Posts from the ‘Visually impaired’ Category

Disabled Invisible? Or the Government and Media Blind, deaf and Dumb?

The 11TH of May 2011 will go down in history. Sadly, only a small sector of the British population will be aware of why.

The conservative government are bull dosing a welfare reform through parliament that will effect hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled individuals. Not only are local councils cutting services to their disabled constituents but the government is putting disabled people under siege by dramatically changing the benefits they are entitled to claim.

Not only will the long term sick and disabled only be allowed to claim Employment support Allowance [esa] for twelve months but the transformation of disability living allowance will not be recognised as something that helps disabled people live their lives. Taking the mobility component from people in residential care who are able, with that extra financial support, to visit friends and families and go to social groups that improves their quality of life, will reduce them to emotional despair. With that component gone, it will leave many isolated and unable to keep in contact with relatives and friends whilst participating in social activities that keep them integrated and active.

The extremely generalised assessment process neither assists those in need or accurately assesses disabled individuals needs correctly. And if found “fit to work” physically, is not to say someone is mentally prepared or actually able. Putting disabled people in to the “lion’s den” of the commercial workplace is going to destroy people. Having rejection upon rejection, while being virtually “bullied” by job centre Plus advisors so they can meet their targets, will mean many people are placed in frightening situations and pushed into a potentially soul destroying path.

Imagine, applying for a job, being interviewed over the telephone only to be told, when you have a disability that they are not sure how they can accommodate your needs, time and time again. Regardless of laws against discrimination, some of the reasons employers cannot employ a disabled person are not always their fault. For blind people, working with money is not practical, employers wouldn’t feel comfortable with money exchanging hands from a blind person to a sighted or vice versa in case the notes are not accurately identified or fraud is being committed. Blind people’s assessment of their own money often takes longer than that of a sighted person, so time pressure would be on them. And that’s if the technology, such as a cash register is accessible. Many are not and never will be in our lifetime.

Wheelchair users can only access buildings with ramps and lifts. And in fire situations, lifts can never be used. Not many employers are willing to take a risk of putting a wheelchair user on the sixth floor in case there is a fire. Some organisations have a buddy system but even if their intentions were their, many insurance companies would not cover the company for such circumstances.

The assessment deems myself “fit to work” if all criteria I have read and been informed about so far is accurate, because I have a guide dog. With the RNIB recently publishing a statistic 92% of employers would not employ someone with a visual impairment, where does that huge misconception that employers have no issue employing the blind come from? do the people behind this horrendous attempt at assessing disabled and sick people for work take into account that despite wanting to work, many being qualified, the employers are not able to for physical or legal reasons employ the disabled. And do these great minds who have created this ludicrous test not think that just because someone has a guide dog or a wheelchair that it can suddenly change employers or insurance companies minds? Changing the “being able to walk” criteria to “being mobilised” was a very devious thing for this government to do. Many disabled could “mobilise” themselves but for how long or how successful are many other questions that are not addressed.

Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, [if she can call herself that], stated that it is a system that is not working if there are more alcoholics and drug addicts claiming DLA than the blind. Well, Miss Miller, if your government has your way under personal independent payments, there will be very few blind people claiming dLA’s successor. Not to mention the fact that the statistics tell a different story? This is people’s futures, Ms Miller, not Jack and Ori.

The media have done nothing but promote the government’s propaganda efforts by publishing in various news sources that 94% in the Mail and 75% in the Daily Express incapacity benefit claimants are deemed “fit to work”. That figure blows my mind. Take away the fact for many disabled, they want to work but are refused employment because of their disability or lack of support into work, what about those suffering from cancer, HIV, MS, chronic arthritis that physically cannot work efficiently every day? That represents only six percent of incapacity claimants? Well, of course not. As usual, the press are promoting government support for tight reform with miscalculated, misinformed, and mostly outright . wrong statistics

The media proved yesterday how much they didn’t care about this society’s disabled. The only major news programmes to cover the march were ITV evening news who did a good piece of coverage and Channel four’s news at seven. BBC had mentioned it during the day but it was missing from it’s popular six o’clock showing on BBC 1 while it was covered on it’s website reasonably well. Sky News, one of the biggest news channels in the UK and streamed around the world mentioned it maybe once but nothing on their website at all. They were able to cover all the things going on in Libya, many foreign stories, even the sentencing of actress Lindsay Lohan but nothing on its website about the thousands of disabled marching through London to protest against the cuts.

