TECHNOLOGY: TURNING THE PAGE FOR THE RIGHT TO READ

There is no doubt that technology has played and continues to play a significant part in promoting independence and social inclusion.  Okay, to some computers are intolerable, but take a talking colour detector, a talking microwave oven or say a mobile phone with large and contrasting text then it’s clear that advances in technology affect all of our lives.

AS sight village Birmingham, the largest exhibition of technology and services for VI people within the UK approaches, I thought it would be good to start looking at various aspects of how the technological age has become an integral part of our existence; whether we are conscious of this or not.

Oh yes, I would be doing the good guys at Queen Alexander college a disservice by not saying here that Sight village Birmingham take place on Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th July at the New Bingley hall, 1 Hockley Circus, Birmingham, b18 5pp.  Further information can be found at:

http://www.qac.ac.uk/exhibitions/sight-village-birmingham/1.htm#.U6a9vSxOU6-

There are so many areas of technology to look at; from computer based options to mobile phones and from daily living to reading and magnification.  Additionally, there are so many good sources of information on the internet, from organisations and from the world of the podcast.

I’ll start in this entry though with what I think has been a real breakthrough in opening up more books to those of us who love reading.  My preferred format for accessing books is definitely Braille.  It’s more immediate and I’m not overly reliant on liking the book through someone else’s voice.  However, a surprising option for me has come through the kindle AP on my iPad.  Kindle EBook readers have been available from Amazon for some time now.  To those who don’t know, these are flat, tablet/largely touch screen devices that offer literature in an electronic format.  For some time, they have also incorporated access features such as high contrast, magnification and screen reader facilities.

An advance of this has been the kindle AP which can be downloaded onto an IPad plus other tablet devices.  By registering with amazon via the website, you can purchase and download virtually any title that you like and as long as it’s not a picture book (for those using the inbuilt voiceover function), the text becomes accessible.  In the beginning, I held some reservations about this as it would mean listening to a book via Voiceover (the inbuilt screen reader of apple devices such as the IPad).  Okay, the voices are not as robotic as they once were, but still the prospect of reading with this was not great.  However, far from it, it’s been a revelation and no commute into work or long train journey would be the same without a book or indeed a newspaper on my IPad.

The right to read should be given to everyone and for many years, the restriction on accessible options to achieve this was extremely frustrating.  Now, this has been broken down on one front as those with these devices can read via the screen reader or through magnified text.  It’s a start, but it’s been a great breakthrough via the advances of technology.

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