COME LEARN A NEW SKILL THAT CAN HELP YOU AND PCB TOO!

By Tony Swartz

Last year I offered a course on the creation of Daisy 3 documents using OBI, an open source Daisy creation software tool. I offered the course with somewhat of a hidden agenda; I was hoping that those trained would volunteer to participate in a PCB fund development project, a Daisy document creation service called AccessiDocs. Several members took the course, but those participating were the usual cast of characters of our membership who already contribute vast amounts of time and effort to our organization. Because of their overwhelming responsibilities and commitments to PCB, I was reluctant to request more time and effort from them, but the need for AccessiDocs remains. So, I will be offering another course and invite your participation.

What is AccessiDocs all about? Of course, those of us who are users of braille wish that everyone losing vision could learn braille and that every printed document available to those with normal vision was available to us in braille: restaurant menus, agency newsletters, medical/hospital forms and instructions, local and state government forms, paratransit rider guides, and so on. Unfortunately, as much as we as an organization promote the use of braille, the truth is that most individuals losing vision are older and learning braille ranks low as a priority in their adjustment to vision loss. Furthermore, because the current infrastructure for braille production is so limited there is little incentive.

So how do far too many of us with low or no vision access printed documents important to our lives? If the document is sufficiently vital, we might ask a family member or friend to read it to us and if necessary that we refer back to it, we’ll even make a recording. In many instances, however, documents just go unread. But what if there were a service which was available to agencies, medical and transit providers, government entities, and other organizations which would allow them to distribute documents in a recorded Daisy 3 format? Not only would documents be available to us, but they would also be truly accessible because we could navigate through the various sections of documents using our NLS player. Furthermore, what if we the members of PCB were the developers, volunteers, and potential employees of such a service?

Since most documents reformatted to a Daisy 3 audio format by this proposed service would be derived from text rather than live recordings, creation of Daisy documents will require a three-part production process. The various production tasks can all be performed from home using completely accessible software tools. By participating in the course you will learn how to: review and massage text to ensure that troublesome words or website addresses are read correctly by highest quality synthesized speech; record documents using your screen reader; and use OBI, a fully accessible Daisy creation tool, to assemble recordings into a navigable daisy document like a talking book. As the course progresses, together we will determine your production strengths for future involvement.

Is the service viable? The last six issues of the audio edition of The PCB Advocate distributed on cartridge have been produced by AccessiDocs. In addition, AccessiDocs has produced the rider guide and rider application form for LantaVan, the paratransit service of the Lehigh Valley. We can grow AccessiDocs and make it a meaningful service to us all, but workers are needed.

So again, I will offer the course, but with the clear understanding that those participating in the course must, at the courses conclusion, commit to some level of participation in the project or in the assistance of the creation of the Daisy version of The PCB Advocate. The course will be offered by phone this summer. Once I know who is interested, we will set up the training times to meet everyone’s schedules. You will be required to install several no-cost software tools on your windows based PC before the lessons begin.

I am also seeking the assistance of a programmer who is familiar with text manipulation to analyze whether some of the process of text massaging may be automated. If you are either interested in participating or have questions related to the specifics of the course, or can offer programming assistance, please contact me, Tony Swartz, at tbswartz@ptd.net or call 610-799-4565. The deadline for course registration is Thursday, June 1st. There will, of course, be no charge other than your commitment and effort. So please consider participating and add what could be an important tool to your skill set while improving information accessibility for all.

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