It angers me that only the Guardian have been forth coming and extremely supportive of 11TH May protests; having constant updates on a live blog and several write ups both on its online distribution and paper broadsheet. A huge thank you to the Guardian, ITV News, and Channel 4 for having some great coverage of the protest and even interviewing Liam Burns, the shadow work and pensions minister.

None of us expect to be top of the hour news, or front page in the news papers but for crying out loud, we are still here, in our millions as a disabled community! Can this government not hear us? Do they not understand? If they want to cut the deficit, which we all agree on, why target those of us who fight enough in our every day battles with discrimination! I know cuts need to happen, but why are they cutting the quality of our lives? Why are they not recognising blindness as a disability, assessing it below even the threshold to gain a place on the into work scheme under the new ESA benefit, despite having input from organisations such as RNIB who feels their input has been ignored? How can they “assume” that my guide dog makes me more employable than a cane user who may have more sight? How can they say someone with MS can work for eight hours every day if they don’t see them in pain and unable to get up for work because every muscle in their body hurts? How can an abled bodied so called health professional, who is repeatedly passing people fit to work who clearly are not, capable of assessing someone if they’ve never dealt with that disability, some even come across it? If they are not willing to understand and take a fifteen minute snippet with a rigid questionnaire to assess someone’s abilities, it is clearly just a tick in the box and one more person off the sick and disabled list, the better, right, Mr cameron and co?

They say they’ve had conversations with organisations about these changes, but if that was true, then how was it that staff from over forty organisations representing disabled people across the board were marching alongside those people on 11TH May? Richard Leaman , Guide Dogs own chief executive marched alongside clients, dogs and staff alike to protest. Do you think if Guide Dogs as an organisation had agreed to the governments extraordinary changes that he would risk his reputation and the one of his organisation just “for kicks”?

Miller talked about the drug addicts and the alcoholics claiming both DLA and incapacity, and the media have publicised that fact over and over again, but what about those who are disabled who are going to get theirs cut? We didn’t make a life style choice to be blind, lame, deaf, or feel as though our body was on fire, we didn’t abuse the system so then why are we being punished, ignored, sidelined and forced into another system that has not worked for many?

I’ve claimed job seeker’s allowance. I claimed it for almost three years! During that time, neither I nor the job centre could find work. The disability employment advisors did not understand my needs as a blind client or how my blindness would effect me in the work place. No information was accessible to me. Not leaflets, their computer systems, the forms I had to sign every two weeks. It was only through my own research that I attended the royal national college for the blind and transferred to incapacity benefit. After I’d left college, I still couldn’t get work. And despite continued efforts to search, apply for different jobs, I am still unemployed. I was never understood and felt abandoned during that time. Ms Miller speaks of disabled people being abandoned on the current system, so what is she doing then? Throwing many into a system that is not designed to support people with extensive needs; Throwing them into a world of ignorance that no government has tried to change. She says attitudes have changed toward disabled people, really? I must have missed that evolution. We’re still pitied, avoided because people fear the unknown, shunned by others because we’re deemed too needy, patronised because we’re seen to be unintelligent and treated like second class citizens as we always have been, the media have only enhanced that point this week. And society’s attitudes have changed? Just because children are being educated more within mainstream education Ms Miller, it does not mean society’s attitudes have changed just because we’re not locked up and hidden away. The stigmas toward many disabilities still exist and many VI children are segregated within VI units within their school along with other special needs children. Being taught in the same building does not make society’s attitudes toward them any different!

Last year I started a home study degree which was funded by the university so I did not have any fees to pay. Because of the increase to come in for tuition fees, the scheme was cut at the end of my very successful first year. I couldn’t afford the fees and was forced to withdraw. I have and continue to try to gain work or qualifications to be “more employable” on a qualification basis but the truth is, unless my blindness miraculously disappears, or the attitudes of society, the employer’s being educated and insurance companies not deeming disabled people high risk enough to boot premiums to a devastating price change, I will remain unemployed from the mainstream workforce. I take offence to the many headlines calling incapacity and DLA claimants “scroungers” or “lazy” as While looking for work I’ve done everything in my power to gain employment. I’ve attempted study, I volunteer to gain work experience, I blog and participate in accessibility podcasts to widen my knowledge and experience while educating and informing the world best I can about blindness, access technology and guide dogs. I do not sit around, or enjoy four or five holidays to Spain, I do not own extravagant items or go out every weekend to clubs. I’ve tried, I continue to try to make my life productive and full but I can’t single handedly change the attitudes of employers.

