The Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities is pleased to announce a new program to expand and improve electronic text production.
Jim and Judy DeLapa generously funded the program, entitled Samaritan Technological Advancements in Reading (STAR). The DeLapa's are the creators of the Samaritan Foundation, which has provided scholarships to students for the past 26 years. Their recent establishment of the Samaritan Foundation Scholarships for undergraduate students with disabilities at MSU provides five generous scholarships annually.
The STAR program will strengthen the ability and effectiveness of important new electronic text materials for students with print-related disabilities. It will further eliminate access barriers for these students through acquisition of life-long skills with enhanced multi-modal reading formats.
\It is our privilege to work with the many caring and competent professionals at RCPD to help fund the work they do." says Judy DeLapa. "It is our belief that the new STAR program is the beginning of something that will benefit students both short-and long-term. We see it as just one piece of the mosaic that makes RCPD what it is for the students and staff at MSU. I am so impressed with all the department offers, the people who work there and the students Jim and I have met."
Books are produced in four ways at RCPD. The books can be tape recorded by a live reader, can be produced in large print, they can be scanned electronically and presented on a computer, and the electronic format can be translated to Braille. The electronic text format is becoming increasingly popular as technological advancements are made. This method allows text production in about 75% less time and is more space efficient for users.
RCPD has created an online library to store and securely distribute the electronic textbooks. Students can search the RCPD collection and will soon be able to make online requests for their text books or even download text from the library directly.
"Various assistive computer technologies render electronic books in a variety of accessible formats", says Michael Hudson, Director of RCPD. "Electronic formats are universal and can be quickly transformed into audio, large print, or Braille." In addition, Blindness, Visual Impairment, and Mobility Specialist Virginia Martz says, "E-text allows students to use software that not only reads the material, but highlights words as they read, gives them the ability to use on-line dictionaries, and the ability to outline or produce electronic notes as they review their materials."
Martz also recognizes the impact the STAR program will have at MSU. "STAR will allow us to provide a higher quality alternative format text in a more timely manner for a greater number of students. It will also allow us to build a coalition with other universities to share our alternative format materials, instead of each institution producing their own and duplicating materials."
The STAR funding will enhance three fundamental components. The production process for an electronic textbook requires an increased sophistication on the part of producers. RCPD will hire several leaders to ensure that each textbook meets the quality standards and that each producer receives the proper training and support. Training for users of the technology will also be supplied through STAR. Training will help ensure maximum user effectiveness and will provide users with a life-long set of skills for greater independence. Lastly, the funding will provide a recruitment coordinator to help enhance the production capacity of both traditional and electronic text.
"We recognized the significance of electronic text for our students and the Samaritan Foundation provided essential support", Hudson said. "The Samaritan Foundation is empowering tremendously positive opportunities for students with disabilities at MSU."
The STAR program will elevate the RCPD electronic text program to a nationally recognized system. The program will improve production volume, reduce turn-around time for students, and will free volunteer time for other tasks including examination reading and scribing and personal reading.