Archive for the ‘visually impaired people’ Category

Banks Brilliance!

May 10, 2011

In the past few years, not many would have ever thought anyone would call the banks brilliant but an experience I had today warrants such praise.

As visually impaired individuals, we often are discussing inaccessible products or services. But this morning when a package arrived from my bank, I was initially confused, then unsure and now extremely pleased and happy that a international bank would do what they have without being pushed into it by advocacy groups or implement the accessibility as an after thought.

I’ve been with HSBC since I was fourteen and in high school. I’ve always been pleased with the accessibility I have had with them. My letters and statements always having been in braille, the level of security they offer amongst the highest and overall, a good service has been experienced for me, so far.

I’ve used their telephone banking service for years and in the past few years their internet banking service which I’ve found to be incredibly accessible.

So when my peculiar package arrived this morning, which I was not expecting as I clearly didn’t really read the last letter they had sent to me, I was confused what it was for and was pretty sure it wouldn’t be accessible.

I opened a box containing a braille letter and braille instructions and a keypad that looks like the keypads we pay on our cards in stores, minus the car d slot. There was some headphones and I was truly baffled.

On a quick glance, I realised it was about security and as I said, if I’d read the previous letter, I probably would have had a better understanding of what this cool device would do.

Sitting down reading the instructions I learnt it was a security key which enhances the level of security of your online banking. Every thirty days or so, it’ll give you a code to enter and it is generated by the security key, or the cool key pad thing. So, you can imagine my scepticism. They’ve given me a device, which will generate a code and I have to read this code to access my online banking. Great, I thought, more inaccessibility. At this point, I joked that they had sent me accessible instructions for an inaccessible device. Boy, was I to be proven wrong.

I soon learnt that the regular customers have these security keys issued but their keys are the size of a credit card and I had noticed a speaker on the rear of the unit so maybe, did I dare to believe it true?

Further reading demonstrated that not only did this cool device speak but the instructions how to use it, set it up were all clear, concise and accurate. Even the point where you have to insert the security key’s serial number was accessible. Not only was it printed on the unit but it could be accessed through speech on the unit. Crazy right?

But within ten minutes, I’d activated my key, by entering my serial number into my account online and followed the online steps, inputting a random security code and hey presto, my account is now paired with a device that will randomly make me input codes every thirty days to prevent someone hacking into my bank account.

Until this morning, I’d not heard of a security key, and whether you think they’re a good security device or a pure pain in the backside, I’m ecstatic I have one that I can access independently.

New customers started receiving theirs in March of this year, current customers from April onward. So, HSBC get a huge thumbs up from me. They’ve made everyone’s account secure and made it a purely accessible process.

Part of me hopes that these devices can lead to further access to cash machines somehow. I’m impressed HSBC, it has to be said. If you can make all cash machines accessible to the blind, I’ll be incredibly thankful. Thank you for not making your blind and visually impaired customers an after thought.

Speed, volume can all be changed and it auto turns off after about a thirty-second standby.

If anyone else’s bank has done this, let us know. I’m lost for words how I appreciate what they have done. They didn’t just send me a regular security key, they thought about it, put it in place and all within the same timeline as all their customers.

So no matter what you may think about the banks and the economy of today, you have to give HSBC some credit that they’ve achieved this in the same time frame for all their customers in a perfectly easy, accessible way. Great job! Brilliant!!!

Guide Dogs, in my Eyes

November 7, 2010

[Note to Reader] I live in the UK so all information is correct as I am aware only as a guide dog owner from the Guide Dogs For the Blind Association in the UK.
Association

Guide dogs have been a huge part of my life ever since I can remember. My first memory of knowing what a guide dog was and how it related to my life was when I was seven years old and at the Adam Brooks hospital in Cambridge with my parents at an eye check up. They had a huge ornament of a guide dog in harness standing in the waiting room at the eye clinic and my dad took me over to show me what it was. I felt the smooth impressions of the labradors face, the big ears and the smooth curves of it back, on which sat a harness. I proceeded to ask my parents what it was for and they told me to raise money for guide dogs which I then asked what a guide dog was for and why it wore a harness. My parents explained it was to help the blind get around but even then, I don’t think my parents would truly appreciate the length to which a dog could assist their daughter in the future.

