State-of-the-Art Assistive Technology Now Available to Readers

State-of-the-Art Assistive Technology Now Available to Readers

A state-of-the-art suite of assistive technology equipment for University of Chicago students, faculty and staff who are visually impaired is now available in Regenstein. This new workstation replaces the older equipment previously in use, and will reside on the second floor of Regenstein Library in room 203. Users designated by the Provost's Office will be provided access to this equipment with the approval of the Head of Access Services in Regenstein Library.

This computer hardware and software, purchased by the Library from Office Systems for the Visually and Physically Impaired in Chicago, provides visually impaired students, faculty and staff with access to print material as well as to the Internet and electronic mail. The system requires a Micron desktop computer with Windows 95 and a network connection.

A reading machine enables patrons to scan printed material which is converted to electronic text and then to synthesized speech. Arkenstone Open Book Unbound software, loaded on an IBM-compatible PC, works with a standard keyboard, a scanner, and a speech synthesizer. In addition, a DECtalk Express portable external speech synthsizer--thought to be the most intelligible speech synthesizer available--is also connected to the workstation. Patrons can adjust the speaking rate from 75 to 650 words per minute, and can choose from one of nine pre-defined voices, which can then be further refined and enhanced with controls for pauses, pitch and stress in pronunciation. JAWS for Windows similarly vocalizes text and key functions in Windows-based applications.

Another state-of-the-art feature of the workstation is the Refreshable Braille Display (PowerBraille 80) which translates characters on the computer screen to a touchable braille 80-character display, which most closely represents the printed page.

Upgraded screen magnification software, called ZoomText for Windows, is also available to assist any patron who needs magnification of the text on the computer monitor. Using this software patrons can enlarge the screen display two to sixteen times, and can change the configuration and size of up to six zoom windows. Color control options prevent glare and contrast problems, and smooth-edged magnification clarifies images of any size.

The Library chose these workstation components based upon the recommendation made after an extensive comparative study of assistive technology equipment by a committee comprised of Library staff, the University Administration and a University of Chicago student who is visually impaired. The workstation will be made available for the 1997 Fall Quarter.

For more information, contact Beverly Sperring, Assistant Head, Regenstein Reference Department, at 702-4481 or spe9@midway.uchicago.edu.

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