Blind World

Software opens Web to the blind.

March 01, 2005.
New York Daily News.

Librarians normally frown on people chatting in their quiet domain, but when a computer is doing the talking, they'll make an exception.

Starting today, new software on computers in many New York Public Library branches will allow the blind and visually impaired to use E-mail, word processors and spreadsheets, and surf the Web with ease.

Access software, JAWS 5.0 and MAGIC 9.0, has been installed on computers at the library's Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island branches.

The computers will use speech synthesizers to read screen text in applications like Microsoft Word, Excel, E-mail programs and Web browsers.

"As communication becomes increasingly digitized and reliance on computers and the Internet increases, it is essential that people with disabilities not be left behind," said Susan Kent, director and chief executive of branch libraries.

The MAGIC software, for those with low vision, magnifies screen text while a voice synthesizer reads the text as users move the mouse across the screen.

JAWS software, for the totally blind, features a multilingual speech synthesizer. Languages in JAWS include English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese.

Both software packages were developed by Freedom Scientific, a leading maker of assistive technology.

The software requires headphones, which are available at no charge.

Library patrons can even use the new software at their local branch to check out the other services the NYPL offers the visually impaired through the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, at 40 W. 20th St. in Manhattan.

A full listing of audiobooks that can be delivered to their doors can be found on the Web (

Originally published on March 1, 2005.

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