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Keeping the blind connected

Hamish Barwick | May 22, 2015
Audio streaming service replaces CDs at Vision Australia.

Producing audiobook CDs was proving to be both expensive and time consuming for Vision Australia until it decided to offer blind and vision impaired clients an audio streaming service.

The not-for-profit organisation provides a device known as the Daisy (digital accessible information system) Reader to clients so they can play audiobooks in CD form.

To streamline the process and shorten the request-to-availability timeframe, Vision Australia partnered with Optus Business to upgrade the Daisy Readers with 3G connectivity.

The 3G sim card was fitted to existing readers, meaning Vision Australia did not need to buy new devices. Vision Australia accessible information general manager, Michael Simpson, said staff take the player apart, remove the old CD componentry and insert a new cradle, which includes the 3G connection.

The project began 12 months ago, and approximately 2600 players have been sent out to clients to date. Another 400 are due to be distributed by the end of this year.

"This project was targeted at the top 3000 users of Vision Australia's library because of the 15,500 people we have using our library, the top users were accessing 60 per cent of our titles," Simpson said.

"By targeting the top 3000 users, this will take our CD burn and distribution from 650,000 CDs a year down to 250,000."

Long term, Vision Australia wants to exit the audiobook CD market. Simpson explained that as the CD becomes legacy technology, it has become more expensive to maintain the equipment and purchase blank CDs.

Providing a 3G service also means clients who are unable to use computers can stay connected to what is happening in the world.

"The [player] is very simple to use. They don't need to have an Internet connection of their own or a computer. All they need is reasonable Optus mobile connectivity," said Simpson.

The player connects through the Optus network to Vision Australia's library catalogue. The client selects what they want to hear by using audio prompts and the streaming begins.

As well as books, Vision Australia has had access to News Limited and Fairfax publications for some years, however these were not previously available on the reader. Having 3G embedded on the devices now allows clients to access 450 magazines and newspapers via their device.

"We get automated feeds from those organisations and we've been able to make those newspapers and magazines available through our online catalogue to people who can do their own downloading," he said. The titles are delivered as text files, ensuring the files load quickly.

"This is the first time all of that content is available to our average library user. We can send them audio books, magazines and newspapers via streaming."


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