Help build an inclusive Twittersphere with Easy Chirp 2


For those of you who follow these things, you already know that Twitter (www.twitter.com), the social media micro-blogging platform, is making changes to its Application Programming Interface (API). For those of you who have no idea what that means, or why it’s significant, allow me to get you up to speed.

According to Wikipedia, An application programming interface (API) is a “protocol intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other. An API is a library that may include specification for routines, data structures, object classes, and variables.” If you want to read more, go here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_programming_interface

Twitter has only had a single version of the API in its entire history. Now, they want to make changes, and update to version 1.1. They have announced new developer “rules of the road,” and have outlined the proposed changes here:

https://dev.twitter.com/blog/changes-coming-to-twitter-api

The changes will affect all third-party applications that interact with Twitter, such as those you might use as an accessible alternative to the main Twitter web site. Some of these third-party Twitter clients have already completed the necessary adjustments, while others may not even bother, and may simply disappear. Time is running short, however, because Twitter has announced the “sunset” of version 1.0 of the API here:

https://dev.twitter.com/blog/api-v1-retirement-final-dates

Ever since I first discovered Twitter, I’ve been using the accessible alternative created by Dennis Lembree. Originally called Accessible Twitter, the web-based version now goes by the name Easy Chirp. Due to the changes made by Twitter to the API, Dennis has been forced to reinvent Easy Chirp, soon to be Easy Chirp 2. Dennis needs your help. He has started a kickstarter profile, and needs your pledges. The money raised will be used to compensate the experts Dennis has hired to assist with the project. As usual, when making a contribution to a Kickstarter project, you will receive a thank-you gift commensurate with the amount of your donation. See more info here:

Help build an inclusive Twittersphere: http://tinyurl.com/c9fsj5v

“I created Easy Chirp over four years ago and am touched by the support it’s received from the community. Now it must be rebuilt due to the Twitter API change, and I hope to collaborate this time with a few other developers.” Lembree says.

Dennis plans some new features and additional streamlining to make Easy Chirp 2 even faster and more accessible. It will continue to support keyboard-only users, will work without Javascript, and will be better optimized for mobile devices. Of course, it will still feature the user-friendly interface you’ve come to expect, useable by people who have a variety of disabilities, and who use a variety of assistive technologies.

Says Lembree: “To me, Easy Chirp exemplifies what a web app should be: platform agnostic, accessible, and simple. It provides a unique and necessary service in the social media space.”

There is no shortage of Twitter clients in the market, which can be used with different operating systems and device types. I use Easy Chirp for my own reasons, not the least of which is that I know Dennis, like him, trust him, and appreciate his work. If you have used Easy Chirp in the past, but have never clicked on that “donate” button just below the sign-in link on the Easy Chirp home page, then scrape a few coins out from between the sofa cushions and send them Dennis’s way. We’ll be tweeting at one another again before it’s time to fly south for the winter.

Pledge to the Easy Chirp 2 Kickstarter here:

Http://www.kickstarter.com and perform a search, or go directly to the Easy Chirp 2 project page here: http://tinyurl.com/c9fsj5v

For all things Twitter API, go here:

https://dev.twitter.com/docs/api

You can follow Easy Chirp: @EasyChirp for updates, or you can follow me @Accessible_Info on Twitter as well.

LL

Novel approaches to icon-based AAC presented by Karl Wiegand


One can easily argue that few are as keenly interested in the well-being of a person with a disability as is a parent. Expanding from that core of support one can also include siblings, guardians, educators, social workers and health care professionals. One can further include advocates, friends, spouses and co-workers, all of whom are concerned about quality of life. That covers just about everyone, and just about everyone should be in attendance at Karl Wiegand’s presentation at this year’s Conference on Disability, hosted by CSUN.

