Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The future is near: NLS pilot digital talking book program to become Braille and Audio Reading Download

Here’s an update on the digital talking book program from the

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

I’ve posted here before, talking about the great benefits of the program and also sharing that the digital talking book program was in a pilot phase. Also, that some time in the future, that this would transition away from being a pilot program.

Well, the future is now, or it will be as of April 30, 2009.

Braille and Audio Reading Download
Or BARD, (the acronym it will be heralded by,) will be operational as of April 30, 2009

For your information, the BARD’s URL is:

Here are the details from the informational email sent out by the NLS:

Users who know their passwords will be able to log on to the new site; users who rely on their browsers to remember their passwords will need new ones (follow instructions in Section II). All user accounts will be migrated to the new system, so you do not need to reapply. All materials previously downloaded will remain usable, so you will not need to redownload your reading material.

1. Unlimited downloading. The BARD service will no longer limit the number of books and magazines that you may download. Any account holder may download any item at any time. During heavy demand, however, NLS may limit the number of simultaneous downloads for each account.

2. New logon page. The site login will now use a form rather than a dialog box. It is the same type of logon found on most internet pages and should be immediately familiar to users of other sites. This is an important note for screen-reader users.

3. New search functionality. BARD searches will yield more effective results. The use of multiple search terms will return only results containing all of the terms.

4. New "Most Popular Books" list. By selecting the "Most Popular Book" link from the home page, users may access a list of the top twenty most downloaded books on the BARD service in the last ninety days. Fiction and nonfiction titles will be listed separately.

5. Redesigned magazine section. The "Recently Added Magazines" link will now display links to only the most recent issue of each magazine. Magazines older than one year may be accessed from each title's magazine archive. Links to the archive are at the bottom of each magazine's page.

Section II. Take the following steps to access the new site:

1. You must know your login ID and password to log on to the new site. For all users, your login ID is your e-mail address.

2. If you know your login ID and password, you will not need to do anything. Simply access the new site,
starting Thursday, April 30.

3. If you have forgotten your password, you must obtain a new one before you can log on to the new site. Since the new site has a different address from the pilot site, you cannot rely on your web browser to automatically log in to BARD.

4. If you do not know your password but you are able to automatically log on to the pilot site because your browser knows your password, you must choose a new password. To do so, select the link "Update My Settings" from the site home page. From the settings page, select the first link, "Change Your Password." Enter your new password twice, and then select the "Change Password" button. Remember this new password to access BARD.

5. If you cannot log on to the site because you do not know your password, you may have a new one sent to you. Access the password recovery page at
Enter your e-mail address and then select the "Send Me a New Password" button. A new temporary password will be generated and sent to your e-mail address. Once you retrieve the password, log on to the site and choose your new password. Remember this new password to access BARD.

6. If for some reason you are not able to use any of these options, please send a request for a new password to
Because of the anticipated large number of requests, please expect your new password within two business days.

The last day of availability of the pilot site will be Tuesday, April 28. The service will not be available at all on Wednesday, April 29, to allow user accounts to be migrated to the new site, which will be available on Thursday, April 30.

NLS appreciates all who have participated in the pilot test. Your feedback has allowed us to continuously improve the site and to plan future expansions, such as the inclusion of braille books. Though the pilot phase is ending, we remain open to your feedback about the BARD service. Please send your comments to

Send questions or requests about the book and magazine collection to your library.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A web site especially for college-bound teens with disabilities

One of the issues I try to stress most to high school students I work with is how different college will be for them, as opposed to their K-12 experience. So, you can imagine the smile I got when I found a web site designed specifically for college-bound teens with disabilities.

Aptly titled,
Going to College,
The web site (developed by
Virginia Commonwealth University)
proclaims itself “A resource for teens with disabilities.”

The site breaks down into three primary areas of focus:

My Place – where the student will do some self analysis to identify strengths and learning styles to help in goal setting.

Campus Life – describing what the student can expect at the college and what professors will expect, as well as accommodations and assistive technology.

Planning for college – how to proactively prepare today for college tomorrow.

Its great to see something so unique as this put together. Now, all we have to do is spread the word about it.

(A special thanks to the
Disability Studies, Temple U.
blog for this valuable information.)

Carlo Lingiardi offers insight to adjustment process following onset disability

as a result of writing this blog,I’ve met several people, and today, I want to share one of these people with you, as he’s also begun his own blog. I feel his writings reflect a good and honest perspective of what it is like for somebody going through the dynamic process of adjustment to life after a traumatic, onset disability.

While pursuing one of his interests, competetive bicycling,
Carlo Lingiardi,
Had an accident which forever changed his life.

Previous to the accident, Carlo had been an executive with an international shoe company. However, the October, 2005 accident resulted in Carlo being in a coma for two months. The traumatic brain injury he received has left him using a wheelchair, unable to walk by himself, and he is also now blind to some extent.

