March 18, 2005  


Help Needed: Record Books for the Blind and Dyslexic

By Albe Larsen

SLAC has an enormously diverse and talented population. Wouldn’t you like to use your skill in educating other individuals?

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic is a largely volunteer organization that provides recorded versions of everything from texts for first graders to those for medical, law, business and other graduate and professional students. This organization needs volunteers to record books and help with production.

The Northern California unit of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D®) is housed in a charming old adobe building in Palo Alto. There are five recording studios at this site, and the need for volunteers is huge. The studios are used at only 60 percent capacity and an enormous number of books wait to be recorded.

Many other volunteer jobs exist, including the fascinating job of preparing textbooks for recording. For a technical text this includes making decisions about where to include descriptions of figures, or how to describe an equation or a complex molecular formula.

A special player, or custom computer software, allows books to be highlighted electronically, and pages and chapters to be found by search technology that makes studying easier. For dyslexics and the visually impaired, this technology speeds up the slow process of trying to read.

Volunteers work two-hour shifts each week. To record well, one must know the vocabulary and the subject matter; hence, the need for people with real subject matter expertise. This is a great opportunity for SLAC staff to use their wide variety of knowledge to help others.

Titles are as diverse as ‘Explaining the Universe’ to ‘Textbook of Family Practice,’ to ‘The Norsemen in the Viking Age’ and ‘Engineering Mechanics’ were recorded in 2004.

The Northern California unit serves nine counties including San Mateo, Santa Clara and Contra Costa, where many SLAC employees live and where over 40,000 eligible students could benefit. As it is, fewer than 4,500 are served.

The Northern California unit of RFB&D is open evenings and Saturdays to accommodate working volunteers.

For more information, contact Carol Crites, the volunteer coordinator at 650-493-3717, Ext. 13.
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Last update Thursday March 17, 2005 by Emily Ball