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I See Books Differently (#IAmYourCustomer)

I remember my very first online shopping experience in 2005. I was exploring the choices available in the digital world for books. Although downloads of audio books had already become available, I was shopping for reading materials on CD from commercial booksellers, as I wanted to share the joy of listening with my brother Peter, who was at that time loosing his fight with cancer.

My first stop was at a well known online book store, where I added almost $300 worth of audio books to my shopping cart. Alas, the online shopping cart was not accessible and checkout could not be completed, so I left the web site and visited an online competitor.

My shopping experience in the second online store was most pleasant, as the web site and the important shopping cart worked for me perfectly. I checked out with ease and my order was placed for just over $600 worth of books. The hardest part of this entire process was waiting the three full days for the books to arrive!

Today, I access books through a variety of channels in the mainstream. My public library is an excellent source of downloadable books which I can save to my accessible iPhone, so I can listen while walking with my curly guide dog Teddy. These commercially available books are of the highest quality production and performance. I also shop online at as I have come to appreciate the instantaineous gratification when new and notable books are released and feature my favourite authors and narrators. I fully embrace the concept of connectivity anytime and anywhere of the Internet.

Importantly, I support royalties going to the copyright holder as delivery of audio books that work for blind people already exist in the mainstream public library system. Copyright exemptions for audio books for blind people areincreasingly becoming irrelevant , as commercial book downloads can be adapted to DAISY formats for educational purposes should a lender want that particular format option. There is an app for that! Special libraries of audio books for people who are blind or have other print restrictions are somewhat outdated given that we are talking about digital formats in a digital age.

I celebrate blind people joining the mainstream and not disclosing a disability to take out library books from a segregated collection when the public system should accommodate all of us.

I support the copyright holders right to collect royalties from books purchased for the libraries public collection and making a living from their creative efforts.

Accessible digital technology continues to level the playing field for blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted people. In the online world we are equal and invisible so long as accessibility standards are respected. Businesses are able to reach us as customers, and we as blind people have greater access to the liberating power of information and choice to inform our product, program and service decisions. whether we are purchasing vacations, buying a house or making investment choices, what business would dismiss us as potential customers?

In the 21st century, it is inexcusable and inappropriate to deal with digital information for blind people differently than digital information for the sighted world. It is all digital, and businesses are understanding the opportunity for innovation. It is not charity that will make the difference in our lives, but rather accessibility to achieve mainstream integration, and businesses that see the opportunity to leverage the benefits of accessibility to grow into an expanding market and provide all customers with the choice we need to participate fully and independently in a modern society.

My brother is gone now, and I am comforted by the fact that I was able to share my books with him. He found much pleasure listening and spending time with family and friends. When he passed away in the spring of 2006, he was listening to a book.

My name is Sharlyn, I live in Ottawa and #IAmYourCustomer


This blog is curated by the AEBC, but welcomes contributions from members and non-members alike. The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in the Blind Canadians Blog are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the AEBC, its members, or any of its donors and partners.