Blind World Magazine

New Zealand.
RNZFB and HumanWare to Pilot Internet Distribution of Talking Books.

December 19, 2005.

Christchurch -- HumanWare is pleased to announce that it has been engaged by the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) to assist with a world-leading pilot project to evaluate the distribution of Digital Talking Books (DTB) via the internet.

HumanWare will design and develop the prototype internet-capable Digital Talking Book players and assist the RNZFB to conduct trials of the technology among its existing talking book clientele.

The RNZFB's objectives for the trial are to find out whether a DTB player and service solution can be designed to replace the postal system with internet delivery of books and magazines for users of its library who are not computer literate. The RNZFB has a commitment to developing a DTB system that utilises the latest technology to deliver a high-quality service to its dispersed customer base.

Like many blindness organisations, RNZFB faces the enormous challenge of evolving its Talking Books Library from audiotape to digital media. The Foundation has been working on this multimillion-dollar project for several months, and expects to complete the project by 2008.

"This is a major step forward for us, and we are being extremely careful and methodical to ensure we get it right! Clearly, the internet is the future, and it will be the most economical distribution method of delivering books and magazines to print-disabled people. Obviously we have to consider costs, but we also have to be mindful that the vast majority or our members are over 65, and half are over 80. The hardware - or digital download box - that's in our blind, deafblind and vision-impaired members' houses has to be simple and easy to use, as close to fool-proof as possible. We've worked with HumanWare (when they were called Pulse Data International) for years, and we are pleased to work with them on this project," said Mary Schnackenberg, Divisional Manager of RNZFB's Adaptive Support Division. Mary was born blind and has always been a keen user of Talking Books.

"We are delighted to partner the RNZFB to evaluate the potential benefits that internet distribution of digital audio media can deliver to New Zealand's visually impaired and print-disabled community", said Gilles Pepin, Acting CEO of HumanWare. "This appointment is further recognition that HumanWare is the leader of the Digital Talking Book industry and is committed to implementing the latest technological innovations in our products for the benefit of our customers."

HumanWare has designed and commercialized Digital Talking Book players since 1999 under the Victor Reader product line. HumanWare offers the widest choice of both hardware and software playback devices starting with the smallest and most affordable hardware player in the industry (Victor Reader Vibe) and offering adapted solutions for students, professionals and the elderly with the Victor Reader Classic family.

In March 2005, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) - the world's largest provider of audio material to the print disabled - appointed HumanWare as a member of a consortium led by Battelle and involving the National Federation of the Blind and the Trace Center to design and develop their next generation of Digital Talking Book players.

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