September 2009 Issue  Volume 10  Number 5

Book Review

Using the Accessible iPod, by Anna Dresner, National Braille Press, hardcopy braille, DAISY CD, Portabook CD, text CD, or for download, $15.

If you have been thinking about buying an iPod, particularly since the news hit the streets last fall that iTunes and some iPod models are now usable by people who are visually impaired, my advice to you would be, first, buy this book! With the publication of Using the Accessible iPod, Anna Dresner and the National Braille Press have, once again, produced exactly the needed missing piece to complete a popular picture for technology consumers who are blind or have low vision. Yes, iTunes and some iPod models now talk. However, while the least experienced sighted user of technology can take an iPod, load it with music, and create playlists to blast from the iPod deck on his or her dashboard on the way home from work, the process is far less straightforward for the new iPod customer who cannot see the computer screen. With her trademark clarity and patience, Dresner provides complete information and step-by-step instructions for capturing the accessible iPod experience.

Beginning at the Beginning

In this book, Dresner includes everything a visually impaired consumer needs to know to use iTunes and the "talking" iPod successfully. Beginning with which products to purchase, and how to download and install iTunes to make it work properly with a screen reader, she then moves through all the tasks an iPod user may want to accomplish. You will learn how to set up your iPod to make it talk (it does not talk right out of the box, but takes, instead, the voice of your chosen screen reader on your computer to create voice tags) and on to downloading, transferring, organizing, and playing the content you want to hear.

Sections are devoted to downloading and playing audio books, podcasts, and other content from sources other than iTunes as well. In each case, information is provided in manageable chunks, along with step-by-step keystrokes for computer users who are blind or have low vision.

You will learn how to build and manage your iTunes library and how to create various kinds of playlists. There is often more than one way to accomplish the same task, and Dresner takes the extra time and space to explain the options.

Because not all iPod products are made equally, sections are dedicated to each product that is capable of speech. The iPod Nano, for instance, has its own controls and a screen. The Shuffle, on the other hand, has only one switch on the unit itself and is operated primarily from the controls mounted in the right earbud cord. The book includes detailed physical descriptions of each product, along with individualized setup and operating instructions.

Along the way, there are loads of informative tidbits that will prove especially beneficial to those who are new to handheld players. Managing battery life, for example, selecting the right USB port, and disconnecting your device without damaging it or its content are the kinds of tips that are sprinkled throughout the book that will be useful to the reader beyond the use of an iPod.

If you are wondering what prompted my advice that the would-be purchaser of an accessible iPod should buy and read this book first, consider Dresner's comments under the heading "Registering and Setting Up Your iPod:" "When you first get your iPod, don't turn it on until you have connected it to your PC and configured it unless someone sighted is available." The reason for this warning, she further explains, is that one must first select a language on the unit, and since there is no speech on the unit out of the box, it would be easy for a user who is visually impaired to inadvertently select a language other than the one he or she wants. If such a mistake is made, nary an audible word will be heard from the iPod!

For tips like this and the kind of keystroke-by-keystroke help only another computer user who is visually impaired can give, it may be easier on your budget to spend $15 on the book before you plunk down $79 to $200 for an iPod itself. If you have already selected and purchased an iPod, Dresner's book can make getting acquainted with it a much less painful process.

Available Formats

Using the Accessible iPod by Anna Dresner, National Braille Press, $15. Available in two soft braille volumes, DAISY CD, Portabook CD, text CD, or for download in any of the available formats.

To order: or call 888-965-8965.

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