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Response to David Pogue: Are Efforts to Acquire Accessibility by the Blind Being Lumped in with Piracy?

May 25, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

May 25, 2008

Dear Mr. Pogue,

It is really disappointing to see blind people mentioned categorically in a negative light through your article entitled Can e-Publishing Overcome Copyright Concerns? in the New York Times. Unless there have been piracy convictions in a court of law, you have no absolute proof that those two blind people to whom you provided electronic copies of your books were the same ones who posted the illegal copies two days later. As people who lack physical eye sight, or who’s sight is extremely limited, we endure serious information accessibility challenges. This circumstance is completely beyond our control. Despite current technologies, we probably have access to easily 10 percent or less of the printed material you enjoy as a fully sighted person.

There are protected ways in which you may provide your books in an accessible format, one of which is Bookshare at http://www.bookshare.org. You could have also asked for some reasonable proof of disability before sending your books to complete strangers in an unprotected format. Please consider dawning a blindfold and a free screen reader like System Access to Go (http://www.satogo.com) and experiencing the world our way for a few hours, then consider clarifying your position toward blind and visually impaired people and the accessibility obstacles we face.

I hope you will consider making this right, so that your words don’t negatively impact our abilities to acquire an education and avail ourselves of employment opportunities through further worsening of the bleak inaccessibility we continue to encounter on a daily basis.

Best regards,

Darrell Shandrow

Accessibility Evangelist

2 opinions on “Response to David Pogue: Are Efforts to Acquire Accessibility by the Blind Being Lumped in with Piracy?

  1. Two things worth noting here. the fact that the gentleman in question put the word blind in quotes tells me that he did not believe the people in question to be blind. I think this is another case of a bunch of blind people, desperate to be discriminated against, getting bent out of shape over nothing. Bookshare is hardly a viable response to the issue, as it only addresses the issue for residents of one country.

  2. Bruce,
    Well I think it is wrong that some blind people are overzealous always putting things in a context of “being discriminated against”, I do not believe that was at all the intent of the responses by the blind community that I have seen so far, both here and on the email distribution list. I believe that your judgment that the response is people desperately looking to be discriminated against is an example of someone looking to see everything in that way. I believe that the way that the article was written implied the more common way that the blind community has viewed it based on such responses and the common way that the sighted world is likely to read it as well. There does not appear to be any reason to put ‘blind’ in this context and other words could have more appropriately been chosen to make more clear the less obvious interpretation being put forth. Perception is just as important in this context as it is in how we as a blind community conduct ourselves. It is unfortunate that you choose to so readily label statements made by the blind community, regardless of the obvious context of the statements and intentions, as examples of statements made with selfish intentions for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes it is with the intention of informing or avoiding people being misinformed that blind people make the statements we do, not looking to be discriminated against at every turn.

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