New equipment improves
access to library database

With the recent donation of special computer equipment and software to the General Libraries, the library database has become much more accessible to students and faculty with visual impairments as well as other disabilities.

The centerpiece of the new facilities is computer software called OutSpoken, which can read text on a computer screen out loud to users with visual impairments. The software can read back text that is typed in directly as well as material that is scanned in. The software also can magnify text for easier reading.

Also included in the new facilities is DragonDictate, a speech recognition system that allows a user to operate the computer solely by voice command. The system includes preprogrammed voice models for 25,000 words and space for an additional 5,000 words. The user, in effect, "trains" the system as it is being used; the preprogrammed models are modified to more closely emulate the individual user's voice pattern. An 80,000-word secondary dictionary also is included to facilitate the entry of new words into the active vocabulary.

The DragonDictate system consists of DragonDictate software, a speech recognition board, a tutorial program and a headset microphone.
Helen McLaughlin, associate vice president for Institutional Advancement Services, said the new facilities have been made possible by a gift from Richard Aarons, owner of AFD Contract Furniture in New York, one of the largest dealers of Steelcase Furniture in the country. Aarons also is the father of Emory freshman David Aarons.

Last year, Aarons gave Emory $15,000 for the purchase of computer workstations and an additional $5,000 for the training of faculty, staff and students on disability issues. Although the Aarons family was impressed by Emory's overall educational program, they felt the Disability Services area could benefit from some improvements. Of particular concern to the Aarons' was the importance of educating faculty and other community members about the varied teaching and learning techniques that work well for students with disabilities, including learning disabilities.

"This new equipment definitely accommodates students with visual impairments and other disabilities more effectively and improves their ability to do well in the classroom," said Trisha Jacob, director of Student Disability Services in the Equal Opportunity Programs Office. "This equipment makes access to library information more efficient for students."

Jacob said 312 Emory students have identified themselves as having a disability.

-Dan Treadaway

Return to January 27, 1997 Contents Page