Podcasts for the blind

The first MP3 player I ever used was some version of the Creative MUVO shown at right. I’ve probably owned a half-dozen of them and I just bought two more on eBay. For me it’s the perfect gadget for listening to podcasts, or songs I’m learning to play and sing, while running or biking or hiking or gardening. In those conditions I don’t want a $500 gadget that I might drop, or dunk, or scratch, with a fancy user interface that can access a vast range of features and capabilities. I just want to press play and listen. If it falls on the ground it probably won’t break. If it does break, oh well, it was $20, get another.

The MUVOs I just bought aren’t for me, though, they’re for my mom. She’s 92, and macular degeneration has advanced past the point where the reading machine we tried to modify for her can be of any use for long-form reading. And yet mom, a former college professor and lifelong voracious reader, continues to read more books than just about anybody I know. She does so by way of audiobooks from the library, and digital audio tapes provided courtesy of a Library of Congress program for the blind. Despite hearing loss which is also very significant, she can hear well enough to listen to spoken word audio.

It occurred to me that she’d also enjoy Long Now Seminars, KUOW Speakers Forum, and other series of podcasts. On a recent visit I verified that the MUVO works great for her, precisely because of its minimalist design. We are, after all, talking about a woman who needs the sort of user interface shown in this TV remote brilliantly hacked by my sister.

Mom can’t use a computer now, and even if she could there’s no way she’d be able to find the podcasts she likes and sync them to a device. That’s OK. I’ve listened to tons of stuff that she’d like, so the plan is to keep a pair of MUVOs in rotation. I’ll load a batch of talks for her onto one MUVO and send it. While she’s listening to that one she’ll have her aide send the other back to me for a reload. It’s a method that leading-edge technologists will wince to think about. Can’t cloud synchronization solve this poor woman’s problem?

No, it can’t. My method is the only one that will work for her. And it has another advantage too. Mom will periodically receive a little package of goodies from me via the old-fashioned, yet-to-be-assimilated-by-Amazon US postal service. All in all it’s another triumph for trailing-edge technologies!

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6 thoughts on “Podcasts for the blind

  1. I’m still holding onto all my old iRiver MP3 player/recorders. They were in heavy use back in 2004 and still work today. I would buy up all the stock of the old 1GB (iFP-800) and 512MB(iFP-700) units if I could.

  2. That’s great, thanks Ed. And thanks to the copyright holders for making it possible. I am certain my mom will enjoy a number of those titles.

  3. Since she is already reading NLS books, you can buy cartridges for the NLS player at American Printing House for the Blind and load MP3 content onto them yourself. The NLS player is specifically designed for seniors. You can find instructions on putting MP3 content on to NLS cartridges here: http://www.accessible-devices.com/PlayingMusic.htm (basically just put the content into a specific folder).

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