As the saying goes, "Time and tide waits for no man," the same could be said for technology with its rapid advances.
In this article, I recap what's available to TBL patrons that enable them to "read with their ears." As with most technology, there is the good and the bad.
Assistive technologies for accessible reading
1) Accessible reading apps (VoiceDream, Dolphin EasyReader)
Pros: Reading apps allow the tech savvy and iphone/ipad user to read DAISY navigable audio books. The recommended apps for accessible reading are VoiceDream or Dolphin EasyReader.
Cons: Users must be comfortable with technology, particularly touch screens and navigating according to voice prompts. They need to have access to wifi to listen to DAISY books off their device. If they cannot afford it on their own, they are limited to going to a public space that offers free wifi.
2) Braille displays (Orbit)
Pros: Refreshable braille displays allow users to access digital information in braille, through pins which rise and fall to represent braille dots. Braille displays can be attached to computers or other devices (such as mobile phones) and are also widely used on "notetaker" (mini-computer) devices.
Cons: Braille is not easily learned by people who experience vision loss later on in life; while cost has been significantly brought down, the new orbit that is more reliable and portable, still costs at least $500.
3) Dedicated DAISY players (victor readers-stream/stratus)
Pros: Easy-to-use, plays DAISY and MP3 books and music on CDs, SD cards, and USB flash drives, great sound quality for music and audiobooks.
Cons: More set up required and may not be accessible if users live in remote areas. To access TBL books through CELA (Centre of Equitable Library. Access), player needs to be configured for DAISY service and is only offered where CELA is available unless you registered as a CNIB Library client before April 2014.
4) Google read and write
Pros: Provides text-to-speech capabilities, highlighting that is useful for various reading levels and those with learning and print disabilities.
Cons: Not user-friendly on all devices such as apple products, software and training required.
5) Screen readers (JAWS) & screen magnifiers (Zoom text)
Pros: Allows users to read/listen off their home computers.
Cons: Prohibitive cost - $1,800 for the fusion software that combines both Jaws and Zoom text capabilities, users must be comfortable using computers and will need to be trained on the software.
Stay tuned as times are changing. TBL is keen to understand ways we can innovate as well to continue to provide high quality Christian audio literature to those with print disabilities and beyond. Up until now, reading content was produced with no thought to accessibility which called for the need to convert. TBL has been doing this for the past 30 years - producing Christian audio books in the accessible format - DAISY (Digital Accessible Information Systems).
But now, according to Michael Ciccone, executive director at CELA, who shared in a workshop at this year's Ontario Library Association, the shift is coming where publishers and player systems will be required to produce certified accessible content and player systems so that accessibility can be acquired "at the source." Accessible discovery and delivery systems need to be developed to help users adapt to these changes.
Lastly, it is important that churches are kept informed of these changes and that they learn how they can adapt to meet those with special needs in their congregations. If you are interested in booking TBL to come and speak to your church please do not hesitate to contact me via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at: 905-640-8825.