I don’t care if today is one day closer to the weekend. I am declaring shenanigans and demanding a do over, or better yet fast forward.
Last night I got home at about 21:30 after working an extra few hours showing products at a technology fair in Columbia. The show was really well attended and we showed off the new KNFB Reader Mobile and a couple of other new products.
Having agreed to go to a congressional hearing today it was necessary to be at the office at 07:00. We loaded up the vans, drove to DC, and spent an hour standing around because the hearing room was locked. No big deal I got the chance to catch up with one of the summer interns who I hadn’t seen in a while and eavsedrop on the US Capitol Police radio traffic. We were let into the room at 09:55 after being informed the hearing would start 20 minutes late.
Our representative was first on the agenda. I expected his testamony to take some time and be followed up by questioning from the committee. You know what I sat through? His 5 minute statement and 3 or 4 minutes of the committee chair saying our issue was basically not important and that we shouldn’t challenge the Librarian of Congress on his assertion that it was acceptable to phase the talking book program from cassette tape to digital books over 6 years instead of 4. Couple of quick facts here before I go on.
Seventeen thousand public libraries exist for sighted readers to obtain books from. Countless numbers of bookstores and websites exist for the same reason. Do you know how many libraries there are for the blind in this country? One. The National Library Service for the Blind. It serves 800,000 patrons throughout the entire country, producing talking and Braille books. Care to take a stab at how many recorded books are made available each year?
Yes, a mere one percent of the available print material is made available to blind citizens. In a world where access to information and knowledge is a critical component of becoming educated and getting a job is it a wonder that 70 percent of working age blind adults are unemployed?
No, the NLS isn’t the *only* method for accessing books in alternative format, but it is the primary source for most of America’s blind. Services such as Audible and Bookshare do exist, and are good for what they offer (I use Bookshare heavily and Audible occasionally), but many blind citizens don’t have the funds, skills, or technology to utilize these services.
If the United States Congress does not make the 19.1 million dollar appropriation we are seeking it may be 3 years before some blind Americans have access to new books. That’s three fourths of a teenager’s highschool career. Imagine you walk into your local library or bookstore and see that their once massive collection has been reduced to one percent of what it was. Further imagine the librarian or store manager informs you that no new books will be coming in for another three years. How well would that go over?
Wow. That descended into a diatribe I wasn’t originally planning on writing, but I think I finally put my finger on why I was so annoyed today. It wasn’t that half my day was consumed with an eight minute meeting, or the fact that my sandwich vomited mustard all over my shirt and pants, nor the fact that my stomach almost rebelled on the way back to work from something I ate (TMI? Sorry.), or even the fact that I really can’t get any work done now because the Internets are broken. Really, what’s got me annoyed is the Committee chair acting as if we aren’t important. She commented that the blind are “not being left out.” and that a substantial portion of the budget being considered was going to programs that benefit blind Americans. That’s all well and good, but we are merely asking for a chance at accessing something many people take for granted.
Like I said. Shenanigans.
Oh, and I am now on hold with AT&T because they have, once again, deleted my voicemail account. This is still a holdover problem from the night the one support rep hosed one, and consequently the other, of our SIM cards. Cost me a $25 cab ride and two and a half hours on the phone with tech support to get new SIMs too. Yeah, I’m quite thrilled with them right now.
ooh, goodie. Voicemail is back, but I have to recreate my mailbox. Hope noone left me messages I will not get now.