One of the treatments Carlo is most optimistic about is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). He writes about this regularly and his hope and faith in this treatment can’t be overlooked.

You will also notice that his family is one of the constant subjects in Carlo’s writings. He echoes one of the earliest understandings I had about an onset disability – we don’t function in a vacuum; what happens to an individual impacts the lives of all those who are around him.

I wish Carlo well in his pursuits and pray that his recovery delivers what he is hoping for. I’ll be following his progress as he writes about them in the future.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two scholarship resources for students with disabilities

This is just a brief post to share scholarship information I recently learned about.

has a irectory with over 125 scholarships for students with disabilities. Check it out and see if there are some that fit your needs.

Secondly, there is also the
Mouse Hole Scholarships sponsored by Blind Mice Mart .
This scholarship Is essay-based and is limited to visually impaired students, or sighted students of visually impaired parents.

Awards for the 2008 Mouse Hole Scholarship Essay Contest -- This year we have $4,198.00 available in the Mouse Hole Scholarship Fund! The two top essays, as selected by our panel of judges, will receive a $1,250.00 Mouse Hole Scholarship! The four top essays, as selected by our panel of judges, will receive a ASUS 1000 H E Net Book Computer from the Mouse Hole Scholarship Program!

I’m sure there are other scholarship resources around for students with disabilities, and will be happy to post about them here, just send me the information. I’ve learned about these two posting in the last week and wanted to share them as soon as I could.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Reading Rights Coalition has the organized strength to petition Authors' Guild

A couple of days ago, I posted here with a petition to show interest in having Amazon make the Kindle II accessible, and I linked to the only petition I was aware of for this pursuit. However, there is a larger, more organized contingent in play than the one which had started that petition. This group is the Reading Rights Coalition, the same group which had the informational demonstration at the Authors' Guild today, which I also wrote about in that post. This group is comprised of more than 25 disability rights organizations, all unified in this goal of bringing accessibility to the Kindle II.

And, they also have a petition to push for accessibility. With the additional, combined strength of the other organizations, this group is better positioned to gather a larger group of signees.

For comparison, on the first petition I linked to, I was #900 something, and I was number 400 something on the Reading Rights petition. I signed both this weekend, obviously one before my previous post, and one after. However, the first petition had been out for a couple of weeks and the Coalition's had just been posted. The number of signees on the Coalition's petition is now just under 3,000. It is a number that is growing steadily with the combined and organized efforts of its members.

So, one more time, I call you to action. Please, go to the
Reading Rights Coalition web site
and learn more about this strong collective, then
please sign the petition.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Take action to make the Kindle II accessible

I’ve previously written here about the Amazon Kindle II eBook reader and how there was some possible accessibility because it had text-to-speech (TTS) built into it, allowing the books to be read aloud. If you’ve missed it, since that posting, there has been a lot of turmoil over the TTS availability, primarily that the Author’s Guild challenged Amazon on making their eBooks to instantly become audio books.

Pardon me as I haven’t blogged very regularly of late and have missed the discussion that has followed, but let me make up for it by giving you the latest, and ask you to do your part and take action.

First, please help the movement to see the fledgling TTS on the Kindle II expand to a fully accessible screen reader by signing the
petition asking Amazon to make the Kindle fully accessible.

Being Amazon is working to position itself as the dominant seller of all books, this only makes good business sense to bring accessibility to the product they tout as the premiere eBook player. There is a need for this accessibility and we need to get more people to sign the petition.

And, if you’re able, go attend the April 7 informational protest at the Author’s Guild headquarters. For details, read the below press release from the
National Federation of the Blind.

* * * * * *
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, ext. 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

Reading Rights Coalition Urges Authors to Allow Everyone Access to E-books
Informational Protest to be Held at Authors Guild Headquarters
New York City (March 30, 2009): The Reading Rights Coalition, which represents people who cannot read print, will protest the threatened removal of the text-to-speech function from e-books for the Amazon Kindle 2 outside the Authors Guild headquarters in New York City at 31 East 32nd Street on April 7, 2009, from noon to 2:00 p.m. The coalition includes the blind, people with dyslexia, people with learning or processing issues, seniors losing vision, people with spinal cord injuries, people recovering from strokes, and many others for whom the addition of text-to-speech on the Kindle 2 promised for the first time easy, mainstream access to over 255,000 books.

When Amazon released the Kindle 2 electronic book reader on February 9, 2009, the company announced that the device would be able to read e-books aloud using text-to-speech technology. Under pressure from the Authors Guild, Amazon has announced that it will give authors and publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their e-books available for the Kindle 2.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The blind and print-disabled have for years utilized text-to-speech technology to read and access information. As technology advances and more books move from hard-copy print to electronic formats, people with print disabilities have for the first time in history the opportunity to enjoy access to books on an equal basis with those who can read print. Authors and publishers who elect to disable text-to-speech for their e-books on the Kindle 2 prevent people who are blind or have other print disabilities from reading these e-books. This is blatant discrimination and we will not tolerate it.”