Mr. Wiegand is presenting some astonishing work in the field of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). His presentation, entitled “Novel Approaches to Icon-Based AAC,” will explore two different methodologies for message construction and input. These two approaches can elevate the quality of communication for a person who has locked in syndrome. “Locked in syndrome” is an umbrella term that describes people who may have paralysis to the degree that the individual is unable to move any major body parts, except for above the neck. Even a person who may be in a full body cast is an example of someone who may have near complete lack of motor function, albeit temporarily.

The choices in alternative and augmentative communication devices now commonly involve the use of mouth sticks, switches or eye gaze input devices that can be cumbersome and fatiguing for the user. The current systems were designed based on an assumption that the user can press a button, make repetitious movements, or is able to maintain movement or body position for extended periods, so as to select letters or short words or phrases from choices on a menu. Using letter-based systems can be time consuming, because a letter-based system is more generative than the icon-based system that some users prefer in face-to-face or real time communication situations.

The challenge for Wiegand and his colleagues was to answer the questions: How can you redesign a screen such that you can display a large number of icons, but not all at once, which can be cognitively burdensome? How can icon-based systems be redesigned for faster and more efficient communication, as well as to accommodate users with upper limb motor impairments?

Together with his advisor and colleagues at Northeastern University, Wiegand is working on initial designs of two new approaches to icon-based
AAC: one using continuous motion and one using a brain-computer interface (BCI). The continuous motion system, called Symbol Path, consists of 120 screen icons of semantically salient words. “Continuous motion” means that a user can touch a word to begin a sentence, and without breaking contact from the screen, swipe or drag from icon to icon, ultimately completing a sentence.

His second approach makes use of a practice borrowed from the field of psychology. It is a system that shows icons to a user that represents a word or small phrase, in a serial fashion. It’s called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation. It allows for more efficient sentence construction, rather than presenting the user with a screen full of icons that must be made small in order to offer the user a full compliment of choices, which may be overwhelming.

This method of presenting information in rapid-fire fashion has been used before. If it sounds familiar, you may have once used this same technique if you’ve ever tried to tackle “speed reading.”

“My goal is to build a star trek computer.” Wiegand declares. He went on to explain. “A computer like the one in the program Star Trek, that can understand anybody, and will do it’s best to fill a person’s desires or needs.”

Karl was gracious enough to patiently explain what essential elements of communication would be required in order to make a “Star Trek computer” possible. First, a computer would have to be capable of parsing, which senses for context and speech recognition. Another element would include learning contexts, whereby a computer would understand how people interact with systems and expected responses from users. Finally, artificial intelligence would have to be achieved, enabling problem-solving with incomplete information, and natural language processing.

Until the point at which Mr. Wiegand has utterly changed our lives, and I do not doubt for a moment that he will, Wiegand says he’d like to work on Siri. To achieve his ultimate ends, Karl has worked in a number of other fields that have led him to this research. “I like AAC.” Wiegand continues. “It is a very focused area that is actually a vertex for four or five other fields.”

At CSUN, Karl will demonstrate the SymbolPath system, a prototype version of which is currently available for free on the Android app store (search for “SymbolPath”), show the BCI system, explain how both systems work, and talk about future directions for both. Wiegand hopes to have a system in place at his CSUN session so that attendees who interact with AAC users, friends or loved ones of AAC users, or AAC users themselves, can help create a corpus — a data set that shows what certain users want in certain times or settings or situations.

“We have revised both approaches based on initial testing and user feedback, and we are currently conducting several iterations of user-assisted design and revision before proceeding to full user testing.” Wiegand notes.

Attendees can help build this database by contributing realistic text, utterances, or phrases that AAC users like to say. If you attend the session, or find Karl throughout the week, you can contribute to the database or ask questions. In exchange, Karl will give you a copy of Symbol Path.

