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New Service Uses Smart Speakers To Read News To Visually-Impaired

Alexa

While NFB Newsline has been around for years, it now works with smart speaker technology. (WFIU/WTIU News)

A new service is delivering the day’s news to the blind and visually-impaired through smart speaker technology.

When Lee Martin lost his sight at 45-years-old, he had to learn to use new tools to navigate his life.

He first learned to use a long white cane. Then, he was introduced to technology in a whole new way.

The National Federation of the Blind Newsline is a free audio news service available to the blind and visually impaired.

And now, NFB Newsline is accessible on all Amazon Alexa devices.

“This may sound frivolous to those that have sight, but to those that can’t see the print or turn the pages and access those products, this means the world to them,” says Martin, who is NFB Newsline's Indiana coordinator. 

NFB Newsline offers more than 300 different publications, including local, national and international news, to allow the blind and visually impaired to know the news of the day.

“The thing about being blind is that when you are blind at some point you can feel somewhat isolated at first," says Florence Myers-McSwine, assistant coordinator for Indiana Newsline. "Newsline broadens your horizon, it opens the world to you, there is more than just you and blindness, and it gives you information.”

NFB Newsline is also accessible via Touchtone Telephone, iPhone, desktop or laptop computer, and Victor Reader. Amazon Alexa products now allow for hands-free access and increased efficiency for users.

“It’s just unspeakable how much technology has enlarged and enriched the world for blind people,” says Susan Jones, chapter secretary. 

Jones says the service has been available for print-disabled Indiana residents for more than 25 years, and continues to adapt.

“We can’t keep up in a sighted world without knowing how to use the tools that everybody else uses, or knowing how to use tools that will help us navigate those systems when it’s not accessible.”

Aside from news publications, the service also includes job listings, retail advertising circulars and interactive TV listings.

NFB Newsline is available for eligible users 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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