A call for text-to-speech functions to be included on all electronic book platforms to improve their accessibility has been issued by a group of publishing and literary organisations.
The Publishers Association, The Society of Authors, The Association of Authors Agents and The Right to Read Alliance – itself an umbrella campaign group, whose members include The Royal National Institute of Blind People – grouped together to issue the joint statement. It recommended that speech functions, which help many print-disabled readers access a range of otherwise inaccessible e-books, “is routinely enabled on all e-books across all platforms, at least where there is no audio-book edition commercially available.”
The statement continued: “It is in the interests of publishers for their published content to be available and accessible to as many people as possible. This includes the broadening of the market to those with visual impairments or other disabilities”.
The recommendation follows ongoing disputes over the inclusion of text-to-speech functions on e-book readers. Last year US manufacturer Amazon allowed publishers to disable the feature on an early version of its Kindle e-book reader, after an authors’ rights group claimed that the text-to-speech function effectively breached a royalties agreement ( see E-Access Bulletin issue 110: www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=244 ).
However, Amazon subsequently agreed to incorporate extra accessibility features into the Kindle after several American universities rejected the device as a potential teaching-aid, citing inaccessibility to blind students ( see www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=383 ).
It would clearly be highly advantageous to blind people such as myself to get access to the vast amount of E-books out there say from the Kindle store. I don’t really want to buy a Kindle but I was delighted to see that Amazon has produced free applications to allow people to purchase Kindle content and “read” it on other platforms such as IPhones and PCs. I was extremely disappointed to find out that the text to speech capabilities available on the Kindle hardware devices are NOT available using their own applications! I think that concerned people should contact Amazon, as I will, to demand that they give blind people equality of access to their purchased content in applications as well as their hardware devices. I really don’t mind paying for books, but I would like to be able to access them!
Is this only in the UK?
@ John Brandt – the organisations involved are all UK-based, therefore their recommendation was aimed primarily at publishers in the UK. However, the same text-to-speech debate is also taking place in the US, with Amazon continuing to let publishers choose whether their works can be text-to-speech enabled on its Kindle e-book reader.
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