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Showing posts from November, 2007

Two plus hours with the Friends of Benetech

Earlier this week I was invited to speak on an on-line conference by the Friends of Benetech, an independent support group for our Bookshare.org digital library for people with print disabilities. They have a neat technology for an on-line audio and text chat room. There were more than fifty people on-line with us, and the entire talk was recorded and placed on the web.

I love this kind of opportunity that technology makes possible. Any Bookshare.org user or volunteer now gets the chance to question the CEO of a service they care passionately about (and believe me, they do!). Would other nonprofit agencies operate differently if the people they served had a regular chance to question the leadership directly and frequently? Greater accountability is essential to progress in the social sector: this is just one start. Earned income is another way, of course. I'm looking forward to doing this regularly in the future: it keeps me on my toes!

Social Simulators

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I've seen two social simulator projects in the last couple of months, and they are both worth exploring.

The first was at the NCTI: National Center for Technology Innovation » 2007 NCTI Technology Innovators Conference, where I had a blast keynoting.


The first project was Social Simentor, which is aimed at helping people adapt their behavior to the workplace. It has broader applications, but we were definitely talking about using this for people with disabilities that affect their interpersonal behavior. It's an early prototype, but I could see the potential of this approach to teaching social skills for job readiness.

The second project is from Australia. Reach Out! is an online role playing game, called Reachout Central. Reach Out! is an organization that serves at-risk youth, and ROC is a way of allowing youth to play an on-line game that helps illustrate social interactions. I've played it for a while, and thought it was well done. It's Australia-centric, of c…

The Kindle: Pretty Cool!

Amazon.com: Kindle

This is the first ebook product that gives me a vision of where the book is going to go. I am imagining students with complete libraries without having to carry twenty pounds in their backpacks!

And, while not perfect, it gives a vision of where this technology will go. Sort of like the iPod: not the first of its type, but the one that pointed the way forward and ignited the field.

I bought my Kindle on the first day of availability, and received it the day before Thanksgiving (2007). By the end of Thanksgiving, I finished reading my first book, Stardust. It's comfortable to hold and to read. The flash at each page turn was initially bothersome, but quickly faded from notice. The textsize is handy for someone with aging eyeballs like mine. I haven't read the manual: it's pretty easy to figure out.

What makes this an extraordinary device is the combination of wireless ease with the e-ink display.

Here are my three downsides:

1. The display is really black on gr…

Bookshare.org milestones

Bookshare.org hits 35,000 Books!


It's always exciting when we hit another milestone like this. The milestones are going to be coming ever faster, now that we have the Bookshare.org for Education project (funded by the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education). We're committed to increasing our rate of title growth by a factor of four or five while improving quality.

Mr. Jim and Ms. Lisa go to Washington

Lisa Friendly and I just spent a fascinating week in Washington. Apparently, winning a competition for the largest award made by OSEP in memory (ever?) caused quite a stir. Although we are well known in the national and international disability field, it's been about ten years since I spent much time in DC (last time was the original Section 508 federal advisory committee in the 90s). We need to now spend a lot more time acquainting Washington decision makers about why OSEP made an inspired choice in selecting Bookshare.org as the provider…

Brighton Beach Brainstorm

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The best part of my job is brainstorming with brilliant, passionate people around social issues. On my visit to the UK last month to launch International Bookshare.org (check out www.bookshare.org.uk as an inital example), Kevin Carey of HumanITy invited Hiroshi Kawamura, the new President of the DAISY Consortium and me to lunch on Brighton beach. Although it was October, the weather was even nicer than California. I don't think the beachfront used to be this pleasant in the past, but I recommend it highly to anyone in the future!

Notes from a Brainstorm

The overarching concern of Hiroshi is a potential split in the disability community over new technology, particularly in the broadband age. He would like to see the disability community speak with one voice on these issues. The particular issue that concerns Hiroshi right now is the Second Life problem, 3D avatar immersive environments. To some disability groups, Second Life is wonderful. They can participate in a world access…