Karl will be presenting on Friday, March 1st at 3:10 pm in the Ford AB room, third floor.
Here is the link to the session page:
http://bit.ly/15yOOND

More about Karl Wiegand:

Karl Wiegand is a Ph.D. student in computer science at
Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. He works in the
Communication Analysis and Design Laboratory (CadLab) under the
advisement of Dr. Rupal Patel. Since joining the CadLab in 2009, Karl
has been working on alternative methods of communication for users
with neurological
impairments and severely limited mobility. His research includes
aspects of interface design, artificial intelligence, and language
theory.

Here are more ways to contact Karl, and help with his corpus gathering project:

Karl Wiegand’s homepage: http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/wiegand/
Karl’s lab: http://www.cadlab.neu.edu/
Link to Karl on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karlwiegand/

Finally, if you know or love an AAC user, you can help get the ball rolling on data-gathering here:

http://www.cadlab.neu.edu/corpus/

Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the event. See you in San Diego!

LL

Sina Bahram to present an accessible, gesture-based approach to controlling classroom technology


There are any number of reasons one might attend a particular session at the upcoming 28th annual International Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference. You might want to learn more about a ground-breaking awareness project, you might want to learn a new skill, you might want to find fresh inspiration for your own work. One reason to attend Sina Bahram’s session is that he has helped to solve a problem that has affected educators, lecturers, or corporate presenters who are blind or visually impaired, as well as people who use tech automation in the workplace. He will discuss an accessible, gesture-based approach to controlling the technology in either a classroom or corporate setting.

Sina Bahram is a technical consultant and accessibility researcher pursuing his PhD in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University. His field of research is Human Computer Interaction (HCI) with a focus on the use of innovative environments and multi-modal approaches to facilitate eyes-free exploration of highly graphical information. Combining artificial intelligence, intelligent user interfaces (IUI), and HCI, Sina devises innovative and user-centered solutions to difficult real-world problems.

Bahram’s session will show you how an instructor who is blind can independently give a presentation. typically, when using the technology available to a sighted presenter, there are barriers imposed by the device that is used to control the projector, the microphone, document camera, and other input devices. This controller, usually either a Crestron or AMX technology box, allows for many inputs that can be managed by way of a touch screen. This touch screen interface is inaccessible to blind instructors, and presents numerous difficulties for a speaker or educator with low or no vision. For example, without sighted assistance, there is no way to know the state of readiness of the technology being used. There is no feedback alerting the presenter as to whether the projector is warmed up, or how he or she might adjust the volume level of the audio. Bahram will discuss and demonstrate how this approach to an embedded system allows blind or vision-impaired instructors to control classroom technology.

The project is a collaboration between North Carolina State University, Bahram, Ron Jailall, who works in control systems programming and classroom design, and Greg Kraus, who is Coordinator of Campus Accessibility. They have devised an approach whereby simple gestures, swipe up, down, and to the right, are used to move about various screen elements. Further, computer-generated speech is used to provide menu and status information.

“We have an underrepresentation of persons with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),” says Bahram. “In particular, people who are blind or visually impaired. This is one of the approaches that can help address this problem, in a small way, without having to depend upon a teaching assistant or student to assist. Now, a blind instructor can manage classroom technology independently.”

No matter the context in which you give presentations, craft accessibility policy or purchase tech for employees or students who are blind, this session is for you. No special skill level is required to attend. All are welcome. Sina will be available for questions, demonstrations, and further discussion, at any time you can catch him throughout the conference week.

More about Sina Bahram:
In 2012, Sina was recognized as one of President Barack Obama’s Champions of Change for his work in enabling users with disabilities to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. You can read more about Sina and his research on his website, www.SinaBahram.com, or follow him on Twitter via @SinaBahram.

Be sure to check out the links below for more information.

For further ways to contact Sina, see his contact page at:
http://www.SinaBahram.com/contact.php
Read Bahram’s blog here:
http://blog.SinaBahram.com
Discussion of an Eyes-Free Approach to Controlling Classroom Tech:

Demonstration of an Eyes-Free Approach to Controlling Classroom Tech:

For more videos on other topics, Sina’s YouTube channel is at:
http://www.YouTube.com/sbahram

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the event.

