October 31, 2008
Google Settlement With Authors, Publishers Will Have Positive Results for the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's leading advocate for access to information by the blind, announced today that the recent settlement between Google and authors and publishers over the Google Books project, if approved by the courts, will have a profound and positive impact on the ability of blind people to access the printed word. The terms of the settlement that was reached on October 28, among Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers, on behalf of a broad class of authors and publishers, allow Google to provide the material it offers users "in a manner that accommodates users with print disabilities so that such users have a substantially similar user experience as users without print disabilities." A user with a print disability under the agreement is one who is "unable to read or use standard printed material due to blindness, visual disability, physical limitations, organic dysfunction, or dyslexia." Blind people, like other members of the public, will be able to search the texts of books in the Google Books database online; purchase some books in an accessible format; or access accessible books at libraries and other entities that have an institutional subscription to the Google Books database. Once the court approves the settlement, Google will work to launch these services as quickly as possible.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "Access to the printed word has historically been one of the greatest challenges faced by the blind. The agreement between Google and authors and publishers will revolutionize access to books for blind Americans.
Blind people will be able to search for books through the Google Books interface and purchase, borrow, or read at a public library any of the books that are available to the general public in a format that is compatible with text enlargement software, text-to-speech screen access software, and refreshable Braille devices. With 7 million books already available in the Google Books collection and many more to come, this agreement means that blind people will have more access to print books than we have ever had in human history. The blind, just like the sighted, will have a world of education, information, and entertainment literally at our fingertips. The National Federation of the Blind commends the parties to this agreement for their commitment to full and equal access to information by the blind."
"Among the most monumental aspects of the settlement agreement," said Jack Bernard, assistant general counsel at the University of Michigan, "are the terms that enable Google and libraries to make works accessible to people who have print disabilities. This unprecedented opportunity to access the printed word will make it possible for blind people to engage independently with our rich written culture. Moreover, it is refreshing to find accessibility for people with disabilities explicitly included upfront, rather than begrudgingly added as an afterthought."
"One of the great promises of the settlement agreement is improving access to books for the blind and for those with print disabilities," said Dan Clancy, engineering director for Google Book Search. "Google is committed to extending all of the services available under the agreement to the blind and print disability community, making it easier to access these books through screen enlargement, reader, and Braille display technologies."
About the National Federation of the Blind
With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people's lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind. Please visit our Web site: www.nfb.org.