Unless I gain employment within a sector for visually impaired or set up my own business, which I eventually would like to do, I will be punished for being blind and become isolated because I cannot fund my disability.

I keep hearing the phrase, “Genuinely disabled,” yet I and others seemingly do not fit into that category. As I stated earlier, the current assessment for ESA would maximumly gain a visually impaired person nine points or less and fifteen is required to qualify for the into work program. So, I clearly am not “disabled” according to these guidelines and to the media who have deemed many claimants to be “scroungers” and have insinuated “faking it”. What an actress I must be, to have faked blindness all my life!

Many do abuse the system and those people need to be caught out, no one would refute that. And that is why we are not asking this government to leave things the way they are but to listen, understand and implement changes suggested to them by the people who know. Realism and practicality need to be adopted here or else the government has outrightly broke its promise to protect the disabled and vulnerable in our society.

As MP Hunt said, stop providing abled bodied, healthy individuals from pushing out three or four children at the tax payer’s expense. If people want to reproduce, they should pay for them. My parents have worked every day of their lives and have contributed to this system and they, like others who are parents of disabled people are angry that it is more socially acceptable to get pregnant and have a child for the sole cause of living off of benefits when disabled families are having support, care and benefits cut.

Miller talks about the numbers of alcoholics and drug users on DLA and incapacity benefit, well stop them claiming it! Children born with disabilities don’t have a choice, soldiers fighting for this country don’t have a choice whether they are hit or not, police and fire service people do not have a choice if they are hurt while on duty, and yet those without the choices are the ones being punished.

This past few days, I’ve felt disappointed, angry, concerned, surprised, shocked and proud for a variety of reasons. Proud of the ones marching; proud of the efforts by those who couldn’t make it who have expressed themselves on the web; proud of some journalists who have maintained their integrity by reporting the events as they are. I was surprised how quickly my MP responded to my email that I sent her only the night of the march and even more so of her support. And yet I’ve been saddened, shocked and rather disgusted with the lack of coverage by many media outlets. No need for breaking news but it still happened! It was one of the biggest, if not the biggest march of its kind in regard to the disabled people in numbers present at a protest, and that wasn’t news worthy? I was also disappointed by the lack of response by some visually impaired people I know. Some were fantastic online yesterday and others I know marched while some remained quiet and as though it wasn’t happening to them. You may not believe writing to your MP will work, or that you’ll lose followers or friends on social networks by mentioning it, but if they’re real friends or interested in what you have to say, isn’t that better than being ignored by the government? I’ve heard people say it won’t have made a difference, maybe not but maybe it will open some eyes. It’s our future and if we don’t help shape it, then we have no real future to call our own.

Miller in my book represents nothing but an empty promise and a cruel and misconceived idea of what disability and sickness really means and how it effects those with it. She was more interested in the prime minister’s question time than the people she’s meant to represent. Even in a committee meeting about the welfare reform, she was vague, unable to give detail or straight, decisive answers to questions posed to her. Cameron’s conservatives are ignorant and malicious. Despite what they’re telling the media the reality of the assessment process, changes to DLA put the disabled in poverty and isolation, stripping them of dignity and independence. No wonder their precious media won’t report it and are more interested in US politics, affairs abroad and war because it’s not affecting them. If Hunt had denied Murdock the deal for Sky, we’d hear about that all right in its entirety but a few blind, wheel chair bound, deaf and sick people are invisible to them. Why hear the cries of the needy while you’re sat eating your finest foods and enjoying your life? Why take notice of a bunch of disabled people, “We’ll get over it,” right? Why take from the rich, corrupt bankers when you can target the ones in need? It seems they have enough money to bail Greece, Ireland, Portugal and others out of debt, give money to the rebels fighting in Libya, donate millions to countries in need and all because they neglected their own people! I feel for other countries plights, but Prime Minister, you and your government are meant to be the British government, here to make Britain better, but you’d rather help other country’s people than your own vulnerable and disabled people! If you want to cut the deficit, give us a chance to live and change the attitudes of employers and society as a whole, because without those changes, we’ll remain invisible to all while we suffer.

