Accessibility Made Simple

Audio books have grown the world of books for the blind book lover

Posted by Stella Broster on May 15, 2019 3:40:45 PM

Blog Author Holly Scott-Gardner

We hope you enjoy our Guest Blog by Holly Scott-Gardner, a 25-year-old blind student, blogger and Youtube creator.

"As far back as I can remember my life has revolved around books. When I was a child I would eagerly await deliveries of heavy volumes of braille in the post, relishing the distinctive crackle of Velcro as I pulled open the bags they were stored in. A new book meant a new world to explore. I was sustained on a steady stream of library books and the audio books my family bought for me. But at times I lamented how few books I could read. So few were available in braille or audio and I sat on the side-lines as friends shared new discoveries I didn't have a hope of reading.

These days, blind book lovers are able to access far more titles than ever before. Thanks to the popularity of Kindle and other eBook platforms we can read almost anything that sighted people have access to. I have dipped in and out of books on subjects from astrophysics to twentieth century history, and read a staggering number of romance novels. If I have a topic I'd like to explore, the chances are I will find something in a format that I can access.

So one of the biggest struggles I face now is deciding what I want to read and how I'd like to read it. The RNIB Talking Books Service has a vast number of audio books, including many of my childhood favourites such as Harry Potter. I was recently inspired to read the series again and have enjoyed flying back through time to a world which gave me so much comfort as a child. If I want to read a classic I only have to look as far as Project Gutenberg where you can find literary joys such as Little Women and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I still read in braille, making use of refreshable braille displays and eBook catalogues, instead of hard copy texts which aren't particularly practical to carry around. But it is my love of audio books that has really been helped along by technology. I use the Kindle or iBooks apps for reading content I've purchased, and Voice Dream Reader for playing MP3s or books I have saved on Dropbox.

However, most impressively, with a phone, a handful of libraries and the EasyReader app, I have access to thousands of books in my pocket. EasyReader can be used to read books from accessible libraries, including RNIB overdrive, RNIB's newspaper service and a multitude of international libraries for people with print disabilities. It is extremely easy to use and completely accessible as it has been designed with blind and visually impaired people as the primary audience.

Once you download the app and create a free Dolphin account you can select the libraries you would like to be featured on the menu. This is useful if, like me, you have subscriptions to some of them and would like the others to be hidden. Log in to the libraries to which you have a membership and begin to browse.

In addition, when playing books, you also have lots of options to customise playback, such as changing how you navigate through books, whether the app plays a sound to notify you of a bookmark, and the speed of audio playback. I've found changing playback speed particularly useful as, sometimes I want to enjoy an audio book at its regular speed, but other times my goal is to read a text as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I'm really enjoying the app as it consolidates many of the most popular accessible libraries into one convenient package. I still make use of other apps, but EasyReader has definitely been a game changer and enabled me to access libraries that I wasn't making much use of before.

Long gone are the days when I felt sad that I couldn't read all the books I wanted. Now I am faced with the pleasurable dilemma of having more than I know what to do with."

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