LL

CSUN12: The ultimate user experience


Sitting down to compose this post, I found myself unsure as to how to begin.  I wanted to write a wrap-up of sorts of the 27th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference, sponsored by CSUN, but I had not attended the event from the very first day.  I thought others would be more likely to write a more thorough recap of the event.  What could I contribute, having only attended the conference for three days?

 

In fact, I would not have attended at all were it not for the kindness of a stranger.  Unable to find a room in the San Diego area, I realized I had waited too long to make a hotel reservation, and the nearest available room was almost fifteen minutes away from the Manchester Grand Hyatt, the conference venue.  Tweeting my frustration to an online friend, I received a tweet from Elle Waters (@nethermind).  "If you need a place to stay," she tweeted at me, "you can share my room."

 

"Are you kidding?" I tweeted back, incredulous.  "How do you know I’m not a psycho killer?"

 

"I’m optimistic."  Elle tweeted back. "I’ll send you all the info and my contact details."

 

True to her word, she did just that.  With an extra bed in the room, Elle explained, it was no problem for her to share the space, and she left a room key for me at the front desk, enabling me to sleep in a far more preferable condition than on a bus bench or under an exhibit hall table.

 

Upon arriving at the hotel, I discerned immediately that the plane on which I traveled to San Diego could have easily landed directly into the lobby.  it was so cavernous, so without landmarks, and so filled with the sounds of voices, cane tapping and assorted other hotel lobby sounds, each echoing around the interior space in a way that I found difficult to interpret for good navigation, I feared a very troublesome experience.  I need not have been concerned.

 

Throughout my stay, I found myself lost many times.  However, I barely went astray ten feet before someone at the hotel, either staff or volunteer, had redirected me with courtesy and professionalism.  There was nowhere I could turn without an almost immediate inquiry as to whether or not I needed any assistance.  I traveled from point A to point B in the hotel with surprising efficiency, and I did not find myself frustrated even once.  Again, the kindness of strangers helped make my stay an enjoyable one.

 

This was my fourth CSUN conference on disability, my first since the move to San Diego.  My first was probably around fifteen years ago.  It was a very different event then, there was no Twitter or other social media to connect attendees in advance of the event, therefor the atmosphere felt very different.  Since this was my first conference as a "tweep," I really felt a tremendous amount of anticipation to meet the strangers with whom I have been "tweeting" for years, but have never actually met in the ‘meatspace."  I was excited about the opportunities, yet also a little anxious over the possibility that I might be the oldest person in the room.  I wasn’t sure if now, all of the online technophiles were all under the age of twenty-five.  Would I feel out of place?

 

Again, I need not have been concerned.  Upon meeting many of my Twitter contacts, I was delighted to realize that the vast majority of them thought of me as a friend, not a stranger, and it felt more like "old home week," than a collection of strangers uncomfortably ignoring each other in an elevator.  I was greeted with warmth and enthusiasm, some seemed genuinely glad to meet me in person, I was invited here and there and everywhere for socializing and education, and even individuals whom I have regarded with a certain amount of awe were cordial, engaged, even affectionate.  My head was spinning.  The last thing I expected was to be treated like I was welcome, valued, and interesting.  These were no strangers, as it turned out.

 

For many years, one of my own accessibility mantras has been that true accessibility is more than a mandate, it’s a mind-set.  What makes any place accessible isn’t only the architectural enhancements, but the attitudinal ones.  I have always believed that access is as much about excellent customer service as it is about wheelchair ramps or Braille dots.  Yes, the educational sessions were brilliant, the technology was fascinating, and the weather was superb, but it was the people with whom I interacted at the CSUN conference that made it the ultimate accessible, user experience.

 

Thank you to all whom I met at the event, all of those strangers who will never be strangers again.

