DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Aug 4 2010

Digitization for the Disabled

by Joseph M

netLibrary, Project Gutenberg, Google Books; these websites, and the many others like them, are examples of a new trend in information systems: digital libraries. While we’ve discussed this topic in previous posts, today we’ll be looking at a new twist on the concept. The Internet Archive is a digital library which has embarked on a mission to double the amount of books available to the “print-disabled”, individuals who experience difficulties with standard print editions of books for a variety of reasons including blindness, dyslexia, and multiple sclerosis.

The project is the brainchild of Brewster Kahle, a digital librarian and internet activist/entrepreneur. The Internet Archive differs from other virtual libraries chiefly in the format of its content. Known as DAISY, which stands for Digital Accessible Information System, the format allows for the creation of “talking” books which can be downloaded to portable listening devices. Although it is similar to audiobooks, DAISY is easier for people with disabilities to enjoy, because DAISY titles can be sped up, slowed down, and made to skip from chapter to chapter as needed. The spokesperson for the National Federation of the Blind, Christopher Danielsen, says only about 5% of published books are transferred to a format the blind can use, making the Internet Archive a boon to the 1.3 million blind people in the USA by increasing the variety of books available to the population. Since they began scanning books in 2004, the Internet Archive has made available more than 1 million titles in DAISY format.

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Only 25% to 35% of students with learning disabilities are provided with technology to support their learning. With about 7 million books downloaded by Internet Archive users around the world each month, the site has become an important resource for dyslexic, blind and other print-disabled students, who are encouraged to use the digital book collection to utilize reference materials and write research papers.

for more on this story, visit the original article

Of course, DCPL offers a variety of services for the disabled as well.

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