Service for Visually Impaired — Read This to Me

This doesn’t fall into the category of Internet research, but definitely falls under “things a librarian might find useful.” There’s a new service available for blind and low-vision people to have things read to them over the phone.

You can learn more about it at http://www.ReadThisToMe.org . Here’s how it works in a nutshell. A blind or low-vision person receives something they need to read and can’t. They fax it to a toll-free number. (The site says “The document itself can be just about anything: a handwritten letter, a bill, a can of food, a multi-page magazine article — just about anything that can be faxed.” You can fax a CAN OF FOOD? I haven’t been living right.)

A volunteer calls the person back and reads them the item. Ta-da. The service is free, though donations are accepted.

Now, this service has just started up so I don’t know what the volunteer-to-voluntee (voluntee?) ratio is. (If you’d like to sign up you can at http://www.readthistome.org/volunteer.php .) So it’s not clear when a person who uses this service would actually get a call.

Second issue is privacy. Do you really want to fax your medical records (for example) to some person you don’t know? I don’t know how much back-end screening is going on of the volunteers, and if the volunteers are being tracked/monitors as they read faxes over the phone.

On the other hand, I can see where there could be innocuous information to be read that might be useful. Letters from friends, church bulletins, notes and articles that can’t quite be remembered, handwritten instructions that can’t be interpreted (though some people, like me, have handwriting that resists the best efforts of even sighted people), food labels, and other such information.

Of course there are already certain reading services for the visually impaired, including for tv listings and newspapers, but this is a nice idea. Just as long as there’s some monitoring on the back end…

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Covering the world of search engines, databases, and other online information collections since 1996.

Posted on October 9, 2007, in News. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.

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