Disability Activsm: Reading Rights

Reading Rights is a US-based advocacy group that is campaigning to have equal access to electric book formats through text-to-speech on the Amazon Kindle. Their campaign is based around the American Author’s Guild demand that people must either prove their disability to the satisfaction of the Guild (and thus give private information over to e-book publishers) or pay extra for the same access to books.

As technology advances and more books move from hard-copy print to electronic formats, people with print disabilities deserve the opportunity to enjoy access to books on an equal basis with those who can read print.

People with print disabilities cannot effectively read print because of a visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability.

They maintain a news blog that focuses on print disabilities and access to books and textbooks.

Print Disabilities are a very big deal, and affect a large number of people. Text-to-speech capabilities aren’t a convenience, but a way for people with print disabilities to have access to books without waiting for the Book On Tape (or CD, or MP3) to come out. For some, this could “just” be having the latest book by their favourite author when it comes out, for others it could be the difference between passing and failing a university course.

Further Information:

Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities

The Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities facilitates and influences the production and use of quality alternative formats for people with print disabilities by optimising the evolving Round Table body of knowledge.

Iniative for Equitable Library Access [Canada]

The mandate of the Initiative for Equitable Library Access (IELA) is to create the conditions for sustainable and equitable library access for Canadians with print disabilities. Library and Archives Canada has been asked to develop and cost a strategy for implementing nation-wide partnerships, activities and services to meet the long-term library and information access needs of Canadians with print disabilities.

Learning through Listening: What is a Print Disability? [American-centric, but with free lesson plans that may be appropriate for others]

A print disability can be a learning disability, a visual impairment or a physical disability. Although the manners in which the disability occurs are very different, they all share one characteristic: individuals diagnosed with a print disability cannot access print in the standard way.

Australian Human Rights Commission: Copyright and Print Disabilities FAQ

The purpose of the FAQ is to assemble basic information about how the copyright legislative and administrative regime affects producers and users of accessible-format material (audio, Braille, e-text and large-print) in Australia. It is important to stress that, in some cases, definitive answers are not possible, mainly because of rapidly-changing technologies. Copyright regimes attempt to balance the rights of authors against the rights of end-users. In the case of end-users who have a print disability, there is the added responsibility to ensure that the aims and objects of the Disability Discrimination act (DDA) are promoted as far as possible.

Daisy Consortium FAQ

The acronym stands for Digital Accessible Information SYstem. Often, the term is used to refer to a standard for producing accessible and navigable multimedia documents. In current practice, these documents are Digital Talking Books, digital text books, or a combination of synchronized audio and text books.

DAISY is a globally recognized technical standard to facilitate the creation of accessible content. The standard was originally developed to benefit people who are unable to read print due to a disability, but it also has broad applications for improved access to text in the mainstream.

The DAISY Standard has been evolving over the last several years and has recently been officially recognized by an American standards-making body.


Print Disabilities Services Program [Australia]

The system for servicing the access needs of people with a print disability involves producers, intermediaries and users.

Book Share Canada
Book Share UK
Book Share US

Bookshare dramatically increases the accessibility of books. Bookshare believes that people with disabilities deserve the same ease of access to books and periodicals that people without disabilities enjoy.
A searchable online library. Bookshare offers more than 60,000 digital books, textbooks, teacher-recommended reading, periodicals and assistive technology tools.
Readers of all ages. Bookshare offers affordable membership, unlimited library privileges and a community of Members, Volunteers, parents, publishers and authors.

6 thoughts on “Disability Activsm: Reading Rights

  1. Not entirely related, but the American Author’s Guild thing reminded me of this, and I figured I needed to mention it somewhere…

    I’ve noticed that several major mobile phone companies here in the States are now requiring you to submit verification of hearing/speech disability if you want to get a data-only smartphone plan (i.e., messaging and web but no voice minutes). Worse, one of them actually offered data-only plans to everyone until last week, when they introduced a new line of phones; now they require disability documentation.

    I seriously do not understand this at all.

    First of all, there are the privacy issues, just like with the Author’s Guild scenario: what will the phone company do with this information? Second, what if the phone company thinks one’s disability isn’t sufficient for the plan (e.g., would my relatively mild auditory processing disorder, which makes it incredibly difficult to understand people’s voices over the phone but not over Skype, be considered on the same level as profound deafness)? And third, why can’t people without a diagnosed disability be equally eligible for the data-only option, since there are plenty of TABs who would equally benefit from a plan with less than 450 minutes of talk time? (And as it is, it’s difficult enough for some people with diagnosed disabilities to get the documentation, because of such things as medical insurance.)

  2. codeman38 — yeah, that’s making no sense to me, either. Shoot, sorensen came out and set up a video relay for me. I told them I was deaf, they came out and installed it. They did not demand any proof beyond that. So why are mobile phones going down this route? It’s patronizing and demeaning — and is illegal under ADA, which prohibits requiring proof of disability.

    I’m pleased to see this post highlighting the issue of print access. I’d like to give an extra shout out to bookshare — I volunteer here to proofread the scanned books before they are made generally available to subscribers. 🙂

  3. @peanutbutter: The only even remotely sense-making reason I can think of is that the phone companies don’t want people using Skype instead of making voice calls through their network. Never mind, of course, that people are still paying the company $40-$50 a month for data service…

  4. As far as the phone companies are concerned, I think it’s basically that they want to overcharge people for stuff they won’t use. But I think cell phone company business models are largely set up in ways I’d like to be illegal. They SHOULD have data-only plans available to everyone…but they WANT to be able to charge everyone for voice minutes, especially if they then don’t use them.

    The text-to-speech thing with books makes me FURIOUS. I don’t know why the hell book companies think people who can read easily would WANT awkward-sounding text-to-speech (I sure wouldn’t). It’s not competition with audiobooks, which are a completely different beast. And it’s none of their damn business who NEEDS to use that technology.

  5. I just signed up to volunteer for Bookshare! I had not heard of it, probably because I live under a warm and cozy rock. Years ago, I was a “book aide”in high school. Because audio versions of our science texts were not available, I recorded the reading assignments for a student who had a number of print disabilities. After he had listened to them several times, we went over the charts and graphs together, because those didn’t always translate to speech in a way that makes any sense. He and I were using the same science book, and I discovered that I didn’t really have to study since I practically memorized the info when recording, which was a huge bonus for a lazy freshman.

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