Best Practical Practices
Republic of Korea
The Korean Welfare Foundation for the Visually Handicapped was founded in 1973 and is funded entirely by the Government. Its main services include the provision of materials in braille and talking books. It runs a basic rehabilitation and computer training centre for the visually impaired. It also publishes a bi-weekly braille magazine.
The material made available is of all kinds of literary works other than newspapers. The conversion into braille and talking books is done under the provisions of Article 30 of the Copyright Law and does not require the permission of the copyright owner.
Inevitably, some problems are encountered in converting digital formats to which technical protection measures have been applied.
The Korean Blind Union is another leading organization for the visually impaired. It brings together a number of different organizations including specialised schools and rehabilitation centres. There are some 45 of these organizations in total. The Korean Blind Union has 16 branch offices throughout the country and numbers another 140 associate offices. Again, the organization is funded by the Government.
The main tasks of the Korean Blind Union include promoting the interests of visually impaired people generally (including lobbying for necessary legislation); maintaining rehabilitation and training centres (including training in information technology); providing social welfare and support for residential users of accessible materials – this includes promotion and support for the use of access technologies such as screen readers and text to speech synthesisers.
Like other organizations in the field it encounters numerous difficulties in an area where digital technology should greatly facilitate its work. The availability of source text in digital formats should greatly expedite the process of conversion into accessible formats. Too often however the use of technical protection measures such as encryption impede the process. Even where the source text is not encrypted the original digital formatting and structuring of the text may not be conducive to efficient format conversion.
As an organization, the Korean Blind Union is constantly exploring relevant assistive technologies. It also places great importance on copyright law and lobbies extensively to promote provisions in the law to support the interests of its members.
The Korean Braille Library was established by a private individual in 1969; it receives some financial support from Government. Traditionally, its function has been to make literary works available in braille for print disabled readers in the Republic of Korea: approximately 10% of the population.
The use of braille for the Korean language is a complex process and many visually impaired people do not like to use it. The Korean Braille Library is therefore at the forefront of efforts to adopt alternative technologies. It is the leading promoter of the DAISY format in the Republic of Korea. It is seeking to employ technologies for converting traditional formats into the DAISY format which supports effective navigation of documents as well as compatibility with access technologies such as screen readers and text to speech synthesis tools.
The Korean Braille Library is concerned that current provisions of the copyright law do not support these advanced uses of conversion technology; it is lobbying to introduce appropriate amendments.
The one exception to the general non-application of advanced technology in the interests of visually impaired people is the development of access technology. One example is the Voiceye Technology developed by the ADTrust Company. The technology works by converting digital files of text or, for example, music scores, into graphic representations with similar characteristics to bar codes. These graphic representations can then be scanned and stored in dedicated playback devices which can then deliver audible output of the text. Further information about this technology is available at <http://www.adinc.co.kr/eng - products/main.asp>.