October 31, 2012
ELLENSBURG, Wash. — For nearly 20 years, Central Washington University's Central Access Office (formerly the Access Technical Resource Center) has been preparing the Washington State Voters' Pamphlet for the visually impaired and for people with disabilities that prevent them from gathering information in a written format.
“We started providing this service in 1996,” said Wendy Holden, Central Access coordinator. “But this is the first year that the Secretary of State’s office is actually providing the compact discs and thumb drives. Before, we prepared all the media. It’s a huge project that we do for every election.”
The audio version is available online, or on CDs or thumb drives through the Washington Secretary of State’s website. Accessible formats of the state Voters' Pamphlet are available upon request. The last day to request the audio CD or USB for the 2012 general election is November 1.
The pamphlet is available in human-read audio, recorded by CWU students who have been trained in a special reading technique. Holden’s office employs about 15 students a year. Although most audio files are now recorded using a computerized voice, the complexity of the Voters’ Pamphlet calls for the specially trained student technicians.
“Using human-read audio for the Voters’ Pamphlet ensures that names and locations are pronounced correctly,” related Holden. “In general, human-read audio is more natural sounding and human readers are better with difficult vocabulary.”
In addition to the voters’ pamphlet, Central Access has contracts nationwide with other universities and companies to provide accessible materials. Providing useful alternative media requires expertise and extensive labor costs. Many institutions turn to Central Access as a quality and low-cost solution for their accommodation needs.
In addition to providing audio material for blind and visually impaired students, Holden’s office also creates tactile graphics of graphs, charts, equations, or maps that are too complex to be explained verbally.
“We use a specially treated paper that reacts to heat,” said Holden, “We print the information using a regular printer, then process it under a heat source. The paper then swells the printed images and the image becomes three-dimensional. We’re always trying to stay current with new technologies.”
Holden said her office is not only seeing a major increase in service requests—“we’re swamped at the beginning of every quarter”— but also a corresponding rise in the level of difficulty and complexity of the projects.
“We haven’t had to say ‘no’ to a project yet,” said Holden, although she admits some requests have come close. “Right now we can prepare just about any type of material for students’ use.”
Unfortunately, copyright laws currently limit use of Central Access’s products to students who have a registered disability with Central’s Disability Services office.
The Access Center not only prepares materials for the blind and visually impaired, but also for individuals with reading disabilities, such as dyslexia or attention-deficit disorder, or for more general disabilities that interfere with comprehending the written word, such as traumatic brain injury. Students who can demonstrate need of accommodation are encouraged to contact the Disability Services office. To make a request for services, contact Wendy Holden at 509-963-2149.
Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1518, firstname.lastname@example.org