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Audio Book Month

This month is Audio Book Month!

Audio Book Month takes place in June every year. During Audio Book Month, people around the world celebrate how audio books give them more ways to read. Moreover, Audio Book Month raises awareness about how products and services designed for people with disabilities benefit everyone.

Audio Book Month

Organizations that produce accessible-format books for readers who are blind made the first audio books on records in the 1930s. Today, organizations such as the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) create accessible books, newspapers and magazines for non-print-readers. These recordings are made using Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) files, which allow readers to navigate to specific sections or pages as they could if holding a printed book.

Though only readers who were blind read the first audio books, sighted readers now also enjoy them. Many audio books are now available commercially. People buy them from book stores, borrow them from libraries, or stream them online. They allow people to enjoy a book while they do other tasks, such as:

  • Driving
  • Exercising
  • Housework

Many mainstream companies that produce audio books abridged them to reduce cost. However, companies now produce more unabridged books because readers download them instead of buying hard copies. Individuals and companies also produce audio versions of classic books that are out of copyright and distribute them for free online. Some narrators are amateurs while others are professional actors. While some books have one reader, others have a different person reading the dialogue of each character. Some books become more dramatic through music and sound effects.

The Curb Cut Effect

Audio books show how social developments created to benefit people with disabilities also improve quality of life for non-disabled people. This idea is called the curb cut effect. The curb cut effect happens when something is created to help one group of the population and ends up benefiting many more people. Its name comes from the concept of curb cuts, which allow people using mobility devices to cross streets. Curb cuts turned out to be helpful for many other people, including people:

  • With children in strollers
  • Wheeling carts or luggage
  • Using bicycles, skateboards, or roller blades

Similarly, closed captioning displays the dialogue on a TV program or movie so that viewers who are Deaf can follow what is going on as they watch. Many other people also benefit from captions, including people trying to watch TV in noisy environments and newcomers learning English.

Audio books, and other examples of the curb cut effect, show us that accessibility can improve everyone’s quality of life in surprising ways. Happy Audio Book Month to all our readers!