It is serendipitous that I became aware of the National Federation of the Blind’s complaints against Kindle just days after deciding to make my novels more accessible to visually impaired readers. NFB is filing a lawsuit claiming that Kindle’s lack of a voice menu makes the device impossible for blind people to use. Several universities are supporting NFB by boycotting the product as a replacement for text books until Kindle makes the e-reader more accessible to the visually impaired.
A Kindle spokesperson says Amazon is working hard to address the problem, and this post is not meant as a criticism of Kindle.
The point is that visually impaired readers have a limited number of books available to them compared to the total number of books on the market. I became aware of this recently when a blind person on a listserv I participate in asked if THE SEX CLUB was available as an audio book so she could listen to it. I felt bad about telling her no. A blind man on the list offered to purchase the book from me (it’s not available in Europe), scan it to create a txt file that’s readable by the text-to-speech software blind people use on their computers, and send it to the woman who asked about it.
I decided to spare the helpful man the process of scanning my book page by page and sent him the Word file to convert and share with any visually impaired person who wanted to read the book. Why not? It’s such a small gift to people whose lives are a constant struggle. If I can give them a few hours of entertainment, I’m happy to do it.
Now I’d like to broaden the scope of this effort. I posted on Facebook and a friend directed me to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, where he has his book distributed for free in audio version. I’m also looking into organizations that convert books to Braille.
I’m excited to make this happen, and I encourage other authors to offer their books to the handicapped. Why not brighten someone’s day with the gift of a good story?