Talking newspapers for blind and visually impaired people in Oxford & district
Oxtalk 'Sound Orb'

Oxtalk’s annual Autumn meeting welcomes guest presenters

November 28, 2010

At our annual Autumn meeting, held this year on the evening of Thursday 28th October at Barton Comunity Centre, we were delighted to introduce guest presenters from three organisations:

First of all Barry Reeves and Kay Sentance from Artwash outlined the history of their group of artists, who like to paint a picture, but not necessarily in the accepted sense, that they consider reflects the work of a group. Following visits to Oxtalk and to one of the listeners, Brenda Fenner, they had produced the first version of a visual and audio representation of the work of Oxtalk, which they then showed to the meeting. This was met with great interest and produced a request from listeners to visit Oxtalk’s facilities to see what happens there and how recordings are made and produced.

Then Ms Hilary Wheelton, Senior Librarian, Communities & Learning Team, gave a presentation entitled, “What next for libraries?”. Hilary reported on a review she had recently undertaken of library services to the visually impaired, part of which had been a consultation with visually impaired people on how they access information and their leisure reading, and their preferred ways of doing it. A copy of the result of the review is attached to the Minute Book.

In response to a question from Neil Stockton about sighted people using the library’s audio service free of charge, Mike Lewington, who is Chair of the UK Copyright Authority, said that this was the single biggest issue for discussion. The Publishers Association had raised it but there was a long way to go.

Brenda Fenner, a listener, mentioned that she did not like textbooks with synthetic speech but that if it became necessary to do so she would learn how to download them. She mentioned that the RNIB’s Daisy player was a very good machine and that if the reader was too slow it was possible to increase the speed without affecting the voice in any way.

Hilary mentioned that there was presently no charge for the library service but that this situation would be subject to further review.

Lastly, Mr Mike Lewington, Director of Calibre Audio Library, gave a most interesting presentation entitled “Calibre Audiio Library – how we deliver the freedom to read”. Calibre’s mission is to improve the quality of life for people with sight problems or other disabilities who cannot read print by bringing them the pleasure of reading through a free, nationwide postal service of audio books.

Although many people were still using cassettes these would soon cease to be available. Calibre went over to CDs 3-4 years ago, and the industry generally was centred on MP3 technology. USB memory sticks provided one long-term sustainable format and one type of memory stick had been accepted worldwide about two years ago. Streaming through the internet was a viable long-term option and should be available within a year. However, this was not appropriate for everyone and alternative options would always be sought.

Effective from 1 May 2010 there had been a new Copyright Licensing Agency Print Disability Licence which recognises visual impairment as a print disability. Calibre had a licence for all BBC audiobooks but this excluded downloads

Mike mentioned that Guide Dogs for the Blind were investigating a national training standard for volunteers, one aspect of which would be to train volunteers to take a visually impaired person to the library.

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