Friday, October 10, 2003

Handheld Accessible Libraries: Project Hal

Handheld Accessible Libraries – Project HAL!

The Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center and TAP Information Services will undertake Project HAL (Handheld, Accessible Libraries), a critical analysis and evaluation of DAISY-enabled, portable playback devices intended primarily for use by the blind and visually impaired to access and enjoy digital talking books. The purpose of the DAISY standard, developed by the DAISY Consortium, is to make all published information available to persons with print disabilities in an accessible, feature-rich, navigable format. Examples of such devices include the Victor Vibe from VisuAide, the Telex Scholar from Telex Communications, the Book Port from the American Printing House for the Blind, the Plextalk Portable Recorder from Plextalk, and the BookCourier from Springer Design.

Tom Peters from TAP Information Services will conduct the evaluation of these devices and write the final report. Peters was a co-author of the 2003 LITA publication, E-Book Functionality: What Libraries and Their Patrons Want and Expect from Electronic Book Technologies. Project HAL will produce a similar list and feature analysis of the devices and software functionalities for digital talking book (DTB) playback devices.

This project builds upon an earlier pilot project conducted this year, eAudio with digital audio books and Otis MP3 players from Audible.com. Talking book readers who tried the digital audio books and Otises liked the sound quality and portability of the MP3 player, but expressed the need for more accessibility features. The final report on the eAudio project can be found at http://www.mitbc.org/eaudiofinal.doc.

Tom Peters from TAP Information Services observed, “Digital content presents very real promise to the blind and visually impaired. It is wonderful seeing all these devices come to market, but they need to be evaluated, compared and contrasted, and field tested to ensure that they actually are useful to end-users.”

Readers and information industry professionals who have firsthand experience with these devices are encouraged to contact Peters (tapinformation@yahoo.com) to share experiences and suggestions.

The report and recommendations will be released in late December 2003.

The Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center (www.mitbc.org) is a sub-regional library serving the blind and physically challenged in central and northwest Illinois. A talking book center provides library services via toll-free telephone and U.S. mail. Books and magazines in Braille and audiocassette formats are available to readers enrolled in the program. MITBC is part of a statewide network administered by the Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State. The statewide network is tied to a national network under the administration of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a division of the Library of Congress.

TAP Information Services provides a wide variety of services supporting libraries, consortia, government agencies, museums, publishers, and other organizations in the information industry. Services include: support for projects, research reports, strategic planning, workshops, writing and editing, conference services, consortial negotiations and agreements, and speeches.

For more information about Project HAL, please contact either Tom Peters (816-228-6406 or tapinformation@yahoo.com) or Lori Bell at (309)353-4110 or lbell@alliancelibrarysystem.com.


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