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Good news for users of braille display devices

Braille reader.
Image from Blood Drops and Braille Dots.

Yesterday, S. 3207, legislation introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), passed the Senate as an amendment to an unrelated bill (S. 2893). This evening, that bill, with Sen. Schumer’s language, passed the House, too. This is great news because it authorizes the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to extend its service by providing refreshable Braille display devices to NLS users.

Previously, NLS could only supply Braille books in print which are expensive to produce and costly to ship. The NLS did have the capability of sending Braille files to users, but many could not afford the refreshable Braille display devices. Braille readers— popular with many people with print disabilities— allow readers the ability to read Braille from a device connected to a computer keyboard. With so much content now displayed on a computer screen, Braille readers are indispensable. Isn’t technology cool?

Kudos to Senator Schumer for acting quickly and effectively — with critical assistance from Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) — on a recommendation from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its recent report entitled “Library Services For Those With Disabilities: Additional Steps Needed to Ease Services and Modernize Technology.” GAO urged Congress to “give NLS the opportunity to provide braille in a modernized format and potentially achieve cost savings, Congress should consider amending the law to allow the agency to use federal funds to provide its users playback equipment for electronic braille files (i.e., refreshable braille devices).” The President is expected to sign the bill carrying the new, and very welcome, NLS authorization very soon.

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Carrie Russell

Carrie Russell is the director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Washington Office. Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books, and other public policy issues. She has an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MA in media arts from the University of Arizona.

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