 

LL 
    

Tips, tools and a reason to care about web accessibility


It isn’t often that a major online tech and social media outlet such as mashable takes on the topic of usability and accessibility, so I want to make sure that their article on the subject gets as much attention as possible.  In an unscientific comparison of how many responses a typical Mashable article receives when posting about the iPad or Google Plus versus the number of comments posted on this topic, I’d say either few care or most are clueless.

 

Granted, it’s not the most exciting subject in the world, but I’m just so worked up into a fizz that Mashable put it out there, I’m going to ride their coattails and augment their efforts somewhat.

 

Here are three posts on the topic of web site accessibility that I wholeheartedly recommend.  First, the reason it’s important by yours truly:

Why You Should Care about Web Site Accessibility

 

Next, some tips that will guide you through the process.  This article was written by Dennis Lembree, creator of Easy Chirp: :

25 Ways to Make Your Site More Accessible

 

Finally, since you will need the tools to accomplish the task, here’s the Mashable piece:

22 Essential tools for Usability

Please take the time to consider how you can develop your projects in a way that is inclusive and accessible to everyone.  I hope these three offerings convince you.

 

LL

Recommended blogs for teaching all


At the risk of being accused of dangling “link bait” out there, I thought I’d drop a quick few lines to encourage you to check out this nice list of resources.  It’s a list of blogs pertaining to various aspects of disability, assistive technology, speech pathology and special education.  Check it out here:  

 

Teaching All:  Recommended Blogs.

 

Of course, it doesn’t hurt my feelings any that in an alphabetical list, I’m right at the top – grin.  Just returning the favor.

 

 

LL

A few simple ways to support disability-aware businesses


How many times in your life have you complained about poor customer service or problematic business practices?  How many times have you been so furious about the way you were treated at a place of business that you went out of your way to make sure management (and anyone else who would listen) was informed?

 

How many times have you done the same when you were treated well?

 

It is often said that people are far more likely to complain than to praise.  Perhaps sociologists can explain why, maybe it has something to do with that "fight or flight" instinct, and when we are angry we want everybody to know about it.  While I have certainly done my share of complaining, I believe we are most effective when we go out of our way to explain the ways in which business was conducted exactly right.

 

One reason that complaining can be effective is because the alacrity with which a solution is proposed is usually in direct proportion to your willingness to make a scene.  The greater the stress you place on everyone concerned, the more likely they are to appease you so as to quickly remove you from their face.  However, once departed, you and your complaint are likely soon forgotten, simply because total recall is vastly uncomfortable for everyone.  That is, unless they’re laughing, having made you the day’s water cooler topic.  However, you certainly did nothing that would make the next person’s experience there any better.

 

While repeat business is the goal of any company, even this type of positive reinforcement may not go far enough.  Are they doing well because of advertising?  Pricing policies?  Nice decor?  A low pressure environment?  What was it, exactly, that worked?  Disability-friendly policies may not be high on a list of success analytics, but there is much we can do to raise our profile as a desirable consumer demographic.  In the process, we can make the experience better for the next customer.

     

If you are a person with a disability and you have a great experience at a retail establishment, restaurant, or web site, take the time to elaborate on the reason.  It’s easy to use positive reinforcement that will generate good will with staying power.  Here are some ways to show support and appreciation to a business that empowered you:

 

If an employee was discreet and respectful, make sure they know how much you appreciated your experience.  If the store manager went out of his or her way to accommodate you, let the store owner know, even though making that accommodation may not have been a specific store policy.

 

It is important that while you are praising the business, whether in person, over the phone or in writing that you explain why you are showing your appreciation.  Try to come up with something a bit more inspired than "Dude, cool store."  Let the staff know why what they did was beneficial, and encourage more of the same.  Tell them that once a business is known to be accessible, people with disabilities will spread the word, and will be loyal customers.  Remind the employees that their efforts are not simply a matter of disability awareness, it is a matter of excellent customer service.
 

