[Athen] FW: House Subcommittee Vote Could End Books
for the Blind.
pratikp1 at gmail.com
Sat Jun 9 21:10:15 PDT 2007
There is, sadly, blindness politics involved in the NLS development of the digital delivery project. In all this, NLS has decided that it will not support one of the most important feature of a DAISY/DTB book, page numbering. I am beta testing the download service and it is certainly lacking in that regard. None of the books will be accompanied by text either. Unfortunately the design phase (or Frank Kert Cinke) determined that adding page number navigation to newly developed DTB's would add considerable cost to NLS's processes. This was partly a decision made by one of the blindness organizations, which has a strong monitary interest in the NLS digital development. the other organization lacks leadership, the willingness, or the understanding to do anything about it. I hope to change that soon. Forgive me for being so cynical but there are some very odd political things going on in New york with the Higher Ed textbook legislation and the political nature of this field is becomming more and more evident to me. The more money is involved, the more annoying this gets.
My apologies to those individuals who may belong to either of the organizations. My inditement does not reflect on your personal ability or beliefs.
NLS is using a DRM system developed by the National Institute of Science. The current beta test of the download delivery is taking place by using an SD card and a modified Victor Classic desktop player. Supposedly, NLS will be supporting manufacturers of other hardware players--notice I do not say sofftware players--who wish to develop support for NLS's DRM and proprietary flash-based cartredge. NLS has chosen not to support software players as they fully expect the DRM to be broken in a short time after it's released. NLS wants to show no support for any such activity. I love governmental agencies who are afraid of their own shadows! The players that NLS will be supporting will not be able to playback DAISY material that does not comply with the DRM technology. I certainly hope this doesn't remain the case for too long. NLS plans to allow manufacturers to develop resellable hardware cartredges for those individuals interested in the digital download service. The download service will work in a similar manner to the Web braille service currently provided to the patrons.
If NLS receives the partial funding promised by the current atmosphere in Congress, it will not be the end of NLS or the program. This funding is to supplement what NLS already receives on an annual basis. The move to digital will happen much more slowly than NLS predicted. I'm not suggesting that NLS should not receive its full funding as it has requested. But, certainly needs to explain some very important points about their decisions and contracts. I'm doing my part to get people to move on this issue as I do believe that the agency should be allowed to put its plans into effect at this stage. ...
I could go on; but I know ya'all got better things to do than listen to/read my rants.
From: athen-bounces at athenpro.org [mailto:athen-bounces at athenpro.org] On Behalf Of Ron Stewart
Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2007 11:52 AM
To: 'Access Technologists in Higher Education Network'
Subject: Re: [Athen] FW: House Subcommittee Vote Could End Books for the Blind.
Pullling out the soapbox here. You can substitute Distance Educaition for
print access in this conversation as well.
This is not just a blindness issue! And as long as it is presented as only
a VI/B issue it is never going to go anyplace. This is a VI/B, ADD/ADHD, LD,
Cognitive Processing, Dyslexic, Developmental Disability, TBI, and
Psyciatric disability issue. Did I miss any? I do not even want to being
talking about ESL and developmental Ed. From my perspecitive, at its heart,
it is another issue about inclusion and acceptance of folks with
disabilities in our global society. This is not just about Blind Readers
but the entire continuum of people with disabilities related to their
ability to effectively use print based materials. If we look at all
students who would benefit from more accessible curriculum it could easily
be as high as 25% of our students. As long as the conversation remains a
blind centric one the issues of inclusion and success are going to remain on
the margins of the mainstream discussion.
This is true for all topics of educational and societal reform for all
groups that are living on the margins of mainstream society. In the last
few years I have now been involved in more conversations that I care to
count on this topic and often one of the first questions that comes up is
why can we not make any progress on this, and my typicall response is until
you start to include the other 75% of folks with print related disabilities
you will not. These other groups are not typically as organized or as vocal
as the VI/B groups and that contributes to the problem. Often times the
groups involved are so worried about protecting their turf and closed
agendas that it all gets lost in the real need of the people we are
dedicated to serving.
Being very involved in the whole Alt Format discussion on a global basis
this still does not effectively explain to me why the NLS felt it necessary
to go out and develop propriety closed market technology. I was at a DAISY
technical meeting this last week in Toronto and asked a question about
expansion beyond the focus on the special libraries to include the
educaitional space in the development of the specifications and it was not a
place anyone else at the table seemed to want to go. This kind of thinking
promotes the possible irrelevance of the DAISY work as the mainstream
technology moves beyond it. Don't get me wrong I am a strong advocate for
DAISY and its impact on our students, but that is the result of closed
technology development especially in the current fluid and dymanic IT world.
The compliance with closed format and protection of intellection property do
not in any way require this kind of reader. Since they published their
original strategic plan this has been a topic of conversation and concern.
The more they went down the closed technology route the more it came up.
Nor does it explain why other national libraries are doing some of the same
things, don't make questionable decisions unless your willing to deal with
the consiquences. If the various development communities, both public and
private, have good robust technologies in the marketspace then that is the
first place agencies should look for solution. Especially when they are
using public funds for the process.
The DAISY PTDB2 standard for DRM in DAISY books provides for a very good set
of protocols for insuring that Intellectual Property rights are protected in
the development and distribution of DAISY materials. With my work in the
AHEAD E-Text and NIMAS groups I have found that the discussion about
copyright is typically a slippery slope and straw man argument. That is why
we have made the decision to put it aside and focus on pragmatic solutions
to the issues at hand at least in the AHEAD work. The topic does need to
be revisited and the Chaffee exemption brought into the information age, but
no one wants to open up the copyright law that is aware of all the competing
issues most of which are not even related to access and disability.
When the government is trying to cut funds at every turn, it does our effort
no good to shoot ourselves in the foot. Secondly the House SubCommittee is
not intending to End books for the blind they are doing our job and asking
some hard questions about the appropriate use of public funds. Do I think
they should spend their time looking at pork elsewhere, of course, but when
a government agency puts this kind of target on their back what should they
From: athen-bounces at athenpro.org [mailto:athen-bounces at athenpro.org] On
Behalf Of Kestrell
Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2007 10:28 AM
To: Access Technologists in Higher Education Network
Subject: Re: [Athen] FW: House Subcommittee Vote Could End Books for the
I have spoken to a number of people involved in special librariaries for the
blind, and all of them insist that their players, hardware as well as
software, must include DRM restrictions or the libraries will not be able to
get the cooperations of publishers in distributing their work. My impression
is that the state of the technology is dictated by the libraries' lawyers,
and that perspective dictates the design of the technology, the distribution
method, and everything else involved in the design and distribution of the
books and the players.
There are lots of blind readers who comprehend that this is not the most
efficient or most economically sound method for doing things, but those
dissenters seem tobe in the minority, or, at least, not on any of the
committees that make the decisions.
Ultimately, I find it sadly ironic that the same government which is taking
the NLS to task for insisting on the more expensive "special formats" is the
same government that has contributed so much to the arcane nature of the
copyright laws which have left the special libraries so paranoid about being
held accountable for any infringement that they feel compelled to go design
these special players (read the copyright declaration on any of these NLS or
RFBD or even Bookshare books and you will get an idea of how the format
dictates the player and the distribution method, and even the relationship
witht he consumer).
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ron Stewart" <ron.stewart at dolphinusa.com>
To: "'Access Technologists in Higher Education Network'"
<athen at athenpro.org>
Sent: Friday, June 08, 2007 5:26 PM
Subject: [Athen] FW: House Subcommittee Vote Could End Books for the Blind.
>I have a tendency to stick my foot into sticky things and I also know that
> if I respond on any of the blindness lists I would be tarred and
> Based on my understanding from a recent trip to Washigton DC and a couple
> conversations with legislative types, the number one issue for the funding
> is the fact that the NLS did not use off the shelf technology or work with
> any of the exsisting commercial solutions to build this reader. This has
> been an issue throughout the development process on this reader, and to be
> honest I am not surprised by this at all. It is becoming more and more of
> an issues with federal funding of projects when the project goes off and
> reinvents the wheel like this.
> Anybody want to help me become better informed on the whys and werefores
> Ron Stewart
> -----Original Message-----
> From: blindnews-bounces at blindprogramming.com
> [mailto:blindnews-bounces at blindprogramming.com] On Behalf Of BlindNews
> Mailing List
> Sent: Friday, June 08, 2007 4:43 PM
> To: Blind News
> Subject: House Subcommittee Vote Could End Books for the Blind.
> House Subcommittee Vote Could End Books for the Blind.
> Author : National Federation of the Blind
> Earthtimes.org - USA
> Thu, 07 Jun 2007.
> On Wednesday, June 6, the House of Representatives Legislative Branch
> Appropriations Subcommittee voted to substantially underfund the Books for
> the Blind program of the Library of Congress.
> Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said:
> "Since 1931, Congress has consistently supported on a bipartisan basis a
> national program of audio and Braille books for the blind, operated by the
> Library of Congress. The blind of America are shocked and disappointed
> a House subcommittee has callously disregarded our literacy needs since
> literacy leads to independence. By appropriating only $7.5 million of the
> $19.1 million needed for transition from antiquated analog cassette tape
> technology to digital technology, the subcommittee has effectively voted
> shut down the only public library available to blind Americans. The audio
> books produced by the Library of Congress will be useless unless the
> playback technology is provided for readers. The Talking Book program is
> a crossroads because the analog tape used for the past thirty-six years
> become obsolete and must be replaced for the program to continue.
> all government programs, except Books for the Blind, have converted to
> state-of-the-art digital communication technology at a cost of billions of
> dollars to the taxpayers. Leaving the Books for the Blind program behind
> unconscionable. Since it is early in the appropriations process, however,
> Congress still has time to correct this grievous error. We therefore
> urgently appeal to the full House Appropriations Committee, the members of
> the House of Representatives, and the United States Senate to provide the
> full $19.1 million requested by the National Library Service for the Blind
> and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress to begin production
> digital talking books and players."
> The Talking Book program serves over 750,000 blind Americans, including
> blind children and an ever-increasing number of older Americans who are
> losing vision. The incidence of blindness is expected to increase as the
> baby boom generation reaches retirement age. Therefore, the need for this
> essential program will only increase.
> CONTACT: John G. Pare Jr., Director of Public Relations of the National
> Federation of the Blind, +1-410-659-9314, extension 2371, Cell:
> +1-410-913-3912, jpare at nfb.org
> Web site: http://www.nfb.org/
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