If that’s the society we live in, then by God help us all. Because wait until they cut child services more, or petrol prices rise again, that will be top news. I hope anyone who has blatantly ignored this demonstration of courage and pride by the disabled people of Britain never finds themselves in a similar situation. Because where will your loyal government be then? Helping Pakistan, or fighting in the middle East, or bailing out European countries or lending money to some superpower, and giving you nothing!

“The Invisible Disabled,” it seems so but I pledge to you I will not go unnoticed and neither should you. The women who fought for women’s rights were taken seriously eventually , and some would argue there were many more but many were too afraid to fight the system then. Let’s fight for our right to live good qualities of life and to gain opportunities like everyone else. Change society’s attitudes for the better, Clegg and Cameron, don’t change our lives for the worst.

[note. I am totally blind and cannot comment in detail on how people’s disabilities effect them. Hope I grasped the concept of anger we’re all feeling]

Interesting entertainment links

That’s a Cut, SunnieDae1
Broken Britain’s We have A Dream Speech, hardest Hit
Hardest Hit, Day of Action, Scope for Equality

What’s Best?

People with disabilities are presumed by the majority of society to be “incapable” and “needy” of a “able bodied” person to help them in every day tasks. This is just one of the stereotyped beliefs that the majority of society beholds about disabled people. And while some of us, along with friends and family attempt to fight this stereotype, there are some within that community who do nothing but prolong that stereotype.

I’ve been visually impaired since birth and totally blind due to complications since I was six and a half years old. My mother found it difficult to come to terms with my blindness but after she realized that my sight was not miraculously going to come back, she decided that she would not always be around and so tried to give me as normal of a childhood as possible. This included not spoiling me, punishing me if I was bad, and ensuring I was educated as most of my other piers were in mainstream education. And above all else providing me with the tools to become as independent as possible. Her theory of not being around forever and ensuring my independence and integration into society meant I grew into the independent, open minded, all rounded individual I am proud to be now.

I dread to think how things could have been so different.

During the past few years, social networking has meant I’ve come across many people who are also blind. While some of them have seemingly grown up with parents who had a similar notion to my own mother, a lot of them completely play into the stereotype of helpless, strange individuals.

I say strange because most of these people have only been around other visually impaired people and their families their whole life and social rules I learnt throughout school and extracurricular activities have never entered these people’s lives. Depending on others for the menial tasks of every day life is “normal” to them and having the world handed to them on the plate is taken for natural. Asking for an expensive piece of equipment and receiving it is an almost every day occurrence to these people and actually having to wait for something is beyond their existence. Finding ways of doing something that the sighted world does with no issue for themselves is unthinkable. why do something with a little effort if you can have someone else to do it for you? And their sense of reality is completely distorted.

Some of the extreme behaviours that are perceived by society to be related to blindness are not always visible. These people believe they are not among the stereotype but often you have to speak to an individual and learn their attitudes toward the rest of the world to appreciate if they are indeed categorized within that stereotype.

Generalising anyone is not always a positive act but these individuals can be spotted a mile off. They hardly use a mobility aid and expect a friend/relative to walk everywhere with them. They daren’t venture anywhere alone.
They have every “blind specific” product on the market and will not try anything unless its been recommended by another like-minded person or an organisation.
They have their family weight on them hand and foot. Making a drink for themselves is just never going to happen let alone cooking a meal for themselves.
Cleaning up after themselves is “impossible” as they “can’t see”
And subsequently they use that “I’m blind card” constantly.
They think cyberspace is reality and never attempt to form “real life” relationships.
They really believe they are like “everyone else”.

Overall, they are almost incapable of coping in society independently.

So, who is to blame?

