Academic journal article Information Technology and Disabilities

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic: The Development of an Internet Accessible Online Catalog

Academic journal article Information Technology and Disabilities

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic: The Development of an Internet Accessible Online Catalog

Article excerpt


Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (formerly Recording for the Blind) has been providing audio recordings of educational texts since its founding in 1948. RFB&D's master tape library currently contains over 80,000 volumes, making it the largest resource of its kind in the world. Beginning in 1992, RFB&D initiated a project to develop an online public access catalog that would allow both institutional providers and individual borrowers to search its holdings and order recorded texts via the Internet. Also in 1993, a coordinated pilot project was begun to allow a limited test group of institutional sites and individuals the ability to use the catalog ordering mechanism in an effort to gather structured feedback on the usefulness of the system and suggestions for improvements. Although the project cannot be considered an overwhelming success, much insight has been gained as a result of our efforts and will be of considerable value in the development of a future improved version of RFB&D's online public access catalog.


Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic is a not-for-profit service organization that provides educational and professional books in accessible media formats to people with print disabilities including blindness, low vision, mobility impairments, and perceptual learning disabilities such as dyslexia. RFB&D primarily provides texts in four-track audio cassette format, but also has an ever growing electronic text program which can supply a limited number of texts on computer diskettes. Works available in E-text format are usually books that have little value in audio form, such as dictionaries, reference works, and computer software manuals. All audio recordings are loaned to borrowers free of charge, while E-text books are sold to users for a nominal charge.

Most of the work needed to produce RFB&D's texts is supplied by trained volunteers who record books or do E-text editing at 30 different studios scattered across the United States. In 1994, over 4,400 volunteers contributed some 324,000 hours worth of volunteer services. The combination of a largely volunteer workforce and generous corporate and individual contributors explains how RFB&D was able to provide most of its services to 36,000 active borrowers free of charge.


Prior to 1991, the only publicly-available reference tool for finding recorded books in RFB&D's master tape library general public was a printed catalog. These printed catalogs could be purchased by schools, outside agencies, and private individuals, but naturally were of little help to most of our borrowers. Beginning in 1991, RFB&D began to produce a subscription service on audio cassette called the Quarterly Recorded Catalog, which offered information on the latest recorded and electronic texts in a non-print format for the first time. In the following year, RFB&D began to offer its Quarterly Recorded Catalog on computer diskette as well. RFB&D's holdings can now as well be found by using the National Library Service CD-ROM catalog at regional and branch NLS libraries. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic began cataloging their holdings on OCLC beginning in 1980, and have been using the current in-house database system called MINISIS since 1985. However, public access to RFB&D's bibliographic information by consumers via online environments became available only in this decade. Individual computer users can now access bibliographic databases containing information on RFB&D's holdings by three major routes:

(1) a paid subscription dial-up service provided by the American Printing House for the Blind called _CARL et al_;

(2) the Library of Congress online catalog known as LOCIS which contains the braille and audio publications listed through the NLS, now available on Internet at the LOCIS.LOC.GOV site, and;

(3) RFB&D's own Internet catalog at the WAIS. …

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