Saturday, September 16, 2006

News on the phone for the visually impaired

Audible newspapers are available for Austinites who are blind or visually impaired.

The National Federation of the Blind, a group dedicated to helping people who are visually impaired, created a phone number in which a synthetic speech engine called Newsline reads the news over the telephone.

The line is free of charge to anyone who is unable to read print. The Austin American-Statesman offers a free subscription.

Subscribers can call a toll-free or local number to hear the news all day, every day. Content is taken electronically from the newspaper through a direct feed.

About 50,000 subscribers across the country listen to their newspapers.

"The NFB line started in 2002, but a dramatic number of papers in Texas have come up in the past few months. . . . We've had a lot of people requesting the Austin paper. The fact that we have the state capital paper now participating, it really is a break through for the blind people in the state of Texas," said John Pare, director of public relations for the NFB.

Close to 230 local and national newspapers are available, including some Spanish-language ones. Popular magazines also are on the list.

For more information, call the National Federation of the Blind at (866) 504-7300 or visit


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