If you are blind or visually impaired making a purchase online, and the ecommerce page offers an audio CAPTCHA option, be sure to write to the company and tell them how much you appreciated having that option.  Explain that, because of this accommodation, you were able to complete the transaction without sighted assistance.  Of course, that is its purpose, but it is always nice for the site owner to know that the consideration was not in vain.

 

If an employee utilizes some clever trick to assist you in signing on the dotted line, devising an ingenious method of identifying "which way is up," helping you to navigate around barriers or accomplish your business without humiliation, tell them why their choice to exercise discretion is so valuable.  There have been times when, in  doing just this, I was invited to come back and conduct staff training so that all employees could benefit from my experience.

 

Finally, do your part to ensure that a disability aware business is around for awhile.  Share your knowledge with friends, tweet or blog about the company and their disability aware policies or environment.  Consider it your contribution to our economic recovery.  Pay it forward!

 

LL 

A must-read article by the creator of Accessible Twitter


Sometimes, we just flat over think things.  This can result in what some call the “paralysis of analysis.”  When it comes to web site accessibility, you may want to make your site inclusive, but you feel overwhelmed by the technical aspect.  Don’t let this stop you.  Instead, read this article by Dennis Lembree, creator of Accessible Twitter.  You might be surprised to learn how even small changes can make a big difference.  Find it here:

 

25 Ways to Make Your Site more Accessible.

 

Here is a bit more info on Dennis:

 

A word with the accessible Dennis Lembree on Accessible Twitter 

 

Accessible Twitter enters beta status

 

Dennis is a fount of knowledge when it comes to web accessibility.  You can follow him on Twitter:  @webaxe or find one of his web properties online at http://weboverhauls.com.

 

LL

Accessible email and Win 7: Screen reader users silenced again?


About six months ago, in an effort to help solve the problem of email inaccessibility and the release of Windows 7, I posted a few suggestions in an entry entitled, Win 7 work-around for Zoomtext users. 

 

Unfortunately, this information requires an update due to the fact that there has been a recent change to my proposed solution, in the form of a version update to Windows Live Mail.  Like an idiot, I clicked on the update consent link before reviewing the new version notes.  To my horror, I now have a version of Windows Live Mail that I cannot use at all.  This has me so frustrated, and really ticked off. If there is anything within my power to do to advocate for screen reader users to Microsoft, I will.  Not that anyone will pay any attention to me whatsoever, but maybe a few of my accessibility tweeps will join me. 

 

First of all, the update to Windows Live Mail changes the look and feel of the interface  to that of the “ribbon” design.  If you detest that same interface in Word, you won’t like it here.  I am using an older version of MS Office on another PC, so I’m still enjoying the quite accessible XP MS Word interface.  So, when I saw the new Live Mail version, I was not thrilled.  Then, I attempted to use it, and found it to be utterly maddening.  the bottom line is, there is no accessibility with Zoomtext, which is the screen reader I use. 

 

Now, for my readers who use Jaws, perhaps you are having a different experience.  However, my extreme pathos drove me to Google, whereupon I conducted a somewhat fruitless search into accessible email solutions.  Here are the options I’ve discovered so far:

 

There are several forum posts out there from users who provide a step-by-step means by which to use the Vista version of Windows Mail with Windows 7.  While at first glance this seemed doable, I must concede this is not for the faint of heart.  If phrases such as “take full administration ownership,” and “change the registry” make you nervous, I suggest that you do not take this on unassisted.  I was feeling pretty intimidated by this option myself, so I moved on. 

 

A second option is to find another email program altogether.  I found lists of them, just Google “free email for Win 7” and you’ll find a dozen choices.  One of them is Mozilla Thunderbird, which I understand has an Outlook-similar functionality. I tried another choice first, called Incredimail, and I was not happy.  Incredimail seems like it would be a lot of fun to use if you want to add effects and whimsy to your email messages, it offers myriad backgrounds, ecards, animated graphics, sound effects and more to your communications.  I found it to be obnoxious.  Cute, but obnoxious.  Plus, I couldn’t figure out how to make Incredimail work with Zoomtext.

