The Office for Students with Disabilities are starting to mail CD-ROMs to blind students in a new service for 1999. In the past the only alternative to printed units were audiocassettes, but research by Professor Tom Vincent’s Multimedia Enabling Technologies group within the Knowledge Media Institute has brought together electronic text and digital audio in the ReadOut program, written by Mary Taylor. Following several pilot schemes with small numbers of students, 5 courses are being offered as a service by OSD in 1999 and the CDs for A103 will be mailed later this week.
Each ReadOut CD contains the text of all the printed blocks, with descriptions of images, in a browser which is accessible with enabling technology such as synthetic speech or magnification. The text is linked to digital audio recordings of the material, synchronised by paragraph, effectively giving a computer interface to many hours of audio cassettes, helping blind students to study more effectively.