I was seven then, and recently had lost my sight completely and so this news that I could use a dog to get around and break free from the new prison that I’d been placed in because of my eyes made life seem a little easier to handle at my young age. I kept this memory with me for all this time and twenty years later, I’ve been a proud, successful guide dog owner for four and a half years.

Although my journey is barely beginning with the association, I feel its time I shared my own guide dog story with you all.

The rules have changed along with procedures even since I became involved with the association. And surprisingly, my journey began before I even contemplated a dog. I was taken for a visiting day to the local Guide Dogs centre that was in Bolton when I was around nine or ten. I only really remember the puppies in the kennels, jumping and being playful. My experience then was limited but I think I had already decided that I’d love to have one of those four legged companions walking by my side.

At thirteen, our local mobility service had been stripped of several mobility officers and so a long cane instructor from Guide Dogs taught me long cane work for a few years. We chatted lots about guide Dogs and dogs in general. I’ve always loved animals, their innate ability to be loyal and non-judgemental always touched me.

Friends and family continued to ask me through my younger teenage years if I had ever considered getting a guide dog and when I said yes, they automatically asked: “at 16?” I always knew I didn’t want a dog that young. I’d rather be out with friends and doing things a regular sixteen year old would do. Since then, the rules have changed and there is now no lower limit to apply for a dog. But even with that limit in place, I wanted to have freedom and wanted to go off to university with no responsibilities. Maybe if I’d had a different personality, my choices may have been different.

However, once at university, I started wondering if I had a dog would my mobility be increased? I was in a different town, with limited mobility sessions and the area was difficult to work in with a long cane. So, I called up Guide dogs and asked to have a talk with someone. That someone turned out to be my old mobility officer who worked at Guide Dogs. After a long chat with him, I knew even then I was not ready for the responsibility of a furry friend. I had plans to do an exchange programme to the US and he advised me to wait until I came back.

I heeded that advice and after my exchange a two month trip, I finally decided I was ready for the responsibility of a dog. I knew I more than ready for the mobility adjustment but nothing could have ever prepared me for the real experience.

The assessment process began with an application form which I completed in December of 2004. In the January I had a general assessment shortly followed by a mobility assessment where a trained mobility officer walked with me on a route to check my safety and overall mobility skills. After I’d cleared that section of the assessment a guide Dog mobility Instructor came out to assess how I would work holding onto the dog’s harness. The guide dog Mobility Instructor is the person who trains the dogs in the advanced part of they’re training, where the dogs are placed in harness and taught to guide effectively. A double ended handle was used with the instructor acting as the dog would. It felt strange and even that could never prepare you for the real thing. The instructor also did a further application form with me and went over information about every aspect of owning a guide dog. Feeding routines, spending routines, to things I liked to do, social activities, my level of possible work load with the dog. This is to help the team recognise when a suitable match comes in. There’s little point giving an older person a dog that wants a high work load and someone with a hefty work load having a dog with the desire to only walk to the local shops and back. The matching process is a very good one and many around me have suggested my match was perfect because of my personality.

I was twenty-one when I applied for a dog. After four months of assessment I was placed on the waiting list. January 2006, I received a call from the guide dog mobility instructor [GDMI] who had assessed me for the dog section of the assessments. She told me she may have a possible match and could she bring the dog out to meet me.

The dog and instructor arrived and we went on a route I knew well with me holding the handle of the dog’s harness. This was incredibly scary yet altogether amazing. I relished in the idea that one day soon I may have a dog at my side. This little labrador wasn’t for me though. She was sweet and not really cut out for the lifestyle she’d be living in. I liked her but as I suspect the instructor knew, there was little potential of bonding.

A week or so later, she called again and said she had another dog. In bounced Bailey. He literally jumped through the door, a ball of energy and excitement. I remember my mum saying she didn’t like him because he was so boisterous but I fell in love. He followed me around the house, even upstairs and the walk out with him was incredible. Bailey and I bonded and after a month, my GDMI called with the great news that we would be going onto class.