 

The Mozilla option seemed the better of the two, but I know little of the thunderbird program.  What I do know is this:  The email file formats are not interchangeable. You cannot use the .dbx extension, there is some converting required if you want to import  your old email messages.  I honestly do not know if this is significant. Does it mean that I cannot sync up my laptop and desktop, swap email messages and read them interchangeably?  If you know the answer, please share. 

 

Now that I’ve already been sucked into the update vortex and as a consequence have no access to the email that had already been saved, I’m stumped.  I suppose I can uninstall the updated Windows Live Mail and reinstall the old version, if the OS will permit it.  Why in the world do software manufacturers update their products only to set some users back?  I’ve had it, frankly.  What we need is an open source product that screen reader users can rely on.  A brilliant little piece of kit such as is Jarte, Juice and the many other accessible products where the needs of users with disabilities have been taken into consideration. At this point, I’d like to call upon my readers to submit some alternatives to Windows Live Mail. Let us divide the suggestions into two groups: Simple, uncluttered O E look-alikes, and full-featured productivity tools for heavy email users. Thanks in advance for your input.

 

LL

Augment your e-reading with Audible.com


Why Sign Up for an Audible Account?

If you are a voracious reader, and love nothing more than to curl up on your favorite chair with a cup of hot cocoa and your newest literary masterpiece, then perhaps you’ve not hitched yourself to the audio book bandwagon. Yet, audio books are a fast-growing business, and the variety of digital reading and audio devices, which are now omnipresent in our lives, make listening to books more appealing. For people who are blind or who have low vision, the world of reading for pleasure has opened up, thanks to the proliferation of reading devices specifically designed to meet the needs of a growing population.

 

There are now several places on the web from which to download digital audio books. Years ago, I used to scour brick and mortar bookstores in the vain hope of finding a decent selection of books on cassette tape. There were some real drawbacks to books on tape back then, not the least of which was the price. An unabridged version of a book of any length was prohibitive. Some came in large boxes and consisted of dozens of cassettes. I purchased a tape of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand," and as I recall, the price was over fifty dollars. For me, that was a lot of money to pay for a book, when my sighted counterparts could pick up the same book at a garage sale for fifty cents.

 

Of course, the book was read by the author, and he is worth every penny.

 

Due to the expense of recording and packaging all those tapes, a great many books were only available in abridgements. I found this to be endlessly frustrating. To me, it was flat out censorship, I did not want someone else to choose for me which were the "bad parts," and which were suitable for including in the taped version.

 

Problem solved. Digitally recorded books are usually compressed to a tight file format that takes up very little room on your reading device, and is fast downloading. The sound quality is great, and the narrators are skilled professionals who can bring a book to life as expertly as any great actor. Some books are read "straight," with no particular emphasis on acting out the character parts, while others are full dramatizations. Whichever suits your taste, you’ll find just about everything on Audible.com.

 

Audible is also right on top of best sellers, book club selections and periodicals. You can even subscribe to podcasts offered by names you know. Audible has an easy, straightforward search engine that allows you to nose around in all of your favorite genres. Best of all, once you buy a book, it’s yours, period. You are not required to maintain a subscription so that you can keep the books. Your downloads are not ‘shut off" if you cancel your subscription. Or, if you prefer, you can purchase "a la carte" and not subscribe at all. Members do get discount prices as well as some "freebies" that you may enjoy, such as a subscription to the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Yes, even the newspapers are read to you out loud. It’s a beautiful thing. Even if you are not visually impaired, think of the time you’ll save catching up on the morning headlines while you shower and dress for work.

 

Finally, you’ll have no difficulty in using your favorite device. Audible supports many different manufacturers, including accessible devices, MP3 players and even phones. Check out what’s on Audible’s bookshelves. 

 

http://www.audible.com/

 

Happy listening.

LL