Assistive Media: About us
Kenneth Harmon Erdody (1925–1998) was born in Detroit and graduated from Cass Tech HS, was a 19 y/o recently married pilot in the US Army Air Corp, a GI Bill/University of Michigan doctoral student in math (MS, ABD), a high school and college math instructor, NHS faculty sponsor (Detroit Northern HS, 1955), a father, a pioneering ‘online’ computer programmer (IBM System 360/270x) for the Michigan Bell telephone company, a Methodist Sunday School teacher, a Democrat, a parental/neighborhood math tutor, a publicly elected school board officer (Walled Lake Consolidated Schools), fundraising chair (Benefit for George Casenhiser, WL Western HS), a Rotarian, a Telephone Pioneer of America retiree, a grandfather, a bad comedian, and long time reader of The New Yorker magazine.
A type 1 diabetic and although never becoming blind, Kenneth’s retinopathy later in life was a *what if* concern for his son, David, who researched the hardcopy references on the then current availability of ‘accessible’ audio-based reading materials and discovered through the Library of Congress that less than 5% of U.S. publications were provided in accessible audio form (braille would have been difficult due to chronic neuropathy). He phoned The New Yorker directly inquiring if it was available on audio for the blind. They returned his call to say it was not.
From these personal realizations and with public spirit, David, at thirty and always an awkward public speaker up to that point, began for many hours to teach himself how to professionally record and critique his reading aloud of advanced nonfictional prose. He also sought help from a Cooley Law School NPO legal assistance service program (i.e. a 4L) to formally draft bylaws, etc., and incorporate the entity in September of 1996 as a self-financed, state of Michigan-based, US Internal Revenue Service letter determined 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, charitable organization in good standing…
…and with an influx of several dozen auditioned ‘readers’ recruited from flyers seen among all the others posted in and around the pleasant (reading) town of Ann Arbor, Assistive Media, Inc. began idyllically (i.e. no deadlines) by producing and distributing, free-of-charge, spoken-word recordings of otherwise inaccessible choices on audiocassette to the Washtenaw County, Michigan branch of The Library of Congress-National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
Under the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, H.R. 3754, the United States Congress approved a measure, introduced by Senator John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) on July 29, 1996, that provided for an exemption affecting the NLS program. “…Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or to distribute in the United States copies or phonorecords of a previously published literary work or of a previously published musical work that has been fixed in the form of text or notation if such copies or phonorecords are reproduced or distributed in accessible formats exclusively for use by eligible persons”. On September 16, 1996, the bill was signed into law by President Clinton Ref
TL;DR: Assistive Media did not have to seek copyright permissions from publishers for its independent NPO audiocassette-based service within the NLS.
With the advent of assistive technologies and online digital audio formats such as RealAudio, the Internet’s first distribution of accessible audiobooks designed specifically for people with disabilities went live with a free, no ad, no membership, friendly www.AssistiveMedia.org web site…
How we do it-
Assistive Media produces English and some Spanish language spoken-word recordings of current (usually 90 days after publication per publishers’ request) and back issue “long-form” articles from a variety of mainstream contemporary periodicals and full-length nonfiction books providing an eclectic mixture of interesting and educational material. We offer our free/no ad online service with no membership sign-on requirements or disability status verifications. When necessary for this online ‘open to all’ platform, Assistive Media seeks updated permissions to offer written works via accessibly-designed, spoken-word audio in our new charitable way.
As a 501(c)(3) NPO, Assistive Media is administered pro-bono and fundraises for the purpose of student work-study employment and fair to generous compensations towards professional services (e.g. SAG-AFTRA) and development programs (DeepZen.io).
“An avid reader all my life, I’ve used every format available to the blind. Reading by way of Assistive Media is great! It’s like getting an audio magazine anthology but not having to send it back or throw away the tape or CD and clutter the environment. And it’s such a friendly way to read, too. Being able to E-mail comments and get answers gives the whole process a wonderful family mood.” — Ilene S., Pittsburgh PA
“A valuable and exciting tool to read articles which I would not normally come across,” Richard Zapata, a blind massage therapist from Phoenix, wrote in an e-mail to Erdody. “I very much thank you for the effort expelled in putting this site together.”…”I really hope that this is only the first of many sites of its kind on the Net,” Zapata said in an e-mail interview. “I await the day when most, if not all, magazines and newspapers are placed on the Internet.” — NYTimes (1998)
According to The World Health Organization, globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. Approximately 12 million people 40 years and over in the United States have vision impairment, including 1 million who are blind, 3 million who have vision impairment after correction, and 8 million who have vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive error (CDC). Through assistive technologies such as screen readers, refreshable Braille displays, and spoken-word audio, a person who is completely blind can navigate the Internet efficiently and effectively. Due to its direct online outreach, Assistive Media easily reaches a substantial world-wide clientele.
Kudos from Friends
I want to express my admiration for the work you’re doing for the visually impaired. One of the old Scottish philosophers who had a great influence on the founding fathers was Francis Hutcheson who stressed that the pursuit of happiness involves working for the happiness of others. Your efforts are certainly in that spirit.” David McCullough, Author and Historian
“As a professional narrator for over 30 years, I am very impressed with Assistive Media. It is a pleasure to see such intelligent and stimulating writing available in audio format. The narration is well done and the audio quality is clear and pleasing to listen to.” Grover Gardner, a REALLY GOOD Audiobook Narrator
In 1999, A distinguished panel of judges awarded The Streamers Progressive Award, sponsored by RealNetworks Inc. and Intel Corporation to Assistive Media as the best non-profit ‘streaming’ web site of the year..
Thank you for C-SPAN
Currently Running Development Program