Wednesday, March 29, 2006.
For the print-disabled, a copy of the local newspaper delivered to one's doorstep is not accessible. Fortunately, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's largest organization of blind people, and Bookshare.org, the largest online digital library specifically for the print-disabled, have teamed up to make local and national newspapers and magazines available and accessible online to this underserved community.
Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, Bookshare's parent company, announced his organization's full commitment to the new partnership with the NFB, saying:
"As soon as we started offering NFB-NEWSLINE titles through Bookshare.org, many of our users instantly made it a part of their morning routine to log on to our site to download their favorite daily newspapers before heading out the door. Our subscribers are now more informed and aware of what's happening in their local communities, in their state, and across the country. We feel we're already lowering the barrier to accessible daily news each and every day. Our agreement with NFB-NEWSLINE will allow us to make this a rich and ongoing aspect of Bookshare.org."
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, which created and operates NFB-NEWSLINE, agreed, saying:
"Lifetime learning, including detailed awareness of current events, is part of what makes a good citizen, a successful employee or employer, and a valuable participant in community life. This partnership with Bookshare.org gives blind and disabled individuals another way to gain access to crucial information, so that they may compete on equal footing with everyone else in the world."
Using a synthetic speech engine, NFB-NEWSLINE has been delivering national and local newspapers over the phone to subscribers for a number of years. Content is acquired electronically via a direct feed from the newspaper, and it is accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, through a local or toll-free telephone number.
The new partnership with Bookshare.org takes this model a step farther. In 2004, Bookshare.org began making a limited number of NFB-NEWSLINE titles available through its online digital library on a trial basis, expanding the availability of accessible periodicals to those who are not able to benefit from telephone-based access, such as the deaf-blind and individuals with organically based learning disabilities or other disabilities which prevent the reading of print due to a physical cause. Bookshare.org made the periodicals available daily for download from the site in either DAISY (a digital audio file format, which can be read aloud with synthesized speech by screen-reading software, or desktop and portable devices) or BRF (a digital Braille format, which can be used with highly-portable refreshable Braille devices).
"I do a lot of traveling around Northern California, and the Braille newspapers from Bookshare.org allow me to make good use of my time by reading the New York Times and other papers," said Brian Bashin, a management consultant from the San Francisco Bay area. "Without this partnership of Bookshare.org and NFB-NEWSLINE, blind people would have no access to newspapers in places where there's no cell phone service - whether that be in a subway tunnel or on a camping trip."
"This is a crucial service for those of us who cannot access newspapers either in print or over the telephone," said Lydia Roth, a deaf-blind individual from Ellicott City, Maryland. "Now, thanks to Bookshare, NFB-NEWSLINE is available to those who require Braille access. I like to choose a newspaper at random, just to see what's going on in other parts of the country."
Aside from large circulation national and metropolitan newspapers like the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times, Bookshare.org's NFB-NEWSLINE offerings include newspapers with smaller circulations such as the Billings Gazette, Ukiah Daily Journal, and Paducah Sun. Spanish-language dailies La Opinion from Los Angeles and El Nuevo Herald from Miami are available for download, along with nationally prominent magazines, such as The Economist, The New Yorker, and AARP The Magazine.
Access to NFB-NEWSLINE periodicals, either through NFB's toll-free telephone service or through Bookshare.org, is limited to residents who provide documented proof of a qualifying print disability and live in a state that funds the service. To download newspapers, the qualified reader joins Bookshare.org by paying its annual subscription fee for unlimited access to all the titles in its collection.
A complete list of the more than 125 NFB-NEWSLINE periodicals currently available through Bookshare.org, as well as information concerning qualifications, is available at http://www.bookshare.org/web/AboutNewsline.html . Additional information concerning the NFB-NEWSLINE service can be found at http://nfb.org/newsline1.htm .
End of article.
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