Tuesday, 16 September 2014

ANOTHER VENERABLE INSTITUTION VANISHES

In 1906, sight-impaired individuals had almost nothing in the way of entertainment. Unless some kind people took them to a concert or play, they remained at home. As I've experienced, sighted folks are busy and don't have much spare time to read news articles or books to folks such as myself.

Worse yet, braille books were few in number and costly to buy. People had to transcribe print books into braille, an effort that took many hours of tedious work. Even with the primitive braille presses of the time, only the most popular works were published.

The widow of a rich industrialist came to the rescue the next year. Matilda Ziegler read a letter to a local newspaper regarding the plight of the blind. She decided to create a braille quarterly magazine and fill it with news stories and the like.

As technology changed, so did the Matilda Ziegler magazine. In addition to braille, readers read it onto records which played on specially-built very slow speed players for the benefit of those who hadn't learned braille. Later on, cassette tapes were used. When the Internet became popular, digital copies were e-mailed to sight-impaired individuals. For a short while, the recorded version was available on special cartridges for digital audio machines provided by America's National Library Service.

Blind and partially-sighted folks have many different kinds of entertainment today. TV shows are becoming equipped with close captioning which special text-to-speech devices can translate into synthetic speech. Some programs have a narrator describing the action during breaks in dialogue. Amazon's Kindle has a screen-reading version which reads the text aloud. Screen reader programs allow sight-impaired folks to explore the Internet. Talking Books have been around for decades and now are being transcribed to NLS player cartridges.

With all this available access to amusements, and the rising costs of practically everything, the directors of the Ziegler estate realized that the magazine, which recently was only available as an e-mail message, was irrelevant. Furthermore, the expense, covered by the Ziegler estate,  couldn't be justified anymore. So after a hundred-and-seven years of publication, the magazine is now history.

Access to information, and especially the Bible, wasn't easy for me most of my life. I wrote about this problem in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Please check out my e-book and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.