Georgia Audible Universal Information Access Service
Lifetime learning, including detailed awareness of current events, is part of what makes a good citizen, a successful employee or employer, and a valuable participant in community life. Without ready access to information, none of us can reach his or her full potential. Now with the NFB-NEWSLINE® serving as the Georgia Audible Universal Information Access Service, blind and print disabled citizens of Georgia can use a touch-tone telephone to access timely information concerning our communities, cities, nation and the world.
The Georgia Audible Universal information Access Service is more than just a way for blind and print disabled Georgian’s to receive the latest information from national, state, and local print publications. The service is a tremendously empowering asset to the blind and print disabled citizens of Georgia. It makes it possible for us to stay connected to the social and political life of Georgia and the world, and continue to be informed, participating, contributing members of society.
Many seniors have lost enough vision that reading the daily newspaper was no longer possible. They have enjoyed being able to once again participate actively in community affairs. Blind and print disabled children are now able to research their own civics assignments and do their homework independently. Blind and print disabled professionals can now converse on relevant topics, no longer being under informed about information critical to their professions or left out at social functions when the latest editorial is discussed. Beyond this, a wealth of other information primarily found in newspapers, and other inaccessible media, is now also available to all blind and print disable citizens of Georgia on an equal footing, making it possible for us to actively strive toward obtaining a quality education, gainful employment, and full citizenship.
<h2><center>History of the Georgia AUIAS</h2>
Upon the passage of HB-669 in the 2005 session of the Georgia General Assembly, the PSC was made responsible for establishing, implementing, administering, and promoting a state-wide Audible Universal Information Access Service (AUIAS) for blind and print disabled citizens of Georgia, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.
“Pursuant to O.C.G.A. §46-5-30, the General Assembly has found and declared that it is in the public interest to take advantage of innovative technological uses of basic telecommunications services to allow for universal access to information by blind and otherwise print disabled citizens of this state.”
HB-669 established the AUIAS and provided for Commission oversight of the program and funding through the telephone access line surcharge. The AUIAS, under the law, is funded through a monthly surcharge assessed on each telephone access line. (This surcharge also provides funding for the Georgia Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) and the Georgia Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program (TEDP) for speech or hearing impaired Georgians.) The law limits the cost of funding the program to no more than $.01 per month per telephone line as part of the TRS monthly surcharge.
Under Georgia law, the Georgia Public Service Commission is charged with the responsibility to manage and administer this program. Following an open and competitive bidding process, The National federation of the Blind’s proposal to use the NFB-NEWSLINE® service as the Georgia AUIAS prevailed as the most advantageous to the State. Since June 1, 2006, the NFB NEWSLINE ® has officially served as the AUIAS for the state of Georgia, and is coordinated by the Georgia affiliate of the National federation of the Blind.
<h2><center>How does the Georgia AUIAS work?</h2>
All participating papers provide digital text of articles directly to the NFB-NEWSLINE® headquarters using the Internet or modem-to-modem transfer. Telecommunications technology developed by the National Federation of the Blind allows the text to be converted automatically into synthesized speech and made immediately available to subscribers, allowing them to access all the information by simply dialing the telephone.
Eligible print disabled Georgia citizens can access this service at no cost by applying with the NFB to obtain a Personal Identification Number and security code. Individuals are considered eligible if they have a visual or physical disability that prevents them from reading conventional newsprint. Current subscribers to the Talking Books program can sign-up with their local library for the blind. Individuals receiving public services due to a visual or physical disability from the Georgia Rehabilitation Services program, or other state or local program, may also be able to subscribe through a representative, or on-line at http://www.nfbga.org/newsline.htm. Individuals requiring more information about eligibility and the application process can contact the NFB of Georgia by calling 404-371-1000, 866-316-3242 (toll free), or via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once subscribed, Blind and print disabled citizens can then access the NFB-NEWSLINE® service by calling a local or toll free telephone number. The subscriber must enter the six-digit personal identification number and a four-digit security code. This information is stored and associated with the telephone number being used by the subscriber. This allows for an expedited login that does not require the ID and security code when the subscriber calls again from the same number.
Once connected, by using any conventional touch-tone telephone to access the NFB’s high-speed computers, the subscriber can listen to over 250 newspapers, magazines, and other local information of their choice at their convenience free of charge. Subscribers can select a publication, choose from several issues of the publication, select a specific section, and maneuver through various articles, by simply pressing the appropriate button on a touch-tone telephone. The subscriber can alter the rate, tone, and speed of the synthesized voice to suit their unique listening style. The subscriber can also search each publication by key word or phrase.
In addition to telephone access, NFB-NEWSLINE® makes it possible for registered AUIAS subscribers to obtain the newspapers and magazines of their choice in secured electronic files. These files can be access using a variety of Assistive technology devices, which allow for even more customization and portability of the information by the subscriber.
How many subscribers can be served by the Georgia AUIAS
The system has the capacity to serve an unlimited number of subscribers. We currently have 821 subscribers to the Georgia AUIAS service. The total number of Georgia citizens that could benefit from this service exceeds 20,000 individuals, as demonstrated by the number of current subscribers to the Georgia Library for Accessible Services (GLASS). The estimated number of blind citizens in the state of Georgia exceeds 170,000 people.
<h2><center>What information is available on the <br>Georgia AUIAS?
There are currently four Georgia papers on the NEWSLINE® service. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer the Macon Telegraph, and the Savannah Morning News are all NFB-NEWSLINE® participating newspapers. There are over 250 other newspapers from across the country available on the NFB-NEWSLINE® service, including the nationally distributed Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Roll Call. The news feed from the Associated Press (A), and the United Press International (UPI) are updated hourly on the NFB-NEWSLINE® service. The magazines currently available include the New Yorker, the Economist, Diabetes Self Management, Poets and Writers, and the AARP magazine in English and Spanish. There are four other Spanish publications.
The Local Channel of the Georgia NewsLine service is a complement to the newspaper and periodical section of the service. It is used to upload specific information not otherwise available to blind and print disabled persons. Newsletters, handbooks, public transportation rider guides, are only a few of the items available on the local channel.
In addition to obtaining local and national news, Georgia AUIAS subscribers can use the service to check TV listings for all television service providers, cable, satellite, and antenna. The listings provide channel, time, and descriptions of the programs. It even announces if the show is audio described. (Audio described video provides a narrative voice on a secondary channel that describes the physical action taking place on the screen.) Listings can be obtained for shows airing up to two weeks from the current date.