National Federation of the Blind
Puts 1M Books Online for Blind, Dyslexic
By BROOKE DONALD, The Associated Press 5/6/10
SAN FRANCISCO -- Even as audio
versions of best-sellers fill store shelves and new technology fuels the
popularity of digitized books, the number of titles accessible to people
who are blind or dyslexic is minuscule.
A new service being announced
Thursday by the nonprofit Internet Archive in San Francisco is trying
to change that. The group has hired hundreds of people to scan thousands
of books into its digital database - more than doubling the titles available
to people who aren't able to read a hard copy.
Brewster Kahle, the organization's
founder, says the project will initially make 1 million books available
to the visually impaired, using money from foundations, libraries, corporations
and the government. He's hoping a subsequent book drive will add even
more titles to the collection.
"We'll offer current novels,
educational books, anything. If somebody then donates a book to the archive,
we can digitize it and add it to the collection," he said.
The collections are also limited
to the most popular titles published within the past several years.
The Internet Archive is scanning
a variety of books in many languages so they can be read by the software
and devices blind people use to convert written pages into speech. The
organization has 20 scanning centers in five countries, including one
in the Library of Congress.
"Publishers mostly concentrate
on their newest, profitable books. We are working to get all books online,"
Marc Maurer, president of the
National Federation of the Blind, says getting access to books has been
a big challenge for blind people. "Now, for the first time, we're
going to have access to an enormous quantity," he said.
Maurer, who is blind, said
that when he was in college, he hired people to read books to him because
the Braille and audio libraries were so limited.
Brad Foss, a San Francisco
man with dyslexia, says having so many more books available is liberating.
He compares it to a million more ramps being added throughout a city for
a person who uses a wheelchair.
"For me, it's about access.
They have provided flexibility and freedom to get books in a format that
I use every day," said Foss, 36, who is the director of access technology
in the digital health group at Intel Corp.
The digitized books scanned
by the Internet Archive will be available for free to visually impaired
people through the organization's website. The organization does not run
into copyright concerns because the law allows libraries to make books
available to people with disabilities, Kahle said.
Jessie Lorenz, an associate
director at the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco who has
been blind since birth, said it has been hard to find controversial or
edgy titles in a format she can use, and choices are often dictated by
institutions or service groups who have selected certain books for scanning.
"For individuals living
with print-related disabilities, this is ground-breaking," she said.
"This project will enable people like me to choose what we read."
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|Updated January 31, 2011|