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Showing posts from February, 2009

ammado, An exciting new platform for social involvement

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I recently had a great meeting with Terry Farris and Alan Keliipuleole of the newly launched ammado web platform. It’s an impressive web-based application for helping multi-national corporations engage their employees and customers in social sector activities such as volunteering or donating. It’s the brainchild of an Irish tech entrepreneur, Peter Conlon. I know Terry because he was UBS’ point guy on philanthropy in Singapore and Asia before joining ammado.

The challenge around something like this is critical mass, and the ammado team seems to be aiming very high in terms of execution. The site already works in a dozen languages and support for giving in more than twenty currencies. So, a high tech company with operations all over the world can engage their employees in each country to get involved with local charities, operate matching gift programs and so on. They also have a charitable gift-card concept for employees or customers (buy $250 of product, get a $10 or $20 gift c…

Bookshare’s Status as an Authorized Entity under Section 121

Section 121 of the Copyright Act, also known as the Chafee Amendment (17 U.S.C. Section 121), defines a special class of organizations known as authorized entities. Quoting from the statute: "authorized entity" means a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilitiesBookshare represents that it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has a primary mission to provide the specialized services defined in Section 121. Bookshare is in continual contact with the Association of American Publishers to maintain the publishing industry’s input into its activities as an authorized entity, routinely submits copies of its standard user licenses, policies and conditions to AAP’s General Counsel for comment, whenever there is any significant change in them, and works closely with the publishing industr…

The Struggle for Book Access (Blog Post #1)

I’ve been watching with interest the legal controversy over the synthetic speech capability of the new version of the Amazon Kindle, such as the coverage on Boing-Boing entitled Author's Guild claims text-to-speech software is illegal. I think it’s time to write a series of short essays on the struggle for accessible books, starting with this brouhaha.

This isn’t a new issue. George Kerscher and I wrote a major essay on the topic seven(!) years ago entitled the Soundproof Book. In it, we pointed out the irony that the first generation of ebook readers being inaccessible to blind people. This irony continues: it’s a terrible shame that Amazon (and other ebook device vendors) keeps putting out ebook products that are inaccessible to the blind! More on that in another essay. The essence of the Soundproof Book essay was the dueling moral high grounds: author’s rights vs. the right to access. Since these are both generally good from society’s standpoint, how do you handle the …

Bookshare around the world

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Bookshare is doing great. Launching the new version of the website has been exciting, and I was happy to see a great blog post on the new capabilities from the National Braille Press' blog.

We're also on a roll on many other fronts.

We recently obtained the ability to directly download books from the national accessible textbook repository for those states who appoint us to do that for the disabled students of their state.

Our staff are all over the country and the world spreading the word. While I was at the ATIA conference in Florida, our Director of Marketing was in Washington DC at another conference. Betsy Burgess got to run into Senator Harkin, who exclaimed "I love Bookshare!" For someone working in the disability field, hearing that (even secondhand!) from the number one disability advocate in the Senate was a thrill!

But, it's not just in Washington DC. We have social enterprises all over the world doing book proofreading for Bookshare. One of our…

TED thought for Benetech: health care education material and Bookaccess

One of the main reasons for attending TED is to get new ideas for Benetech and for the Raising the Floor movement. Although our efforts on RtF are mainly around serving people with disabilities, we are open to thinking more broadly about how these technologies could benefit more people. After all, that's the whole point of universal design!

I ran into a Stanford MBA student at TED, Joy Sun. She had been working in public health in Africa before heading to Stanford. I questioned her about how technology could help the health field, and she quickly came up with where she thought maximum leverage could be applied: helping those who are students in the health field get access to the content/textbooks they need. She described a nursing school in Luanda (I think, could have been Lusaka) that lacked textbooks or journals, and had weak PC infrastructure. But, all the students had cell phones.

Bing! I see an immediate overlap with the work we're doing with Bookshare and a new con…

This week at TED

I'm spending the week at the TED2009 conference, bylined The Great Unveiling. The last TED conference I attended was TED2, which was more than 20 years ago!

Many people are aware of both the social focus and high quality videos that come out of TED. As a public speaker in the technology and social sectors, I think that TED represents the top of our craft. It's nonstop great talks, performances and presentations, from people at the top of their game. Yesterday was an amazing start on the week, hearing from Bill Gates, Al Gore, Seth Godin and many others mixed in with a fabulous vocal group (Naturally Seven) and my favorite, Regina Spektor. The MIT Media Lab showed off some really exciting technology that I immediately was thinking of disability applications.

Many (most? all?) of these presentations will end up on the web soon.

And, the networking is also great (because of who the performances attract). It's a place to plant seeds for future collaborations. Well, I …