In my humble opinion it’s the organisations that pamper these individuals. Some charities and institutions reinforce this notion that they are visually impaired and “need help”. I’ll be the first to admit, certain things, I’d like help with. Everyone’s needs are different but my want for help is so I am able to live my life as independently as possible. I.E> labeling food helps me not to waste things so when the shopping arrives home and its labeled, I will correctly open a can of baked beans rather than a can of spaghetti hoops when making a casserole. If my pills aren’t labeled and there’s only one way to identify two lots of medication apart by labeling then I’ll have a sighted person help me label my medicine. Luckily for me, most of the manufacturers are helping this issue but if they didn’t my health is too important to warrant a risk. But in order to live as independently as possible those are minor sacrifices to make. Instructions for food should be read and noted down so you cook food properly. If you buy the same product often enough you’d remember it but say you wanted to try a new brand of something, its likely the cooking time may be different. No one wants food poisoning. And lastly, not all companies send things in accessible formats. True, with the advancement of technology, we can receive a lot of things via email and over the internet which has proven vital for most visually impaired people but just say a doctor’s letter came and it won’t scan or read properly, wouldn’t you want a sighted individual to just read over it for you. scanners and reader software have advanced greatly but not everyone has those pieces of equipment to do so but those small things just help someone to live independently.

Some parents however, seem to have the misguided notion that they will be around for their “poor disabled” child forever. I have news for you, you probably won’t. Giving them everything is not going to benefit them in society. Locking them up with other visually impaired kids with teachers who pamper their disabilities will only hinder their growth as a human being. “protecting” them as you believe you are doing from society will only make it worse when the day comes when they are forced into society’s cruel realm. And if your child is lucky enough to go to a school where being independent is a compulsory factor is great until they get home and you do everything for them. Your guilt cannot hinder your child’s progress.

Give them the tools to live within society and function effectively because the world is a hard enough place regardless of disability. If you don’t prepare them then what chance do they stand? Some would say mothers like mine were cruel and hard for allowing us to walk into doors, burning ourselves on a hot stove while cooking but she was kinder in the long term. I’m able to live independently and travel with confidence with my four legged friend because she gave me the tools to do so.

And there are some wonderful individuals that despite having overbearing parents still manage to be independent through their own spirit and belief in themselves, congratulations. You did it. And to those who enjoy being catered to, you’re a disgrace to the rest of us who constantly fight against this stereotype. And to those parents of disabled kids who believe your child needs you, yes they do, to show them how to be a human being.

A few Blindy Issues

Books for the Blind

I have discussed here previously of the lack of books for the visually impaired and yet still nothing seems to be progressing. rather it seems to be going backward all of the time. now iPhone app developers are also buying into the author’s gild’s incorrect perception of what text to speech really is and not considering for a second how imperative it should be for the VI individual to have the same access to books as their sighted counter parts.

this is becoming a frustrating issue because if there were more books available, study and recreational reading would be made so much easier. At present, we are either forced to pay subscriptions to audio book sellers, pay three times as much than we would have to for a paperback, or subscribe to organisations like Book share that still only has a limited amount of books on offer.

British charity, RNIBhave set up petitions to increase the three percent of all books published in the UK that currently get transcribed into an accessible format for the visually impaired but sadly no one seems to be hearing their pleas or the millions of visually impaired book users.

What do we have to do to make these people who deem it unacceptable to have all books published in a format that all vI users can use. Technology today makes it so easy for this to be done affordably for all. And the Author’s gild are trying to “protect” their “authors?” rather they are protecting the publishers. But if all books were made accessible, for example on Amazon as e-books, capable of being read on an accessible product like the kindle could be, or on their computers with their own screen reading solutions or on an app for a mobile device like the iPhone, then I can guarantee book sales would rise. You’d have a whole new market of readers capable of reading all books published.

The screen reader acts as the user’s eyes, both on the computer systems and mobile devices, so by refusing access for text to speech products, are you not indeed denying a visually impaired person of being treated equal? If a visually impaired person downloaded an ebook and read it with their designated screen reader, would it not just be the exact same way they would read a website, read an article or read their email? Text to speech is not a replacement for a human voice, and it never will be. No matter how amazing the developers make these speech engines, they will never truly sound like a human voice that is capable of interpreting and emotion. This seems to be simply a pathetic argument to keep the visually impaired community subsidising an extortionate, limited audio book market that cannot be a replacement or an open market. It is limited and expensive and without the visually impaired community paying for it, almost desolate, in my opinion.

