by Norm Gardner
From the Editor: Dr. Norman Gardner is the Treasurer of the NFB of Utah and a long-time leader of the Federation wherever he has lived. The following article appeared in the Winter, 2000, issue of the NFB of Utah newsletter. This is what Norm said about NEWSLINE(r):
Have you discovered NEWSLINE(r)? Have you experienced the boost to your self-esteem when you feel that you are just as informed about important current events as other people? Well, I have made this incredible discovery. Actually the full impact did not hit me all at once. In fact, at first I thought it was more of a novelty. It was neat to make a local telephone call and be connected to a voice‑synthesized computer to listen to the newspaper. I thought it was great that for the first time blind people could have timely access to newspapers.
When we first got NEWSLINE here in Utah, I remember marveling at the technology which made it all possible. I remember making another mental mark on the long tally demonstrating just why we formed the National Federation of the Blind. Without the NFB we would simply not have NEWSLINE. Without the NFB we would simply not have most of the good, progressive programs which benefit the blind.
But frankly at first I found it difficult to read NEWSLINE consistently. For years I have noticed that my wife and other sighted people regularly take significant time each day to read the newspaper. My daily routine did not seem to have enough time for that. Oh I enjoyed learning how to operate NEWSLINE. I liked the ability to select which voice and at which speed to read. I liked the way I could jump from article to article, skipping ones in which I had no interest. I also liked the ability to skim down through a given article just as a sighted person does.
I really got excited when I realized that NEWSLINE gives even better access to newspapers for blind people than sighted people have. In the first place the blind person can read the newspaper early in the morning without having to wait for it to be delivered. As a matter of fact, the blind person does not even have to get out of bed to read the newspaper. All one has to do is roll over, grab the telephone, and dial the local number! But the biggest advantage the blind person has over sighted people is the ability to search an entire section of the newspaper electronically. Within a second or so the computer will start reading an article which contains the word being searched.
In spite of all this, I still did not take the opportunity to read the newspapers on NEWSLINE more than once or twice a week. Then a truly wonderful thing happened. We got the Wall Street Journal on NEWSLINE. Let me explain. I have taught courses in finance at the college level for about twenty-five years. One of the classes I teach regularly is a course in investments. This is a course which should be sensitive to current events in the economy and in our banking system. Over the years I have developed a teaching style which included a bit of bluff and a bit of stall tactic, and I am sure at times it fooled no one. Sometimes I was simply uninformed on things about which I should have been knowledgeable.
Then we got the Wall Street Journal on NEWSLINE. I had not anticipated what a wonderful thing it would be for me. It was almost a shock actually to feel prepared for my investments class. This semester the class met early enough in the day that many of the students had not yet read that day's Wall Street Journal. On some days I was the only one in class who had read the Journal. Now I take great delight in pointing out important articles to my students and relating current events at my class lectures. What a great boost to my self-esteem. What a great thing to feel like a first-class citizen. Thanks to the National Federation of the Blind for developing NEWSLINE, and thanks to the Utah Division for Services to the Blind for sponsoring NEWSLINE here in Utah.