Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Access for all, but at what price?

There's no doubt that the internet has transformed the lives of millions, and changed the parameters within which media is produced and consumed, information shared and refined, and networks shaped and re-formed.

However, if you're one of the millions of people worldwide who has difficulty with text, whether that's due to poor eyesight or a learning difficulty such as dyslexia, then all may not seem so rosy.

Accessibility is one of the great challenges of the digital world, and it's one that tends to get relegated to the hinterland of public debate.

I was delighted, therefore, to see Intel announcing its commitment to produce technologies to help those with visual impairments or dyslexia access the same content as the rest of us.

Their Reader will enable users to scan pages of text, and turn them into spoken MP3 files, or larger sized text. It's a compact device and has the potential to transform the lives of millions.

So, what's the drawback? The £1000 price tag, that's what. I can understand that the development costs for such an assistive technology are huge, but surely there must be some sort of government funding, or incentive from a charitable source, to make access to this fantastic tool affordable?

At a time of economic woe the good news of the Reader's arrival is sorely tempered by the prohibitive cost of purchase. I'd like to buy one to see if it could help the dyslexic students at my school. I'm sure it would. But at that price point I'm unlikely to find out.

No comments: