Hearing the world via the cloud

Li Yiran is a twelve-year-old Chinese boy who enjoys reading. Some of his favorite genres are fables and science fiction, but his all-time favorite book is the 100 Thousand Whys book, as it tells him more about the world around him—the world he cannot see for himself.

China is home to more than 12.6 million people who are blind or visually impaired. Books give them a glimpse into how others’ view the world. However, with only two organizations in China producing around 100 audio books per year, many visually impaired people lack access to resources in audio format as a means of learning and enrichment.

But thanks to a new cloud-based online audio library developed by the Beijing Hongdandan Education and Cultural Exchange Center (Hongdandan), the visually impaired like Yiran now have access to variety of books, quite literally, at their fingertips.

Users from across China can register for the “Eyes of the Soul” audio library via popular instant messaging application WeChat. To start listening to a book, or search for a specific book or page, they simply need to speak into their mobile devices.

“The ‘Eyes of the Soul’ online library is really convenient. Now my mother doesn’t need to bring me to the library to borrow the heavy braille books. It saves me a lot of time which I could use for more reading,” said Yiran.

Hosted on Microsoft Azure, the library currently supports over 100,000 registered users and holds over 570 audio books, with about 15 new books being added each month. Hongdandan is exploring ways to make it easier for volunteers to upload new books, and is speaking with major audio book publishers to see how they can improve the quality and variety of their audio books.

“With Azure, we have been able to focus on improving our services through technology in ways we have never imagined possible,” said Xin Zheng, CEO of Hongdandan. “We will continue to explore the use of cloud technology to bring digital inclusion to more blind and visually impaired people in China.”

Learn More about how Hongdandan built its audio library on the cloud with Microsoft Azure. For more information on how Microsoft Cloud Offerings can help your nonprofit, visit www.microsoft.com/nonprofit

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