The Guide Dogs for the blind Association has changed over the past ten or so years in how training is done. They used to have residential training schools but the majority of teams either train in the home or train at the a hotel and the surrounding areas. So off I went to Bolton, as the old centre was still there then and waited patiently in my hotel room after eating lunch and meeting the other potential guide dog owners. And in bounced Bailey again, full of love and affection. I was so happy and couldn’t wait to start our training.

We were taught obedience skills, the voice commands of forward, down, sit, wait, stay, come, steady, and taught to control our new friends. Feeding and grooming and learning how to spend our dogs correctly was covered and a health care session was held to educate us how to take care of our new friends, filling in vet books and how to contact Guide Dogs if our dog had to have treatment outside the realm of normality. In the UK, Guide Dogs is a charity and depends solely on donations from the general public and generous businesses to keep the services and production of more guide partnerships going. Vet bills and food are covered by the association if the person is not in a situation they can pay for those things independently. You can opt to pay for one or both of these financial areas if you are able too and would like to contribute. It’s a great service and means that people are not discriminated against for enhanced mobility if they need and want it.

So, after the two weeks we were permitted to take the dogs home for a further week of training and settling in at home. I was excited and nervous. I loved Bailey already but I was uncertain if I could cope with this new responsibility once at home.

He seemed a little unsure when we got home and his instructor had left. It was just he and I until the Monday when she would return to train. I cried like a baby the next few days. We had trouble with his spending due to a heavy snow fall and unfamiliar surroundings for him. But once we were out and about with the instructor, as the dog and you are housebound until you are qualified, it felt great to get him on the harness and working in my home environment. After three days of training at home, I was pronounced Bailey’s owner, and he my guide Dog. We were fully qualified and I could now work him independently with continued checks from his instructor for around a month and working reports submitted for six consecutive months with a check annually after the six month period.

Suddenly walking down the street felt like a breeze. No more catching lamp poles, bollards, shop displays on the pavement, Bailey guided me down the centre of the path, turned left or right on command and when asked to find doors, he would. Finding the crossings to get across the streets safely was now easy as he walked up to it once asked to find it and put his nose on the pole. A quick feel for his soft wet muzzle told me the pole was there and I directed him to the kerb and we waited to cross. On my forward command he moved straight across the street and I didn’t drift dangerously or feel unsafe or uncertain with him by my side.

There are myths, or not necessarily myths but different ways of doing things in associations around the world. Our guide dogs are asked to find objects, such as doors, crossings, or post boxes, and kerbs. We don’t instruct them to go to a specific store but Bailey at least with my experience usually tries to preempt where you want to go if walking on a certain route. He often gives my secrets away and I sometimes think smells of places have him wanting to enter those establishments, pubs and Starbucks or bakeries are usually the culprits. Others would argue it’s because I frequently visit starbucks that he wants to go their but I maintain its the scent of coffee that he may recognise, as we frequent a few different Starbucks around Manchester. He’s not trained to find an empty seat, just a seat and so you have to use other senses to know if someone’s seated there already. He does not dictate when we cross the street, I’m in charge of knowing when its safe, however, if I’ve not heard something that is coming he is taught to ignore my command. He’s rewarded when he’s found something or got through a difficult section of a route with a piece of his dried food and praised vocally and physically by a pat. He is asked to lay under tables or at the side of me in restaurants or cafes and many other public places. The dog does not have a GPS system in his head and usually goes off my body language for when its time to get off of the bus, collecting things together gives him a strong indication.

Bailey helps me primarily with my day to day navigation in familiar areas. His instructor will come out if we need to adjust or learn new routes. She’ll also check on us once a year to see how he and I are doing as a partnership. The aftercare never stops with Guide Dogs here in the UK. She’s on hand with virtually any problem I may be having with working with him while the health care team are always on hand if we have a health issue.

Bailey’s worked with me for almost five years and I can’t imagine life without him now. Sadly, he will retire one day but that is still in the future hopefully. Once he’s slowed down, wanting to take an easier life Guide Dogs will assist with the process and be on hand to support all the way. I will apply for another dog as I value the mobility a four legged friend can offer but Bailey shall never be far away. Depending on my own personal circumstances will depend if he can stay with me but plenty of people, including my parents who Bailey has lived with for the whole time he’s been with me are more than happy to keep him during his retirement.

