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profoundly yours the abledbody blog

Bank of America, which operates the largest network of bank-owned ATMs in the U.S., has finished equipping all of its more than 18,000 ATMs in the U.S. with text-to-speech for its customers with visual impairments. These talking ATMs provide audible instructions in English or Spanish to persons who cannot view information on an ATM screen, aided by the use of audio jacks that work with standard headsets to protect customers’ privacy and security. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act requires that banks eventually make their ATMs audio-enabled. Bank of America was one of the first U.S. banks to begin installing talking ATMs across the country, but in recent years has been under fire for not finishing the job fast enough. One disability organization, the California Council of the Blind, has been working with the bank for several years on issues of banking accessibility. Such cooperation has helped the bank avoid expensive ADA-discrimination ... keep reading »
Despite efforts by blind advocacy groups, the U.S. has sided against a World Intellectual Property Organization treaty agreement that would make books accessible to more blind and visually impaired individuals, as well as those with dyslexia or physical disabilities, throughout the world. The Obama administration, the governments of Canada and the European Union, and several other countries have opposed this initiative, which was introduced by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay and supported by many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Asia and Africa. Other supporters include the World Blind Union, the National Federation of the Blind, Bookshare and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, among others advocacy groups. Proposal advocates want to expand a U.S. copyright exemption to allow books to be distributed in alternative formats — such as text-to-speech, Braille and large type — to blind and visually impaired individuals around the world. The treaty would have ... 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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