Daily papers for the blind, now available in six minutes

A British computer program that can make daily newspapers available for visually impaired people within minutes of their publication is proving a boon to thousands of readers.

The new technology, developed by the Talking Newspaper Association of the United Kingdom (TNAUK), is the brainchild of Neil McLachlan and Professor Isaac Porat, computer engineers who are both blind.

Their program can convert and email a daily newspaper to a blind or partially sighted person within six minutes.

Previously it could take days for newspapers to reach visually impaired users since they had to be recorded manually.

Tim McDonald, chief executive of TNAUK, said: “There is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world. We’ve got the whole thing ready and processed and sent to them before most sighted people would have picked up their printed copy.”

The system, which is now being used by the National Talking Newspaper and Magazine Service, a Sussex-based charity, obtains electronic editions of 13 national newspapers.

It then strips the content of all its pictures and graphics, indexes the text, converts it into an accessible format, and places it on the charity’s server where it can be emailed to subscribers.

Users can open the files on their computers via a screen reader and a text magnifier, a synthetic voice or a Braille printer.

The service provided by TNAUK is unique, and one that is exempt from the copyright fees often required by national newspapers.

McDonald paid tribute to McLachlan and Porat, both trustees of the association, who volunteered their skills and services free of charge.

TNAUK, whose honorary president is the veteran newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

By Julie Dube

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