I have so much respect for this organisation. Earlier this year I began fundraising for them so that they can keep offering a number one service to guide dog owners present and future. My thanks to them for what they have given me, not only with the enhanced level of mobility, the confidence I have going places independently with him by my side but the incredible companionship I have from him and the world class service and support I receive from the Greater Manchester Team. If I ever had the money to sponsor a dog myself, I would because everyone deserves a Bailey or one of his thousands of brothers and sisters treading the pavements of the UK. Let’s hope the patter of paws continues on our UK streets and the many campaigns the association is involved with continues to blossom and changes for the way the visually impaired community move around with their furry companions is nothing but a success.

The iPad: A Review

May 29, 2010

[Note to reader; I’m assuming you’re familiar with the iPhone OS to some extent in this article].

 

Since the US launch of the iPad at the beginning of April, worldwide customers hankered for the news of their own launch dates. Just a few weeks ago, UK customers, along with those from eight other countries, including, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Japan were able to pre-order their iPads for a 28TH May release date, while other countries still anxiously await their launch date, expected to be announced sometime in July.

 

I, along with many others, pre-ordered my iPad, opting for the 32 Gig wifi model and impatiently waited for it to arrive. It came early though, a day in fact and am I glad I was home Thursday morning to receive my new toy. I created an unboxing podcast and could not wait to play with the iPad.

 

Initial Reaction

GORGEOUS!

It’s sleek and very aesthetic, even to the touch. A slightly curved back with the smooth glass touch screen we were promised. Everything about the iPad, before you switch it on is beautiful. And I don’t believe I’m saying this because I genuinely love Apple products. The keys are seamlessly fitted into the device and nothing looks out of place on this sleek unit.

 

Setting Up!

 

The setting up process is such a breeze. Literally, plug it in, register it and turn on universal access and off you go.

[Note, the device needs to be connected to a computer running the latest version of iTunes for it to work so you do need a computer to utilise the iPad.]

setting up voice over or Zoom or contrast on the iPad is very similar to the way it is achieved on the touch, iPhone, nanos and the shuffles. In summary within the iPad, or as voice over calls it in iTunes, iPod scroll area, VO to universal access and select voice over on under the “seeing” section. Once the iPad has synced, voice over will come on as I’m sure the other desired methods will.

 

You have a choice to use back-ups from any other devices, I.E. iPhone or I’m assuming iPod Touch. I chose to not do this as I wanted to customise the iPad at my own leisure and although I have put a few of my iPhone apps on the device, I didn’t want them all there.

 

First Use!

 

Using the iPad is as Steve Jobs said, “Magical”. It feels at home under your fingers and when taking the experience at a leisurely pace, you can truly appreciate the style the iPad has. It is a lot bigger than other touch devices that people may be used to using but that is an advantage. Using apps like settings, mail and safari gives an intricate experience with the iPad screen. Now, you can select a general setting in the settings app and see all of your choices without having to go back to the previous page if you want to select the mail/contacts/calendar settings, for example in Settings. Mail is beautiful on the iPad, being able to see your emails in the left column and read the message in the main screen area. And Safari definitely utilises the screen giving the browsing experience a whole new level of smoothness and realness.

 

iBooks, worth it?

 

Although the UK store is not populated to capacity, and I am realistic about this fact, it will take time to become my primary book source, it is amazing. I’ve downloaded a few free classics so far and have searched the store for some titles and found a few that I shall be purchasing soon. The search function was a little tricky at first but this is where one of the new gestures comes into its own. Although, the four-finger-swipe can be used in apps like mail or settings to jump from the selection list down the left side to the content area and vice versa, I didn’t comprehend it would work in the app or iBook store. But it does. I four-finger-swiped and was able to type my search, swipe again and see the results. A wonderful edition to the Apple repertoire of gestures.

 

Actually reading on the app is wonderful. I can lay my iPad down and let it read to me or use my fingers to scan down the page. It’s a very personal experience of reading books I’ve not experienced before. Braille has to be read word to word and audio has someone else’s voice and interpretation while iBooks utilises the voice over voice, your own interpretation is very real.

