Remarks for the NFB 2004 Convention on Bookshare.org and Newsline
Jim Fruchterman, President, Benetech
The dream of Benetech has been to make print access for the blind as easy as it is for the sighted. Even easier if we can! We have been pursuing this dream for over fifteen years, first with our affordable Arkenstone Open Book reading machines, and for the last two years with Bookshare.org.
Bookshare.org is a place on the Internet where people can work together to make accessible books available to the blind. The number one source of our books are blind people volunteering to make the books they scan available to the rest of the community of blind people. Blind people pick the books in Bookshare.org. Who's in charge of our collection? You are!
Bookshare.org also gets many books from other active volunteers who share our passion for independent literacy, as well as directly from publishers. For example, we had Bill Clinton's biography up on Bookshare.org the day it hit the bookshelves. And if you aren't interested in reading that particular book, there are 18,001 other books to choose from! Once you download a book, you can listen to it using VisuAide's Victor Reader software, or access it in Braille using your Braille display or notetaker.
But, books are not enough! And, we're delighted to announce here at the 2004 Convention, that we are partnering with NFB Newsline to include newspaper and magazines on Bookshare.org. If you reside in a state that funds Newsline, your Bookshare.org account will automatically include access to newspapers. If you live anywhere in the United States, you'll have access to magazines.
Now, we're just starting with a prototype program with a small number of newspapers and magazines, but our plan is to add more steadily throughout this year. We already have USA Today, the Economist and the New Yorker on line.
What does this mean? More choices for the blind! Not only can you access Newsline by telephone as most of you here already do, you can also download the paper in any other way that works for you. For Braille readers, this means today's newspaper today - in Braille! If you have a Braille notetaker, you can load up the newspaper and read it in Braille on the commute to work or school. If you have speech technology, you can use that to listen to it. If you use magnification technology - magnify it to your heart's content!
Newsline and Bookshare.org together give you the power to access the newspaper your way, every day. That's first class access! Better than what sighted people have. Please come down to the exhibit hall and see today's USA Today for yourself. Sign up for Newsline! Sign up for Bookshare.org. Bookshare.org and Newsline - today's newspaper today, in Braille, speech and large print. You're in charge!