Access to audio books has become easier for the blind and people with visual impairments following the rise of the smartphone. "Read for the Blind", an app developed by the Content Service team of Thai Samsung Electronics, allows volunteers with smartphones and tablets to create audio books anywhere.
With the only requirement being a smartphone or tablet to install the app, anyone can contribute to a better life for the blind, who are experiencing a shortage of audio books.
The project is a collaboration of many leading organisations including Thai Samsung, Siam Commercial Bank, AIS and Google Thailand.
The National Library for the Blind and Print Disabled only has 7,000 audio books because the production process is complicated.
Wichai Pornpratang, vice-president of Telecommunications Business at Thai Samsung Electronics, said the main technology used to develop this app is Voice Recorder. It records users' reading before the audio files are uploaded to the Thai Blind People Foundation's server for conversion to DAISY3 books to achieve the audio quality and standard needed by the blind. With this audio book format, blind people can search and regulate reading voices, make duplicates easily and place "marks" in the audio books for continuation at a later time.
"The present system by which volunteers read the books is on a personal computer format and it is then converted to the DAISY program, so we need to redesign the back office supporting the mobile app and meet the audio quality for listeners," said Wichai.
The app is also equipped with a camera. It takes a cover picture of the book being read, which allows people to recognise it for continued reading and eliminates the problem of redundant segments, while the completion of each upload will also be quicker.
Many people may wish to read the same book and each of them can easily continue from the point where another reader has finished.
The app also allows users to share the audio book on social networks such as Facebook.
The project is targeting production of 3,000 audio book titles and 30,000 audio articles from 300,000 app downloaders within a year.
Wirat Sritulanont, president of the Thai Blind People's Foundation, said those who volunteer for recording must be able to devote time and do the reading on a regular basis. Restrictions about commuting to and parking at the centre are also obstacles, resulting in insufficient production to meet the demand of blind people who long for access to information resources for education, knowledge, entertainment and general information and updates.
However, the emergence of the Read for the Blind project will remove many obstacles to audio book production and is expected to boost productivity to meet the needs of the blind. It will additionally build public awareness of reading for the blind.
It is estimated that after the Read for the Blind app is officially launched, the internet usage on AIS 3G network will be worth more than 10 million baht. However, AIS will waive any such fees as part of the company's contribution to society.
The app can be downloaded on Android and iOS for free, and from the Google Play Store. Visit facebook.com/readfortheblind for further details.