This post is a request for input from the professional audio community. You can respond via the comment box related to this post or email me off list: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a long response that might be interesting to others, and does not contain proprietary information, I may even invite you to contribute your ideas as a guest blog. – Eric Somers (the Audio Penguin)
Although my own eyesight is pretty good, over the years I have done some work assisting organizations providing services to the blind. This includes, especially, sound guides to public buildings, touch models, audio narration, etc. Most recently I have contributed information to The Dog Rose Trust in the UK, which provided those services, but unfortunately they have had to close recently following the untimely passing of one of their founders in 2016.
We have seen how “talking books” have made an important contribution over the years to those who are blind or seriously sight handicapped. Radio reading services, 16 2/3 rpm “talking books” discs, audio cassettes, and CDs all opened the door for the blind, at various times, to the written word. Please read my earlier post which reviewed the book, The Untold Story of the Talking Book.
Many digital music players seem not that suitable for the blind as they rely on screen menus. However there are players designed for the blind such as the Tomboy Digital Talking Book Player which has no screen at all, and the Apple iPod fourth generation Nano which can be set to provide audio feedback in addition to the screen menus.
We are seeing a huge explosion of podcasts, especially now that so many people seem to go around with headphones or earbuds connected to their phones or audio players. This provides much new content that can be accessible to the sight handicapped.
BUT, I expect that some blind citizens would love to record, edit and post podcasts of their own. These could be anything from simple commentary on various world events or aspects of their lives, to interviews done in a studio or on location with others, even to soundscapes of the world they ear. Indeed, my mother read books for a blind attorney when I was in high school. I visited him in his office and he even showed me the Dictaphone machine he used to record memos and briefs for later transcription by a secretary. But he also played sounds of birds he had recorded by sticking the microphone out the window. That generation Dictaphone was crude and low fidelity by modern standards. It recorded on flexible plastic “Dictabelts” by cutting grooves in the belt, much like a photograph record. The lawyer acknowledged the sound quality was limited, yet still enjoyed sonic explorations with the machine.
Of course, a blind person today could record, edit and post a blog with the assistance of a sighted “helper.” But I am curious about ways a blind person could create a whole blog without the assistance of a sighted person.
In past days I think a blind person could learn to thread and operate an open-reel tape recorder. I expect he/she could even learn to edit the tape with a splicing block. I now own several hand-held digital sound recorders but they all seem very menu-driven with visual-only menus. Then for editing one has to copy the files into a digital audio workstation (DAW), but I am not personally aware of any DAWs that can be operated for serious sound editing without being able to see a screen. But maybe there are products I simply don’t know about.
So that is what I am querying the audio community about. Does anyone know of a portable recorder, and of a DAW for editing that does not rely on reading a screen? If such products exist I would hope you would let us know via the comment window. If you have something long to send, you can email it to email@example.com. If it is something you can legally share I would be happy to post the information to this site (let me know).
With the popularity of blogs I would think they could tap a wealth of ideas and talent from the sight-limited community.