2003 Conference Proceedings

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Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, RFB&Dís Learning Through Listening: Improving Service Delivery and Maximizing Independence Through Technology

Karen J. Le Morvan
Manager, Market Research and Product Development
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic
20 Roszel Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609-243-7094
Email: klemorvan@rfbd.org

AnneMarie Cooke, Senior Officer, External Relations
George Kersher, Senior Officer, Accessible Information
Karen Le Morvan, Manager, Market Research and Product Development
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic
20 Roszel Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609-452-0606
Email: acooke@rfbd.org 
Email: kerscher@montana.com 
Email: klemorvan@rfbd.org 

Blake Erickson
Telex Communications, Inc.
Burnsville, MN


RFB&D has launched! This double session extravaganza will focus attention on RFB&D's expanding services and product line. RFB&D's new Customer Hub (a self-service Web portal), a new Interactive Training CD (a fully accessible, self-directed guide to effective use of RFB&D's audio books), and the core digital service itself will be presented in the first part of the session. Then, playback developers Telex, Plextor, and VisuAide will present their new and exciting additions to RFB&D's line of playback products.

RFB&Dís Learning Through Listening: Improving Service Delivery and Maximizing Independence Through Technology

RFB&D launched RFB&Dís AudioPlus™ digitally recorded textbooks on September 3, 2002. Since that date, over 5,000 books have been distributed to approximately 1,000 digital adopters (schools and individuals) nationwide.

Throughout fiscal 2003, RFB&D has focused its efforts on three major goals. The first is the deployment of a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that includes a self-service website, the Customer Hub. The second is the development of training materials to increase independent use of playback systems with AudioPlus books. The third is the expansion of its digital playback product line to include a variety of affordable hardware and software playback options.

Customer Hub

This spring, RFB&D will launch its Customer Hub, a web-based "mirror image" of the services provided through RFB&Dís Member Services department. RFB&Dís Customer Hub will:

The website will restrict ordering of books to members and will restrict ordering of authorized digital playback equipment to members and contractually affiliated non-member customers.

Interactive Learning Tool

In March, RFB&D will release its first Interactive Learning Tool (ILT), a fully accessible, self-directed guide to the effective use of RFB&D's digital or analog audio books and playback equipment. The ILT contains a Main Menu that includes

The ILT is self-launching and begins voicing the welcome text immediately. All commands are accessible by menus and hot-key combinations. Graphic "buttons" are also available for play/stop, next, back, and a link to the RFB&D website. The ILT disc will contain a READ ME file.

The screen of the ILT is divided into three parts:

  1. the section browser (a TOC of the ILT)
  2. the main text display (displays the text accompanying the audio files that are voiced)
  3. the image display (displays images linked to the text as it is being voiced)
At appropriate points in the training portions of the ILT, sounds associated with certain activities are also heard (i.e., Welcome to Victor when the tutorial is explaining how to turn on the Victor Reader Pro.)

The training/tutorial portions of the ILT orient the user to the machine features and functions. After each function is explained, playback of the ILT text pauses to allow time for the user to practice that function. The user resumes the tutorial using the Next button/command. The training portions also allow the user to skip ahead (using the Next button/command) or repeat a section (using the Back button/command). The troubleshooting portions list common scenarios, links to other related problems, and contact information for RFB&D's Member Services department.

The ILT is a small application linked to a database of text, images, and sound files, and as such may be available via the RFB&D website in the future. It is expected that the ILT will have a wide range of uses for individuals and those leading workshops and training sessions. The ILT comes in a PC version and a MAC version. Information on minimum requirements is forthcoming.

Expansion of Digital Playback Product Line

In June 2002, RFB&D concluded a 3-year market research effort, Product Placement. Over the multi-phased project, RFB&D outreach staff collected data on studentsí use of the functional features of Victor Pro and Plextalk stand-alone devices and on student preferences for and satisfaction with the physical features of both devices. In addition, RFB&D conducted a conjoint analysis project that researched which features of a portable player would provide the greatest utility to our members. The results of these studies have been disseminated to hardware product vendors to aid them in their product development efforts, as have the results of software field tests.

Three of those vendors are presenting their product offerings: Telex Communications, Inc,. Plextor Corporation, and VisuAide, Inc.

Telex Introduces the Scholar Daisy Talking Book Player

Telex Communications has produced products for the talking book industry for over 40 years. From vinyl LPs to the cassette tape, Telex has made players, recorders, and duplicators for people with print-related disabilities. Now Telex introduces the first truly portable Daisy Talking Book Player: the Scholar.

The Scholar plays the Daisy format along with Audio CDs and MP3 CDs. The Scholar allows users to take full advantage of the Daisy navigation structure to have immediate access to pages, chapters and subchapters. The player runs on 4 AA batteries or a DC power adapter. The player has audible navigation prompts as well as an LCD display. A user can listen to the player with the included headphones or through external speakers through the line output. The player also has variable speed control and bookmark indexing.

The Scholar is designed to be upgradeable and expandable with the USB connector. Users may upgrade firmware, update security, and connect to future expansion products. Telex offers the Scholar at an affordable price with a 1-year warranty.

Plextor: Plextalk PTR1 and Plextalk Recording Software

Plextor is pleased to make a recording presentation with the Plextalk PTR1. The Plextalk PTR1, with extensive Daisy playback features and stand-alone recording capability, delivers exceptionally high performance in a battery powered, portable, and stylish design. It meets any of your personal recording needs, such as recording lectures in class, volunteers' recordings, or even recording an entire conference proceeding. A built-in microphone and optional external microphone provide recording versatility to handle a variety of situations. You can record up to 90 hours on a single recordable CD, and during the recording you can create heading and page navigation points for quick and easy navigation later. It also works as a standard external CD-RW drive when attached to a PC with a USB interface.

Via a USB connection, you can transfer your recordings into a PC, and then using Plextalk Recording Software edit or reorganize the recording for easier use later. It is a great tool for both personal and volunteer recording applications at home and school. The other features include: bookmarks, advanced direct page or heading navigation, adjustable playback speed, and more. The Plextalk PTR1 provides fast and efficient reading on the go.

VisuAide, Inc.'s Second-Generation Players

VisuAide is a fast-growing firm based in Canada that develops and commercializes technology products for the visually impaired. We have over 65 employees of which more than 20 are actively involved in R&D. VisuAide is the major provider of digital talking book players, with over 25,000 players delivered in more than 15 countries around the world. Victor Readers Pro, Classic and Soft dominate this product niche with over 80% of all Daisy players on the market today.

VisuAide is now completing the design of several second-generation players that will increase player variety and dramatically reduce the entry price for this exciting new technology. Based on our five years of experience in designing Daisy players, we have improved the existing platforms to offer more portable solutions as well as very attractive pricing.

The first new player to emerge is the Victor Reader (to be named), a CD-drive, MP3 based player, which originates directly from mass-market consumer electronics. To attain maximum portability (think Sony DiscMan) and the lowest price possible for a hardware Daisy player, we have modified an existing off-the-shelf MP3 player and added our own Daisy software so it can play talking books. The result is a very attractive player for students and professionals with a full set of navigation features and fully accessible controls. The launch of this product demonstrates that we can modify any type of consumer electronics devices to make them Daisy capable. It opens the door to many other design opportunities for new players in the future.

The second player is a re-design of our award-winning Victor Reader Classic. This product has been so successful that our users insisted that we not modify the layout or features, but we nonetheless managed to reduce its price by 35%. The new Victor Reader Classic will now be affordable for all leisure book readers.

We are pleased to be part of this new wave of players that will make Daisy technology more accessible to all persons with visual impairments and print-related disabilities throughout the world.

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