Underwater Baseball...since reading Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", I have never spent a day without a book at hand.
Jim Sanders, a man with an unusual and wonderful sense of humour, is immediate Past President of CNIB and is now a Special Adviser to CNIB. He was born with glaucoma and became totally blind in 1983. Before this he had not been able to read print easily. This is Jim's story.
I vividly recall receiving my first talking book from the CNIB Library. It was 1959 - I was twelve years old. The large container was delivered by Canada Post to my door. I didn't read braille at that time so my mother read the label on the first of the multi-volume vinyl record package to me. I was intrigued to find out how one plays baseball under water! I carefully placed the record on the talking book playback machine which was provided by CNIB. It was a record player pre-set to 16 2/3 rpm. After side one, I was hooked on reading for life.
In the early 1960's, CNIB moved to the "Clarke and Smith" format used by RNIB in the United Kingdom. The first version was a nine pound canister, and of course a special playback machine. Each canister contained 24 hours of recorded audio and usually two books. I thought to myself that this was the ultimate. I didn't have to get up every half hour to turn the record over when a side was finished, and occasionally more often when the needle stuck. Shortly after, this same company released a nine hour "tapette" about the size of a video tape. For the first time, I could mail the book back using a regular local post box instead of having my parents take the books to the central post office downtown. Once again, I thought that this was the ultimate.
In the mid 1970's, CNIB adopted the US Library of Congress, four track cassette system. This was a real 'first' - I was able to read with a battery operated playback device. I carried the Telex talking book machine with me everywhere, and my reading increased by leaps and bounds. Surely this time we had truly had reached the ultimate reading system...
I recall my first exposure to "digital talking books" which eventually became known as DAISY digital talking books. There was a World Blind Union meeting in Toronto in the mid 1990's. David Blyth of Australia was the International President of WBU (he is now President of Blind Citizens Australia). Several people from the Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille (TPB) demonstrated digital books and explained their benefits for students. The advantages were obvious. It was hard to imagine that for the first time ever, a blind person could read material in the same way that a sighted person could always do - go directly to a section, page or even a particular portion of text. I'm not sure if even the visionaries of the 1990's could have predicted the remarkable advances since then.
I retired from my position at CNIB in April this year. Thanks to the digital age, I am technically now able to read the daily newspaper through CNIB, and for the first time in thirty nine years I now have the time to do so! I carry between thirty to fifty full length DAISY books on the Victor Reader Stream in my shirt pocket. However, I have learned that thankfully, there will never be an ultimate talking book format - nothing stays the same, advances and changes are a part of life and a part of DAISY.
In 2003, I told Bill Gates at a CNIB Toronto event that my dream was to sit on a seaside beach, download my favourite book and newspaper, and sit back and enjoy the sun. My dream is now a technical reality.
By the way, I soon learned that in fact, that first book I received fifty years ago was not about underwater baseball. However, since reading Jules Verne's, "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", I have never spent a day without a book at hand.
Editor's Note: Jim became involved with the WBU in 1989, served as President of the North America/Caribbean Region from 2000 to 2004 and currently serves as Vice President for that Region. He has served on a number of committees including the Literacy Committee from 1996 to 2000. During his forty-two year career with CNIB he has worked in various parts of Canada and has held a number of positions. He is the second eldest in a family of eleven children. Jim and his wife Anne have twin daughters and three grandchildren.
Jim's sense of humour, although 'corny' at times, always brings smiles and laughter to an audience. In addition to this rather unusual sense of humour, Jim is a wonderful dancer - the man can jive with the best of them!