proactive healthcare and wellness. Find out more about the Intel Reader at http://reader.intel.com

About Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic®
Founded in 1948, RFB&D serves more than 270,000 K-12, college and graduate students, as well as veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, or other disability. RFB&D’s collection of more than 61,000 digitally recorded textbooks and literature titles – delivered through internet downloads, various assistive technology devices, and CD – is the largest of its kind in the world. More than 5,400 volunteers across the U.S. help to record and process the books, which students rely on to achieve educational success and entry into the workforce. RFB&D, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Education, state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, call (866) 732-3585 or visit www.rfbd.org.

Aug 18

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, BookShare is offering a free three of trial membership (good for 20 book downloads per month) to all Americans with qualifying print disabilities. At the end of the three months, new members will receive suggestions about how to sign up for individual memberships.

Here are 4 easy steps to follow to get the free trial:

  1. Sign up before August 31, 2010. Select the 18 and over Individual membership option.
  2. Complete the online contact forms. Enter ADA20 in the promotion code field.
  3. Agree to the terms of use online.
  4. Fax proof of disability to 650.475.1066. You can provide an NLS certification, RFB&D member number, or the Bookshare proof of disability form signed by a qualified professional.
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