The kindle with text to speech is not only a great solution for the visually impaired community but a safer method for people reading. Drivers, people cooking, no longer have to read pages and distract themselves, they can simply listen. It’s about time someone told the author’s gild about their severe misconception of what text to speech really is.

Adobe, flash friendly?

I guess I am giving you a few things to think about today. Adobe and its products is my second thinking point. Flash content has been difficult for screen reader users for a while now and it seems as though it just will never get any better. Jaws handles it, not well but sometimes is capable although users have to do a lot of guess work in order to use flash well. Mac users however, cannot do anything with the flash content or players in safari as the voice over will not detect it. This, according to apple is how adobe have designed their flash and apple have put out their accessibility API for a long time so this should not be happening. I do believe Adobe should do more to make flash and flash players accessible and the guide lines to design flash players should be a lot stricter and in accordance to the internet accessibility requirements. They suggest that it is not necessary to make flash accessible for the mac because there is not a huge visually impaired market on the mac platform but it is growing and this is becoming a poor excuse to say the least.

There are many and I mean many sites using flash that could be used quite easily if the content was accessible. And even though most web developers despise flash, the question remains, why does it continue to exist in such a poor way?
It would seem that this
issue has got to the point of voice over users wanting results and there is now a Petition that the Maccessibility network have put together and plan to submit to Adobe in January 2010. If you feel as strongly about this as I do, go to the petition and sign.

Blind Specific Products

This is purely my opinion but there seems to be two camps that visually impaired people fall into. First, the ones who’d rather mainstream products be made accessible and secondly, the ones who’d rather use everything that was specifically made for the blind. Don’t get me wrong, whatever products work for the individual but do we not all think that the blind specific market, that is to say, companies that specifically design products for the blind are benefiting from a unfair campaign that throws up incorrect facts about their mainstream counterparts.

Companies like Apple have had an integrated screen reader in their OS for four years now, with their third OS being made available this Friday that has enabled users to use their macs completely unassisted from the ground up. a visually impaired user can install their OS from the start and can set up their computers and freely use their computers both on a personal and professional level daily. True that some users choose to have windows also installed for a few applications but most of these users have to for work purposes. However, a computer can be bought at the same price as a screen reader for windows with its built in screen reader, not to mention all of the other benefits. So why does freedom scientific still hold ninety percent of the visually impaired market? Sure, the Mac OS with built in screen reader is fairly new and more and more users are migrating to the mac platform but is it not a question of those users who are brain washed into believing the “blind specific” product is better?

The iphone is also another example of a “mainstream” product capable of supporting the needs of a visually impaired person. Granted it may not suit everyone but should companies be pushing the visually impaired user into believing that the “blind specific” product is better simply because it is designed for them?

A small market demands more revenue from its customers to make the product viable but surely the cost of a whole computer for a piece of software does not get people thinking twice? i am the type of person who likes to keep my money close to my chest and find it hard to justify this cost when I can get a brand new computer with great specs for the same cost. The same deal goes with the mobile phone market. You would firstly have to get your phone and then pay a licence to have speech enabled. Yet, you can have a mainstream product work straight out of the box for a similar cost if not less in some cases, for example the UK. On O2 you could get a free iphone if you had a forty pound plan, and the most you’d pay would be ninety pounds which wouldn’t even come close to the one hundred and fifty pounds talks licence. What I am basically saying is that I understand why the market is so expensive but I am uncertain why some people won’t even give the mainstream market a shot? At least try it and then say it doesn’t work for you but there are too many individuals simply not trying the mainstream product because it wasn’t specifically designed for them.

Guess it costs you to be blind, you can’t read what books you may like as soon as your sighted friends or have a huge choice of what to read.
Flash doesn’t work at all well no matter what you’re using.
And it will cost you an arm and a leg to be able to do certain tasks if you stick with the “blind specific” products.

All of this is my opinion, feel free to post your thoughts.

The Kindle, The Visually Impaired and the Author’s Gild?