 

Twitter, IM and social Networks?

 

As I no longer have a facebook account, I shall comment on the social networks I have used on the iPad. Twitter Apps are few and far between on the iPad right now. Some of my favourites have not yet transgressed to the iPad. However I’ve found an app for the iPad that is accessible and works good enough. Not had that much experience to comment on some features but it reads your timelines, you can reply, DM, retweet and such but no list support as yet. And I’m assuming there’s multiple account support but haven’t tried so don’t quote me on that. That app is Tweet and it’s free.

 

I haven’t found an iPad specific app for apps such as Fring or Nimbuzz which I use on the iPhone so I’m using the fring app for now. I have it in full screen mode and still works nicely. They tend to only work in portrait and seen as I have my iPad in landscape for the majority of use, this can be a slight annoyance but once the app is Ipad specific, [let’s keep hoping], it’ll work beautifully. There is a slight border around the screen in full mode but it is still workable.

 

Skype works nicely on the iPad too. In the UK, still no iPad specific app but I’m told they have one in the US now so we’ll just have to wait for our version to hit the App store.

 

Typing!

 

I immediately opted for touch typing mode which I love. This can be changed while in an edit field with the rotor setting. I am finding I’m becoming quicker all of the time but will still opt for my wireless keyboard for extensive use. Touch typing will become easier and feels very natural. When I go to type on my iPhone, I hold the key down to hear the phonetic letter and it of course never comes and often forget to split tap to enter text. I cannot wait for touch typing in 4.0 on the iPhone. Typing on an almost full sized keyboard feels good and even if your finger is a letter out, sliding it to the right letter and lifting up feels great. Double tapping here will lead you to the need of a lot of deleting.

 

The phonetic speaking letters are a welcome edition to the iPhone OS and will strongly be looking forward to utilising this function on the iPhone.

 

 

Sound quality!

One Word! Awesome! The speaker sounds wonderful and the US voice I opt to use sounds incredible. Music and videos perform nicely and even though I haven’t tried it yet, I’m assuming headphones will sound just as crisp and clear.

 

Weight!

 

It is heavier than the touch and iPhone but this seemed obvious to me. Its compact and durable and I like the weight so I don’t lose it somewhere. It is not so heavy you could not carry it around with ease and yet it’s not light enough that you will forget it’s on your lap.

 

Overall Impressions!

I waited eagerly since the announcement in January and I have to say I am delighted with the product. Is it worth the money? Ask me that after a few weeks of working with it but I will go out there on a limb and say yes, I’m glad I paid for such a revolutionary product. Do I think it’s an oversized iPhone? No! It’s a different product entirely and the beauty of it is, people will choose to use their iPads for their own uses. There’s no rule book when it comes to the iPad and that is what I love the most about it.

 

 

What’s Best?

January 19, 2010

People with disabilities are presumed by the majority of society to be “incapable” and “needy” of a “able bodied” person to help them in every day tasks. This is just one of the stereotyped beliefs that the majority of society beholds about disabled people. And while some of us, along with friends and family attempt to fight this stereotype, there are some within that community who do nothing but prolong that stereotype.

I’ve been visually impaired since birth and totally blind due to complications since I was six and a half years old. My mother found it difficult to come to terms with my blindness but after she realized that my sight was not miraculously going to come back, she decided that she would not always be around and so tried to give me as normal of a childhood as possible. This included not spoiling me, punishing me if I was bad, and ensuring I was educated as most of my other piers were in mainstream education. And above all else providing me with the tools to become as independent as possible. Her theory of not being around forever and ensuring my independence and integration into society meant I grew into the independent, open minded, all rounded individual I am proud to be now.

I dread to think how things could have been so different.

During the past few years, social networking has meant I’ve come across many people who are also blind. While some of them have seemingly grown up with parents who had a similar notion to my own mother, a lot of them completely play into the stereotype of helpless, strange individuals.

