DRM screws blind people


Any digital text can be read aloud through text-to-speech, granting people with visual impairments the basic human right to read -- unless there's DRM in the way.

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Adversarial Compatibility: hidden escape hatch rescues us from imprisonment through our stuff


My latest Guardian column, Adapting gadgets to our needs is the secret pivot on which technology turns, explains the hidden economics of stuff, and how different rules can trap you in your own past, or give you a better future.

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Interview with young man about his 3D printed prosthetic hand


Joris writes, "E-nable is a community of people working together to design and 3D print prosthetic hands."

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UK cinemas ban Google Glass from screenings


UK cinema exhibitors -- which already makes a practice of recklessly confiscating mobile phones full of sensitive, unprotected data during preview screenings -- have announced that it will not allow Google Glass wearers into cinemas, lest they commit an act of piracy (Glass has a 45 minute battery life when in recording mode).

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FDA approves robotic exoskeleton for paraplegics


The FDA has approved Rewalk Robotics' personal exoskeleton for personal use by paraplegics.

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Inside the design of 3D printed back-braces and fairings

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Joris writes, "I did an interview with Scott Summit who designs beautiful 3D printed fairings and back braces. 3D printing lets the customer customize them and makes the orthopedic implant become much more a part of themselves and their lives."

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3-D printed portable wheelchair ramps

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Thingiverse user Nanonan 3D-printed small wheelchair ramps to carry in his bag as he rolls around Berlin. Simple and effective! Download the files here.

Kickstarting board games adapted for blind people

Emily sez, "Working in the blindness field, my husband, Richard and I have many blind friends. We are gamers at heart and have always been dismayed that our friends couldn't play our favorite games. When Richard began pursuing game publishing our first inclination was to make all games blind accessible. However, this proved to be nigh on impossible. We discovered if we wanted our games to be accessible, we had to make accessible games ourselves."

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Crowdfunding a 3D printed, open source hardware robotic/prosthetic hand

The Dextrus is crowdfunded, production version of the Open Hand, a 3D-printed, open source hardware prosthetic/robotic hand that is freely licensed and patent-free. They're raising money on indieGogo to do a production run -- £460 gets you a fully assembled hand; £700 gets you the hand with all electronics.

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Canadian Tories distribute fake Braille flyers about disabled initiative


The Canadian Conservative Party has sent out direct-mail flyers boasting about the party's track record on initiatives to help people with disabilities. The flyer has some of the text rendered in fake Braille -- a picture of raised dots that are not, themselves, raised at all.

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Lego prosthetic leg

One of AmputeeOT's followers challenged her to make a prosthetic leg out of Lego. In terms of practicality, it's a bit of a chocolate teapot. But she sure has fun with it, and that's what matters. She notes "Please don't do this yourself, I don't want you to fall and get hurt!"

AmputeeOT: My Legoleg - amputee prosthetic leg made with legos (via Kadrey)

UN copyright body passes treaty on rights of people with disabilities

The World Intellectual Property Organization's Treaty to Faciiitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired. Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities (the "Treaty for the Blind") has finally passed, after many years of hard work by copyright activists and activists for the rights of people with disabilities.

They were fought, tooth and nail, by the big copyright groups, who were shameless in their willingness to use people with disabilities as pawns in their ideological war on the idea that anyone should be able to do anything with a copyrighted work without explicit permission. The Motion Picture Association was especially terrible here -- a new low for an industry that has made a lobbying career out of plumbing the depths of depravity.

My congratulations to all the copyfighters who made this unprecedented treaty come to pass: the World Blind Union and Dan Pescod (especially!), Knowledge Ecology International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- all of you. As a former WIPO delegate, I can say that this is an unbelievable shift in the way that the UN makes copyright policy.

What's more, it was a (mostly) open process, in sharp contrast to the sinister closed-door process that the Obama administration has insisted upon for the Trans Pacific Partnership and other copyright treaties. Bravo to all of you for setting an example of how copyright policy can be crafted to uphold human rights.

To the shameless lobbyists at the MPA, remember: if you live long enough, the odds are good that you, yourself, will become print disabled. We are all only temporarily sighted. The treaty you tried to wreck was aimed at some of the most vulnerable, information-impoverished people in the world -- and someday, you will join them. For shame. When you see your old parents next, think of them, and what you tried to do to them, and the people of their generation, for the sake of a few extra pennies and some macho gamesmanship.

