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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My Readings

You may have been thinking to yourself “how does someone with a learning disability handle the reading load involved with a PhD program?” then again you may no. in either case I am going to tell you.

Because I am studying technology and people with disabilities. I usually provide my own accommodations when it comes to the technology side of things. What I do is take my printed text, whether it be from a text book or from an article, and scan it into my computer. I then take that scanned image and use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to convert that image of my readings to electronic text (e-text). Once my print readings are electronic I then edit the e-text for recognition errors and formatting. Once edited, I use text-to-speech software to covert the e-text to mp3. then once in mp3 format I use a program that converts mp3 to audiobook format. This allows me to bookmark and adjust the speed of the reading once on my iPod. Once all this is done I take the original print version and my iPod (now loaded with the audio version) and head off to a coffee house or café to read. I listen to the audio and read along at the same time.

You may be wondering to yourself “why format the text if it’s just getting converted to audio?” then again my may not. Anyway I discovered that the software I use to covert text to audio doesn’t pause unless I tell it to. It also handles some punctuation with, well not enough of a pause. So I go thought and put the appropriate punctuation in the appropriate spots to make it more comfortable for me too read. So this formatting thing is really a personal preference and not a necessary step. What it does is allow me to concentrate better on the reading and not get caught up on “there should be a pause there” or “where was that title it was just part of the first sentence”.

I’m sure that seems like a long complex process just to read an assignment. Well it is. But up until I started doing that, and I have really only been using this method for my PhD program not really before. Anyway up until I started this method, I have never completed the assigned reading for a class. I would start off reading, then skim a bit (never could skim well either) then just jump to the chapter summary or discussion of the article. I now complete all, well almost all my readings. My grades are better now then they have ever been. So the work is defiantly worth the effort.

Plus I don’t do all the scanning/OCR myself. The Scanning/OCR being the big and slow part of the process. I take a good amount of my readings to the disabled student services (DSS) office on campus and they provide me with an e-text version of my readings. I have also been relatively successful in contacting the publishers of my text books, and after providing them with the necessary information (proof I purchased the book, proof of my disability, etc.) have been able to receive an e-text version of the book from them. I do want to take this opportunity to then the publishers you don’t know how vital that is for me.

The only draw back of having others provide me with the e-text is receiving it in a timely manner. For example this semester. I also admit it is partly my fault, I started the process late. (we will talk about timeliness and timelines later) but I have yet to receive any e-text from the DSS office I know they are backed up especially this time of year. And I also have not received anything from the publishers of my texts, well not yet anyway. Fortunately I have been able to scan the readings for the next couple of weeks myself. And the article I sent to the DSS office was more of a reference and I didn’t need it scanned.

I have noticed that I don’t need all my readings scanned. If it is just a reference article not something we really need to read through then I don’t want it in e-text. It is easier for me to just skim for what I am looking for.

Well that about does it for my method of reading. I did not discuss software specifically because I don’t want to promote one program over another. I am happy to share the specifics to anyone who asks.


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