If you are either a tech freak or a book worm, it might have come across your attention about the kindle or the kindle app for the iphone. The Kindle is a small hand held device to which you can read books purchased electronically, also known as E books. The app for the iphone works in a similar way. The kindle is not quite accessible for the visually impaired community but with the inbuilt TTS [text to speech], it seemed possible that Amazon might one day make the Kindle’s menus utilise the inbuilt TTS and provide the visually impaired community with a broader range of reading materials through the smart device. The device enables users to read books purchased online and read the contents instead of buying a paper back book. This device already has the ability to read the books aloud, allowing users to drive or perform other tasks without actually looking at the device so making it a safe device to use while driving but in that, would also make the Kindle a handy tool for the visually impaired community.

Currently, in the UK, only around 10 percent of books are converted into braille and although audio books are becoming more readily available, it is still lacking in time and quantity. The last Harry Potter book was the only book in the series to be published at the same time as the print one but previously, all books take time to produce and so readers can wait longer for that much anticipated title. The RNIB have been working hard to get more books published faster but this obviously will take some time to implement successfully.

The introduction of the Kindle and Amazon’s promise
Amazon’s Kindle’s blog
would have made the Kindle the greatest accessory to a visually impaired person’s electronic book library. It would have given us the ability to read books at the same time as our sighted peers and pay the same amount for the books as everyone else does, not being penalised for the fact we are unable to read print along with everyone else.

Enter the Author’s Gild!

This organisation claims to benefit authors and protect their rights but they have decided to claim against the kindle being allowed to use TTS.
The Author’s Gild homepage

They claim that it goes against author’s and publishers copyrights to have the inbuilt TTS in the Kindle read their books. This claim, in my opinion is preposterous. They insist it is about protecting their author’s rights and suggest to Amazon or someone else to make a third party device that could be fully blind accessible while suggesting that an activation on an account would enable a visually impaired user to download all of the e-books that will have the TTS lock lifted on them to enable the V.I community to use all books on Amazon or any Kindle compatible sites. Read the Article here

But doesn’t this increasingly send up the problems of expensive technology which as a V.I community we are already subjected too? For some Visually impaired people, third party software or techology is simply unaffordable and don’t we take a risk by passing this suggested “new device” over to a third party or even to Amazon, to increase the price of the product? Sure the books may remain the same price in the long run but Amazon are quite happy to work with the kindle and attempt to get it fully accessible soon and yet the author’s gild are not happy about this still. As a writer myself, I would have no objections to sighted or none sighted to listen to my work, as long as they paid for it and to suggest that TTS was anything like a narrator reading the book is pathetic! I use TtS all of the time and even the most human like voice on the Mac [Alex] does not compete with human readers.

If anyone has bought an audio book recently, you will know the extent of damage it can cause to your pocket. On the audio website I purchase books from, most can range from £10 to £20 or even £25 and even then, not all books are available. I looked into buying the Harry Potter series on audio a few months ago and quickly decided against it when I discovered it would cost me over £200 to get the entire collection. That is seven books that I could have bought as a box set from a high street retailer for £35 in hardback. And the Author’s gild still see fit for the Kindle to be anti TTS?

Most writers just want their work to be read and if that many more visually impaired people could purchase their books online and have full access to the same books sighted people could, wouldn’t it lift sales? I mean, for them to argue the TTS is like audio and people would not buy the audio anymore is a weak and counter productive argument. I would personally buy more books if they were the prices my sighted peers could pay for them brand new and not the triple or quadruple prices of audio books. By them stating it would damage the audio market, are they not just stating that they want the visually impaired community to keep supplementing that market and again segregate visually impaired people from the mainstream markets. By introducing a separate device for the kindle would do just that and I’m no expert but I do believe it would cause the price of the Kindle to soar making more visually impaired people unable to access the books and forcing them to buy into a market that is already extortionate? Maybe I’m assuming the worst but no good has ever come from third party software in my visually impaired opinion. If a company is willing to make the changes for all of their customers, it makes sense and it seems fair. Why should Visually impaired people, or anyone who cannot buy into the mainstream market be penalised for it? The author’s gild is trying to protect publishers in my humble opinion, not writers for writers would probably make more money out of an electronic market leaving all the middle men out of it! Maybe, and I am clearly speculating, but just maybe their own asses is all they are protecting. How many writers can say they don’t want their work to be read, and it would by millions more if the kindle was able to read all of their books once the accessible menus are put in by amazon.

Let’s make the Kindle and all the books in the world, accessible to all! Please!

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