Marrakech Treaty For The Blind Signed; MPAA Unable To Kill It

UK government online disability benefits signup requires IE6

Robin sez,

I'm one of the campaigns managers at 38 Degrees (the UK's largest online campaign organisation). One of our members has recently started a petition calling on the UK government to update their web technology. When I saw it I immediately thought of boing boing and wondered if you could help spread the word.

To claim Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance in the UK people are being asked to use Internet Explorer 5 or 6 and other systems that are so out of date they are available on less than 2% of computers. If you want to claim online you will need to take a step back to the 1990s and hunt through second hand shops for an old PC that you can power up.

It's a crazy situation.

Update Online DLA Claim System (Thanks, Robin!)

Public Resource liberates "Life in the UK" book, building codes


Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,

Public.Resource.Org has always been a strong supporter of British-American cooperation. In order to further what Winston Churchill so aptly dubbed our “Special Relationship,” I'm happy to announce two hands across the sea.

If you would like to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, you need to study a book called Life in the UK. The book is published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, which is part of the amazingly well run National Archives. These are the folks that run legislation.gov.uk, the best legislative reference site in the world. Life in the UK has the kind of open license one has come to expect for government information, so we asked our friends at the Rural Design Cooperative to take a stab at creating an open version. They totally went to town, replacing the commercial stock photos with open artwork, creating much better navigation across the book, study guide, and tests, and making the tests better, and (of course!) publishing the whole thing as valid html and open source so you can fork it if you'd like and create your own version. Thanks to Oliver Morley, the Archivist of the United Kingdom, for enabling open publishing and to the folks at the Rural Design Cooperative for creating the new version. You can read the all new Open Life in the UK here.

I'm sorry to report that another agent of the UK government, the British Standards Institution, apparently didn't get the open government memo. As you know, we've posted a bunch of crucial public safety standards from the UK as well as the rest of Europe and the world. Well, the British Standards Institution decided that they didn't like the fact that we posted a copy of BS 8300:2009+A1, which is the “Design of Buildings and Their Approaches to Meet the Needs of Disabled People” which we have on our site and on the Internet Archive. They sent us a DMCA takedown notice. We sent them a strongly-worded 4-page answer and that answer is NFW. You can read all the traffic back and forth with the standards people on our docket of RFCs.

The "Open Life in the UK" that Public Resource put together is much better than the study guide I used when I was becoming a British citizen. On behalf of all migrants to Britain, thank you, Public Resource!

Open Life in the UK (Thanks, Carl!)

Today Show busts rent-a-disabled-guide/skip-the-lines services in Disneyland

Remember the New York Post story about disabled people renting themselves out to rich New York families in order to skip the lines at Walt Disney World?

The Today Show followed up on this, investigating the phenomenon of rent-a-disabled-guide services across the country in California's Disneyland. They found people advertising openly on Craigslist, offering to rent out their company and the use of their disabled pass. They sent an undercover crew out with one such guide, and then confronted her in the parking lot and asked her if she felt bad about abusing the system of disabled passes.

Disney has promised to crack down on the practice, threatening lifetime bans from the parks for anyone caught offering the use of their disabled passes.

On ads we found on Craigslist, tour guides brag about their disabled passes: "Let's cut the Disney lines together," "access to ... special entrances." So we had our producer and his family go undercover with home video cameras, hiring two of those disabled guides to show them around Disneyland.

First up was a guide named Mara, who said she got her pass after a car accident. "I'm here to make sure everyone has fun at Disneyland and we get on as many rides as possible," she told us.

"And you have a secret weapon that's going to help us?" our producer asked.

"I do. I have a special card that's going to help us beat the lines," Mara replied with a wink.

And she charged $50 an hour to do it. We started at the Mad Tea Party ride. The long line was no problem for us: We skipped ahead, and got right in through a side door.

Our second disabled guide, Ryan, charged our family $200 and got them right through another side door at Star Tours, an attraction inspired by "Star Wars." "I cant believe we're getting past everybody," our producer exclaimed.

Undercover at Disney: 'Deplorable' scheme to skip lines