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Today I attended the Authors Guild protest in New York City, and turnout was good. There were about 100 protesters in all, many who are blind or have sight impairments, along with representatives from the International Dyslexia Association. The protesters teamed up with the Reading Rights Coalition to press the Guild to allow books to be made available in audio versions for use on Amazon’s Kindle 2. The Kindle debuted with text-to-speech capabilities but met resistance from authors and publishers over copyrights. Protesters held signs that said “Print for Some, Audio for Others,” and “No Need for Greed We Want to Read.” Though the protest was aimed against the Guild, chants against Amazon’s Kindle were rampant, including, “Give Us Access to the Kindle.” For the protesters, the event was a demonstration for equal access to books, which the Coalition says blind people have fought for many years to get, without much success. ... keep reading »
Some pictures from the Authors Guild protest at the Guild’s headquarters in New York City. Related articles: “We Want To Read” On Kindle, Protesters Say keep reading »
Huffington Post has compiled a list of powerful quotes from people who signed an online petition called We want to read, following Amazon’s decision to allow the Authors Guild to disable the text to speech feature in its Kindle 2 e-book reader. This has set off a storm of opposition among groups that see the Guild’s actions as harmful to access for persons who are reading disabled. Today, disability groups will protest at the Guild’s headquarters in New York City. Here are a few quotes that stood out: Mary Butigan, Florida Have freinds that are going through eye cancer and cannot read. This is a great resource for them to have books to hear while going through chemo and escape the rigors of loosing their sight. Timothy Emmons, Alabama Text to Speech is important to me for a variety of reasons, the main one of which, I am totally blind. I rely on it ... keep reading »
Things aren’t letting up for Amazon. Under recent pressure from the Authors Guild, Amazon has allowed authors and publishers to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their e-books available for the Kindle 2. Now, no fewer than nine disability organizations are leading a fight to persuade Amazon, authors and publishers to make all books on the Kindle 2 book reader available in audio format to people with sight and reading disabilities. Brown, Goldstein & Levy, a law firm representing the National Federation for the Blind, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the International Dyslexia Association, and other groups sent a letter to six publishing houses denouncing Amazon’s decision with the Authors Guild. The groups asked Amazon, authors and publishers to turn text-to-speech back on for all books offered on mainstream devices. While the Authors Guild has long waived copyright fees for audio formats for people who are ... keep reading »
Some people have asked me to give them a better description of assistive technology. I often hestitate to answer without informing them that sometimes, assistive technology isn’t the answer to people with disabilities’ needs and that our society should be more focused on universal design, or at least accessible technology. Now you’re even more confused, right? Well, take a look at the picture of this Coke can. A blogger at Yanko Design created it to demonstrate how a braille-label maker might help people who are blind identify products such as soft drinks, money and spices. The Coke can is the product; the label represents the assistive technology, meaning something has been added to the product to make it useable by the person with a disability. However, if the Coke can was made accessible to the blind, it would have some braille built into the aluminum can. If we applied universal design principles, ... keep reading »
YouTube has launched a handy new page that aggregates all the videos from more than 100 institutions of higher education around the US. YouTube.com/edu now serves up campus tours, free lectures, research and other college news all in one place. Search queries can be limited to the “.Edu” part of the site as well. This is a great idea to help prospective students make more informed decisions, as well as for people with disabilities — kids and parents — who may not be able to travel to all of these schools. Apple just enhanced its iTunes content with iTunes University, and made it available via voice to people with visual impairments. Putting video content online — captioned, of course — is a great way to reach out to all college-age kids, including those with disabilities. keep reading »
Quadriplegic since a 1983 sports accident, Adam Lloyd has maintained an extremely active life in the academic, business, and writing fields. Currently a doctoral student in English at the University of Maryland, from time to time he writes freelance articles for Public Radio International’s Savvy Traveler, Abilities magazine, and his blog Gimp On The Go. He wrote to Abledbody with some advice on the iPhone and iPod Touch, saying that touch screen devices are still wholly inaccessible to people with mobility impairments. “As a quadriplegic I must use a mouthstick (a pointing device held in his mouth) to operate most electronic gadget. However, the screens on the iPhone and iPod will not respond to the touch of a mouthstick -– they require the electrostatic impulse from a human finger to work,” he says. “It’s a real shame, because these innovative, compact devices and their apps could be a great ... keep reading »
At the CSUN 2009 accessibility conference, Microsoft and the DAISY Consortium unveiled the next wave of accessible technology for people who are blind or print disabled. The new tools include the “Save as DAISY” Version 2 for Microsoft Office Word – the next version of this translator enables users to produce a fully functional “talking book” synchronized with text and MP3 audio right out of Microsoft Office Word. Microsoft also announced Project Buttercup, a demo of an online digital talking book that runs on Silverlight and allows users to display accessible documents right from their Web browser. To download the demo, visit ButtercupReader.net keep reading »
Many people with disabilities say that Amazon’s Kindle 2 isn’t truly accessible because its text-to-speech function is too basic. Likewise, a similar problem with the Kindle 2 is that while it can read a book out loud, the actual device and it menus do not “talk.” As noted in Serotek Blog, an online petition is circulating that asks Amazon to add talking menus and other voice prompts to make the new Kindle 2 fully accessible. The petition gives props to Amazon for taking the first step in making its website and online store more accessible — in 2006, Amazon was threatened with a lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind — and asks that the company realize that many blind persons are already paying users of Audible.com, the online provider of talking books that Amazon owns and from which many Kindle users get their books. The petition states that ... keep reading »
Amazon introduced a new version of Kindle, its electronic book reader. But once more, the device fails to include many assistive technology features. To be sure, the Kindle 2 includes a sleeker design and a lighter console. For the disabled, the most interesting feature by far is a text-to-speech function that allows readers to listen to books with a robot-like computerized voice that is delivered — some say — with a Eastern European accent. What’s interesting is, though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos didn’t say as much, his company partnered with a key assistive technology company, Nuance Communications, to build the speech capability into the Kindle 2. Nuance is the maker of RealSpeak software, which is the same technology that enables text-to-speech on Nokia cell phones and Freedom Scientific’s JAWS screen readers to make them accessible for the blind and visually impaired. Nuance also makes Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a speech-recognition program that’s ... keep reading »

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