April 17, 2002
Congressman Adam Smith joined the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) today to announce that NFB-NEWSLINE, the pioneering service that allows blind people to “read” daily newspapers using a touch-tone telephone, is now available in Washington. The new toll-free number is 1-888-882-1629.
The newspaper service for the blind and visually impaired uses synthesized speech to deliver an audio version of the newspaper text for dozens and eventually hundreds of daily newspapers to blind and visually impaired persons nationwide.
“Using the NFB’s NEWSLINE, a blind person can now listen to the daily newspaper from his or her own community at the same time the printed edition of that same newspaper is being delivered to sighted customers,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “For blind people or even seniors who can no longer read small newsprint, this means more than being able to enjoy a morning ritual observed by millions of Americans – reading the daily newspaper. It also means being connected to the social and political life of the community in which you live and work.”
Congress established the national “Books for the Blind” program in 1931 to pay for the production of Braille and audio versions of popular books and magazines and distribute them through state and local libraries. NFB President Marc Maurer notes, however, that until now, “the lack of affordable and suitable technology has not allowed newspapers to be included in this service.
With funds appropriated by Congress to support NFB-NEWSLINE, NFB has been able to develop the technology that allows newspapers to be distributed rapidly in a format that is usable by the blind. Participating newspapers provide digital text of articles directly to NFB-NEWSLINE where, using innovative technologies, the newspaper text is converted automatically into synthesized speech and made immediately available to all subscribers, allowing them to access all newspapers participating in the program.
The synthetic speech allows NFB-NEWSLINE to offer users a wide range of features, including the ability to advance or go back to another article or even another sentence, to speed up or slow down the synthetic voice or change its tone, to spell a word or phrase, or to search for a specific word.
NFB-NEWSLINE allows for reader registration on the Internet, making it possible for eligible blind and disabled persons to register for the service at state and local libraries. There is no charge to subscribe to NFB-NEWSLINE.
To request an application or receive for more information about NFB-NEWSLINE, contact the National Federation of the Blind at (410) 659-9314 or online at www.nfb.org.
The National Federation of the Blind is a consumer-based organization of more than 50,000 blind people throughout the U.S. whose primary purpose is to promote security, opportunity, and equality for those who are blind or visually impaired.
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