Mike Shuttic, president of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), said: “AHEAD envisions educational and societal environments that value disability and embody equality of opportunity. This vision of AHEAD is directly aligned with the efforts of this coalition. Although much rhetoric is made about potential obstacles and problems that exist, the basic goal is clear and simple––access for everyone. And why create something that prevents it?”

Mitch Pomerantz, president of the American Council of the Blind, said: “Removing the text-to-speech features closes the door on an innovative technological solution that would make regular print books available to tens of thousands of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.”

Andrew Imparato, President and Chief Executive Officer for the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), said: “It is outrageous when a technology device shuts out people with all kinds of disabilities. AAPD works to remove barriers to accessibility and usability in technology, and we don’t expect to see people with disabilities singled out by having to pay more for access. New technologies, such as electronic books, should be available to everyone regardless of disability.”
Paul Schroeder, vice president of programs and policy for the American Foundation for the Blind, said: "Those of us with print disabilities have long dreamed of a world in which books and media are available to us at the same time as everyone else. The Kindle 2 offers that possibility for the first time. We hope publishers and authors come to see that text-to-speech is simply an alternative means of access to print."

Dr. Peter Blanck, chairman and university professor at Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, said: “As electronic books become the norm, denying universal access will result in more and more people with disabilities being left out of education, employment, and the societal conversation. We will all suffer from the absence of their participation and contribution to the debates that occupy us as a society.”

George Kerscher of the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium, said: "The DAISY Consortium envisions a world where people with print disabilities have equal access to information and knowledge, without delay or additional expense. Authors and publishers surely must share this vision. Now that the issue of human rights has been explained, and the opportunity for larger sales are known, I urge the Authors Guild to reverse their position on text-to-speech and join us in actively encouraging all publishers and reading technology developers to open the world of reading to everybody. Authors, join us on the picket line."

Steve Jacobs, president of IDEAL Group Inc., said, “Not only is text-to-speech important to people who are blind, it is critical in providing quality educations to millions of young people who rely on text-to-speech to learn effectively. This includes students with autism, learning disabilities, mobility disabilities, and cognitive disabilities that impact their ability to acquire information with their eyes only. I remain hopeful that the talented members of the Authors Guild come to understand the potential negative impact of disabling the text-to-speech function on their e-books and reconsider their position.”

Cynthia D. Waddell, executive director of the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI), said: “The mission of ICDRI supports the removal of barriers in electronic and information technology and the promotion of equal access. ICDRI welcomes the text-to-speech functionality being offered by the Kindle 2 since it increases mainstream access to books for the first time in history. We question why the Authors Guild demands that it be turned it off since many more books would be sold if text-to-speech was turned back on. Not only does this feature benefit persons with disabilities, but it also helps persons for whom English is not their native language. In an increasingly mobile society, flexibility in access to content improves the quality of life for everyone.”

James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, said: “Knowing full well that not everyone can see, the Authors Guild wants the right to be seen, but not heard. By bullying Amazon to change the technology of Kindle 2, the Authors Guild will either deny access to people who are disabled, or make them pay more. By attacking disabled persons in this way, the Authors Guild is attacking everyone who would otherwise benefit from the contributions this community has the potential to offer.”

James H. Wendorf, executive director for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said: "Access to the written word is the cornerstone of education and democracy. New technologies must serve individuals with disabilities, not impede them. Our homes, schools and ultimately our economy rely on support for the future, not discriminating practices and beliefs from the past.”
While the Kindle 2 is not currently accessible to blind users, Amazon recently announced on its Kindle 2 blog that it is currently at work on making the device’s navigational features accessible to the blind.

The coalition includes: American Association of People with Disabilities, American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, Association on Higher Education and Disability, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Burton Blatt Institute, Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), IDEAL Group, Inc., International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet, International Dyslexia Association, International Dyslexia Association––New York Branch, Knowledge Ecology International, Learning Disabilities Association of America, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Disability Rights Network, National Federation of the Blind, NISH, and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. In addition to the April 7 New York City protest, the coalition will participate in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 25-26.


April is Autism Awareness Month

Get ready. I’m going to try and get some posting done.

Because it is after April 1, you know I’m not fooling when I say that April is Autism Awareness month.

For authoratative information and resources about this subject, check out
The National Autism Society
Autism Speaks.

Also, for some insightful reflection on what the designation of Autism Awareness Month means to one person, check out the Disaboom post titled,
Can We Get Some Actual Help Here?

As an aside, while on that Disaboom post, go to the comment area at the bottom of that post, and check out the accessible CAPTCHA they offer. The audio is very clear and informative, down to the case of the letters it is asking you to input. It is also missing the bothersome background noise that is too common on other audio CAPTCHAs. I’m not sure if that is working well at screening out spam replies, but I didn’t see any comments posted, so I’ll assume its working. Are you listening to this,