I say strange because most of these people have only been around other visually impaired people and their families their whole life and social rules I learnt throughout school and extracurricular activities have never entered these people’s lives. Depending on others for the menial tasks of every day life is “normal” to them and having the world handed to them on the plate is taken for natural. Asking for an expensive piece of equipment and receiving it is an almost every day occurrence to these people and actually having to wait for something is beyond their existence. Finding ways of doing something that the sighted world does with no issue for themselves is unthinkable. why do something with a little effort if you can have someone else to do it for you? And their sense of reality is completely distorted.

Some of the extreme behaviours that are perceived by society to be related to blindness are not always visible. These people believe they are not among the stereotype but often you have to speak to an individual and learn their attitudes toward the rest of the world to appreciate if they are indeed categorized within that stereotype.

Generalising anyone is not always a positive act but these individuals can be spotted a mile off. They hardly use a mobility aid and expect a friend/relative to walk everywhere with them. They daren’t venture anywhere alone.
They have every “blind specific” product on the market and will not try anything unless its been recommended by another like-minded person or an organisation.
They have their family weight on them hand and foot. Making a drink for themselves is just never going to happen let alone cooking a meal for themselves.
Cleaning up after themselves is “impossible” as they “can’t see”
And subsequently they use that “I’m blind card” constantly.
They think cyberspace is reality and never attempt to form “real life” relationships.
They really believe they are like “everyone else”.

Overall, they are almost incapable of coping in society independently.

So, who is to blame?

In my humble opinion it’s the organisations that pamper these individuals. Some charities and institutions reinforce this notion that they are visually impaired and “need help”. I’ll be the first to admit, certain things, I’d like help with. Everyone’s needs are different but my want for help is so I am able to live my life as independently as possible. I.E> labeling food helps me not to waste things so when the shopping arrives home and its labeled, I will correctly open a can of baked beans rather than a can of spaghetti hoops when making a casserole. If my pills aren’t labeled and there’s only one way to identify two lots of medication apart by labeling then I’ll have a sighted person help me label my medicine. Luckily for me, most of the manufacturers are helping this issue but if they didn’t my health is too important to warrant a risk. But in order to live as independently as possible those are minor sacrifices to make. Instructions for food should be read and noted down so you cook food properly. If you buy the same product often enough you’d remember it but say you wanted to try a new brand of something, its likely the cooking time may be different. No one wants food poisoning. And lastly, not all companies send things in accessible formats. True, with the advancement of technology, we can receive a lot of things via email and over the internet which has proven vital for most visually impaired people but just say a doctor’s letter came and it won’t scan or read properly, wouldn’t you want a sighted individual to just read over it for you. scanners and reader software have advanced greatly but not everyone has those pieces of equipment to do so but those small things just help someone to live independently.

Some parents however, seem to have the misguided notion that they will be around for their “poor disabled” child forever. I have news for you, you probably won’t. Giving them everything is not going to benefit them in society. Locking them up with other visually impaired kids with teachers who pamper their disabilities will only hinder their growth as a human being. “protecting” them as you believe you are doing from society will only make it worse when the day comes when they are forced into society’s cruel realm. And if your child is lucky enough to go to a school where being independent is a compulsory factor is great until they get home and you do everything for them. Your guilt cannot hinder your child’s progress.

Give them the tools to live within society and function effectively because the world is a hard enough place regardless of disability. If you don’t prepare them then what chance do they stand? Some would say mothers like mine were cruel and hard for allowing us to walk into doors, burning ourselves on a hot stove while cooking but she was kinder in the long term. I’m able to live independently and travel with confidence with my four legged friend because she gave me the tools to do so.

And there are some wonderful individuals that despite having overbearing parents still manage to be independent through their own spirit and belief in themselves, congratulations. You did it. And to those who enjoy being catered to, you’re a disgrace to the rest of us who constantly fight against this stereotype. And to those parents of disabled kids who believe your child needs you, yes they do, to show them how to be a human being.

The Kindle, the Authors Gild and the Visually impaired!

May 15, 2009

If you are either a tech freak or a book worm, it might have come across your attention about the kindle or the kindle app for the iphone. The Kindle is a small hand held device to which you can read books purchased electronically, also known as E books. The app for the iphone works in a similar way. The kindle is not quite accessible for the visually impaired community but with the inbuilt TTS [text to speech], it seemed possible that Amazon might one day make the Kindle’s menus utilise the inbuilt TTS and provide the visually impaired community with a broader range of reading materials through the smart device. The device enables users to read books purchased online and read the contents instead of buying a paper back book. This device already has the ability to read the books aloud, allowing users to drive or perform other tasks without actually looking at the device so making it a safe device to use while driving but in that, would also make the Kindle a handy tool for the visually impaired community.

