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Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 January 2004 Issue  Volume 5  Number 1

AccessWorld News

Ease Your Cabin Fever with a Good Book

It's cold outside, at least in the northern hemisphere. Why not curl up next to a warm computer with some good reading material? The following news stories detail a number of products, web portals, and services that are designed to allow you instant access to information.

Partners Plan to Deliver Audio Newspapers

The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and the text-to-speech (TTS) technology company Rhetorical Systems, both located in the United Kingdom, have formed a partnership to develop AudioRead. The handheld device is designed to operate like an MP3 player, allowing users to download files, such as current newspapers and magazines, into the device. AudioRead will employ Rhetorical Systems' rVoice TTS, which uses recorded human voices to create natural-sounding synthetic speech. You can listen to a demonstration of rVoice online at: <www.rhetorical.com/tts-en/languages/english.html>. It is hoped that the combination of digital text with rVoice technology will allow RNIB to quickly transform time-sensitive materials into live narrator-quality audio files that can be electronically navigated by article or section. "We'll be able to produce 400 hours of audio in one hour," said Steve Tyler, RNIB's senior strategic manager for digital technology, in an interview with BBC News Online. RNIB plans to begin trials with AudioRead in the new year and expects to offer access to newspapers and magazines through AudioRead as part of a subscription service. For more information, contact: Royal National Institute of the Blind; e-mail: <technology@rnib.org.uk>; web site: <www.rnib.org.uk>. Information for this piece was taken from "Talking newspapers get human 'voice'," published November 25, 2003, in BBC News Online; available: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3233340.stm>.

Canadian Library Goes Digital

In November 2003, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Library launched its digital library, which is available online at: <www.cnib.ca/library>. The digital library is the result of the money raised through CNIB's $33 million That All May Read campaign--so far one-third of the money, $13.4 million, has been raised--that seeks to re-engineer CNIB's Talking Book production facilities and convert its collection of published material into a digital environment. Designed to be accessible to consumers using most assistive technology products, including screen-readers and refreshable braille devices, the digital library offers 1,400 online digital Talking Books in Windows Media Player format, as well as access to 10,000 audio, text, and braille titles, including more than 40 Canadian daily, national, and community newspapers. A new search tool is designed to ease navigation of the site. A Children's Discovery Portal offers children who are blind or visually impaired access to online games, books, and chat rooms. For more information, contact: Julia Morgan, communications coordinator, CNIB Library for the Blind; phone: 416-480-7423; e-mail: <julia.morgan@cnib.ca>.

Institutional Accounts for Bookshare in 2004

In January 2004, Bookshare.org will offer institutional accounts for schools or groups that wish to download and deliver books to students. Benetech's Bookshare.org is a subscription service that provides an extensive online library of accessible digital books to people with visual impairments. The Institutional Access Account allows the purchase of a fixed number of books for qualified individuals throughout the year and the Multiple Subscription Account allows multiple individuals to have unlimited, independent access to Bookshare.org through sponsored subscriptions. The subscription price for the new Bookshare.org accounts were not immediately available. For more information, contact: Bookshare.org, the Benetech Initiative; e-mail: <info@bookshare.org>.

Talking Books Mailed to Your Home

You can gain access to a library of audio books with Talking Pages (<www.talkingpages.org>), a nonprofit lending library that mails Talking Books on audiocassette to people who are blind or visually impaired and live in the United States. Talking Pages was recently founded by Michael Page, whose aunt has macular degeneration. The service is free and the Talking Book will arrive on your doorstep with a postage-paid return mailing label. Registered users with Talking Pages-issued library cards can check out two books at a time, and there is no time limit for loaned publications. Talking Pages offers a range of titles--fiction, nonfiction, history, science fiction, fantasy--and radio shows. For more information, contact: Michael Page, founder, Talking Pages; e-mail: <talkingpages@att.net>.

Assistive Technology Training

Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program (ATACP) workshops will take place at various U.S. locations in 2004. The training workshops given by the Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) offer 100 hours of practical training in assistive technology applications, techniques, and accommodations for people with various disabilities in a variety of settings. The "FastTrax" course has 76 hours of online instruction, 2 days of live instruction, and an 8-hour project. The traditional version of the course offers 52 hours of online instruction, 40 hours of live instruction, and an 8-hour certificate project. Each of the courses meets the 100-hour requirement for a certificate in assistive technology applications and 10 continuing education units from CSUN's College of Extended Learning and the Center on Disabilities. The FastTrax program will be offered January 13-14 in Orlando, Florida, in conjunction with the ATIA conference, as well as March 15-16 at the CSUN conference in Los Angeles, California. The traditional course is offered July 12-16 in Monrovia, California, and August 2-6 in Washington, D.C. Applications are due two weeks before each course commences. The FastTrax and traditional programs cost $1,995. Course information is available online at: <www.csun.edu/codtraining>. For additional information, contact: Kirk D. Behnke, Center on Disabilities, CSUN; phone: 818-677-2578; e-mail: <kirk.behnke@csun.edu>.

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Copyright © 2004 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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