Miami offers helping hand with audiobook resources
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012 03:09
College life can be overwhelming for any student, with seemingly endless amounts of papers to write, homework assignments to complete and textbooks to read. Often it feels as though there are simply not enough hours in a day. Add to that mix blindness, traumatic brain injury or learning disabilities and the process of keeping up with schoolwork and other activities gets even more complicated.
This is where the Office of Disability Resources (ODR) comes in, to make sure that the needs of students with disabilities are being met. According to Andy Zeisler, director of ODR, Miami University has made significant progress in meeting the needs of students with disabilities since he began working at Miami in 1988.
“When I first came to Miami, members of Alpha Phi Omega sorority were volunteering their time to read textbooks to students,” Zeisler said.
This method was a start, but had its flaws, including the inability of these students to engage in independent study, Zeisler said.
After observing progress by the Ohio State University, Indiana University and Wright State, Miami also began to make changes to better accommodate the needs of its students.
A bigger operation began to take shape, according to Zeisler. Due to the level of technological expertise elicited in converting textbooks to audiobooks, a partnership with Information Technology (IT) Services developed. Today, textbooks are converted to audiobooks through an office housed in Miami’s print center, a part of IT services, called the E-text Services to Accessible Text Production Services.
Cindy Hurley, who is the supervisor of the E-text Services, along with 18 part-time student employees, carries out the process.
“The process of converting textbooks to audiobooks is both a time and labor-intensive process,” Hurley said. “First, the spines are cut, and then the textbooks are scanned into the computer one chapter at a time, for conversion into a audible file.”
According to Hurley, the E-text services currently has 18 PCs with a large capacity to archive files, two high-speed scanners for scanning textbooks, and a larger cutter for cutting the spines from books. A range of software programs, are used throughout the process including Kurzweil 3000, JAWS, Adobe Acrobat Professional and Microsoft Word. The software is used to clean files and put information in the correct order so that when a voice is added, the information is read from the top of a page to the bottom. JAWS is a screen reader usually used by the blind.
Hurley said she estimates the print center receives requests from 50-70 students per semester from the Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown campuses, resulting in the conversion of 200-300 books each semester. To obtain an audiobook from the E-text services, students must provide a letter of accommodation from their counselor in the ODR.
Senior Helen Diodore said she feels many students are not fully aware of the resources that are available to them through the ODR.
“I am partially deaf in one of my ears and I know I sometimes miss key information in my lab classes as a result,” Diodore said. “It would have been nice going into college to know that this resource was available.”
Computer programs including Kurzweil, JAWS screen reader and ZOOMTEXT magnifier/reader are also available for students at King Library in the adaptive learning lab.
Laws are in place to assure that equal opportunities exist for students with disabilities, but Zeisler said that Miami is motivated to provide resources such as the E-Text services by principles that are even more deeply rooted.
“Regardless of legality, it is the right thing to do,” Zeisler said. “Everyone should have equal access at Miami, whether it’s to buildings, classroom materials or opportunities on campus. These values make Miami a better place.”