Currently, in the UK, only around 10 percent of books are converted into braille and although audio books are becoming more readily available, it is still lacking in time and quantity. The last Harry Potter book was the only book in the series to be published at the same time as the print one but previously, all books take time to produce and so readers can wait longer for that much anticipated title. The RNIB have been working hard to get more books published faster but this obviously will take some time to implement successfully.

The introduction of the Kindle and Amazon’s promise
Amazon’s Kindle’s blog
would have made the Kindle the greatest accessory to a visually impaired person’s electronic book library. It would have given us the ability to read books at the same time as our sighted peers and pay the same amount for the books as everyone else does, not being penalised for the fact we are unable to read print along with everyone else.

Enter the Author’s Gild!

This organisation claims to benefit authors and protect their rights but they have decided to claim against the kindle being allowed to use TTS.
The Author’s Gild homepage

They claim that it goes against author’s and publishers copyrights to have the inbuilt TTS in the Kindle read their books. This claim, in my opinion is preposterous. They insist it is about protecting their author’s rights and suggest to Amazon or someone else to make a third party device that could be fully blind accessible while suggesting that an activation on an account would enable a visually impaired user to download all of the e-books that will have the TTS lock lifted on them to enable the V.I community to use all books on Amazon or any Kindle compatible sites. Read the Article here

But doesn’t this increasingly send up the problems of expensive technology which as a V.I community we are already subjected too? For some Visually impaired people, third party software or techology is simply unaffordable and don’t we take a risk by passing this suggested “new device” over to a third party or even to Amazon, to increase the price of the product? Sure the books may remain the same price in the long run but Amazon are quite happy to work with the kindle and attempt to get it fully accessible soon and yet the author’s gild are not happy about this still. As a writer myself, I would have no objections to sighted or none sighted to listen to my work, as long as they paid for it and to suggest that TTS was anything like a narrator reading the book is pathetic! I use TtS all of the time and even the most human like voice on the Mac [Alex] does not compete with human readers.

If anyone has bought an audio book recently, you will know the extent of damage it can cause to your pocket. On the audio website I purchase books from, most can range from £10 to £20 or even £25 and even then, not all books are available. I looked into buying the Harry Potter series on audio a few months ago and quickly decided against it when I discovered it would cost me over £200 to get the entire collection. That is seven books that I could have bought as a box set from a high street retailer for £35 in hardback. And the Author’s gild still see fit for the Kindle to be anti TTS?

Most writers just want their work to be read and if that many more visually impaired people could purchase their books online and have full access to the same books sighted people could, wouldn’t it lift sales? I mean, for them to argue the TTS is like audio and people would not buy the audio anymore is a weak and counter productive argument. I would personally buy more books if they were the prices my sighted peers could pay for them brand new and not the triple or quadruple prices of audio books. By them stating it would damage the audio market, are they not just stating that they want the visually impaired community to keep supplementing that market and again segregate visually impaired people from the mainstream markets. By introducing a separate device for the kindle would do just that and I’m no expert but I do believe it would cause the price of the Kindle to soar making more visually impaired people unable to access the books and forcing them to buy into a market that is already extortionate? Maybe I’m assuming the worst but no good has ever come from third party software in my visually impaired opinion. If a company is willing to make the changes for all of their customers, it makes sense and it seems fair. Why should Visually impaired people, or anyone who cannot buy into the mainstream market be penalised for it? The author’s gild is trying to protect publishers in my humble opinion, not writers for writers would probably make more money out of an electronic market leaving all the middle men out of it! Maybe, and I am clearly speculating, but just maybe their own asses is all they are protecting. How many writers can say they don’t want their work to be read, and it would by millions more if the kindle was able to read all of their books once the accessible menus are put in by amazon.

Let’s make the Kindle and all the books in the world, accessible to all! Please!