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Central Washington University

CWU Student Creates Revolutionary Text-to-Speech Reader

Spencer Graffe, a senior in Central Washington University’s Computer Science Program, has helped develop the Central Access Reader (CAR), a free computerized text-to-speech reader program that has attracted attention of institutions across the nation.

Marshall Sunnes, Central Access program coordinator and Wendy Holden, Disability and Accessibility Consultant, collaborated to determine what the program should be, how it should look, and what features were most important to include. Graffe had the skills to make it happen.

The program, developed as a tool to assist students with print-related disabilities—those with visual impairments, dyslexia, attention-deficit disorder, or other conditions—reads documents that other text-readers can’t handle, especially those with equations or symbols.

The program started as a computer science class capstone project. Central Access, CWU’s department that makes educational materials accessible to people with disabilities, hired Graffe to continue to work on the program after the project ended. CAR has attracted the attention of schools across the country. In recent weeks, Sunnes has received inquiries about the program from numerous institutions, including MIT and Harvard. 

In addition to an intuitive user interface and simple customizations, the program is able to read documents that contain symbols from geometry and trigonometry, linear algebra, calculus, math, logic, or statistics. Sophomore Justin Wilson, another computer science major, refined its math-reading abilities. The powerful, yet simple, interface allows the user to customize how the text looks and sounds.

The program is installed on both Macs and PCs at CWU and is currently being used by both students and faculty. The program can be downloaded free at http://www.cwu.edu/central-access/reader.

CWU’s Central Access serves not only the university community, but also provides materials to institutions and schools across the country. Central Access leads the industry in offering accessible products, including electronic text, Braille, and tactile graphics.