Getting the most from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped means keeping up with what's going on at your network library -- many of which maintain blogs.
I got an email from the New Hampshire Talking Book Library yesterday about their blog. I liked it. In addition to information on services and how to use technologies -- such as the new BARD Mobile app -- I found a great list of digital Talking Books on baseball.
I loved seeing those book lists back in the days of their print newsletter. I look forward to more appearing on their blog.
I realized how much NLS material I get online now. I download books and magazines from the BARD site, transfer them to a blank cartridge, and listen to them on a Digital Talking Book Player.
I'm glad the library is still working on ways to improve service as the technology evolves.
Central Access Reader (CAR) is a free text-to-speech program designed for students with print disabilities (e.g. dyslexia and visual impairment) that deciphers mathematical notations, equations, and symbols that most screen readers do not support.
The app recognize symbols from geometry and trigonometry, linear algebra, calculus, math, logic, or statistics and has attracted the attention of schools across the country, including MIT and Harvard.
CAR runs on both Mac machines and PCs. Download a free copy on the CAR project website.
Do you need help hearing what's going on in class, at the dinner table, or what someone in the front seat says during your morning commute? If you're and iOS user, soundAMP R may be the solution.
This app ($4.99 or $0.99 for a "Lite" version) amplifies sounds collected by the built-in mic on an iPhone or iPod touch while you listen in using your earbuds.
It can't amplify phone calls or music, but may give you that little extra bit of volume needed to hear airport announcements, TV dialogue, or what's going on at the table behind you.
Lovers of young adult mystery and fantasy fiction should check out The Heart of Applebutter Hill, the first novel from writer, musician, and disability advocate Donna Hill.
The novel follows 14-year old Abigail, who is legally blind, her guide dog, Curly Conner, and best friend Baggy as they explore Elfin Pond, sneak around Bar Gundoom Castle, and row across an underground lake. The three find trouble as they seek to thwart a spy sent to steal the powerful Heartstone of Arden-Goth, which is hidden nearby.
I'm not a fan of this genre. But the book's depictions of assistive technology caught my interest and kept me reading. This excerpt from Chapter 2 ("News, News, and More News") makes a concise, eloquent case for the crucial need for texts in alternative formats:
"Abigail was almost as excited about recorded books as she was about having a guide dog. All of her life she had been made to read print. Even if the light was just right, the best she could do was to see a few letters at a time. Words appeared to dance around, and pieces of them would go missing between the page and her brain. In spite of the burning eyes and blistering headaches which ensued, she had always loved reading."
I still remember the life-changing power access to audiobooks from Learning Ally gave me, beginning at age 13.
This sentence from Chapter 44 ("Return to the Carriage House") will no doubt resonate with every assistive technology professional:
"Susan was showing her how to scan printed material, convert it to documents and use the embosser to make Braille copies."
I like the power the novel gives its legally blind heroine. The Heart of Applebutter Hill has received pre-publication reviews and recommendations from professionals in education, vocational rehabilitation, and the arts as a tool for diversity, inclusivity and anti-bullying initiatives for middle school and older students.
Print copies are available on Amazon and CreateSpace, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and in several electronic formats from Smashwords. It's also available on Bookshare to readers with print disabilities.
Donna Hill is an online journalist, musician, and speaker on disability issues including braille literacy and the accessibility of work related technologies for blind persons. She is legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa.