Only 12 percent of blind people read Braille

Only 12 percent of blind people read Braille

Blind people in 28 states, Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Canada can now instantly access local and national newspapers via a unique telephone service created by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the largest organization of blind and visually impaired persons in the United States.

Newsline® for the Blind, established and sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind, delivers daily editions of The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, and more than 20 other newspapers to the blind and visually impaired.

The new service is timely — available as early as 6:30 a.m. every morning. The service is free to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

“Such early and easy access to daily newspapers has never before been available to the blind,” says Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “This puts the blind on a more equal footing with sighted people.”

Currently, 69 cities in the United States, as well as Toronto, Canada have a Newsline® site.

This completely electronic system converts digital print supplied by the participating newspapers into high-quality computer speech in a matter of minutes, using DecTalk, a software program developed by the NFB.

The callers can select the stories they want to read 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can also skip over stories they do not want to read in the same way sighted people skim newspapers.

“Users like the fact that the reading is uniform and dependable,” says Mr. Maurer. “Individual callers can adjust the speed at which an article is read. Tone of voice can also be changed.”

Attempts to have a daily Braille newspaper have failed, largely because only 12 percent of blind people read Braille and the cost of producing and delivering a Braille newspaper are enormous. For example, “a daily edition of The New York Times would weigh more than sixty pounds in Braille,” says Maurer.