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University Relations

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March 24, 2008
Contact: Brenda Berg Bryant, Audio-Reader, (785) 864-4634.

Grant gives Audio-Reader staff, volunteers access to speech-assisted technology

LAWRENCE — The jaw is integral to a person’s ability to form speech. Now Audio-Reader has JAWS that will help machines speak, so blind workers and volunteers can access computer technology.

Audio-Reader received a $5,000 grant this month from the Douglas County Community Foundation to purchase new text-to-speech computer software called JAWS. This software — to be installed in Audio-Reader’s six recording studios — is an adaptive text-to-speech program utilized by individuals who are blind or visually impaired to access any text visible on a computer screen. JAWS for Windows reads information using synthesized speech.

Offered as a free public service by the University of Kansas, Audio-Reader is a reading and information service for blind and print-disabled individuals who live in Kansas and western Missouri.

JAWS will make it possible for Audio-Reader’s assistant volunteer coordinator, Susan Tabor, who is blind, to operate independently in the studios, record materials and help volunteers with equipment.

“The arrival of JAWS will allow me to work autonomously and fully perform the functions of my job,” Tabor said.

The man in charge of Audio-Reader’s technology sees JAWS as a way to widen the scope of what blind workers and volunteers can accomplish.

“With the installation of this adaptive screen-reading program, Audio-Reader’s blind and visually impaired volunteers and employees will now be able to access and maneuver our computer-based recording systems, opening up a whole new world to them,” said Steve Kincaid, engineering director.

The grant and the JAWS software will help Audio-Reader fulfill its mission of offering print-disabled persons the opportunity for greater personal independence by providing access to the printed word and visual information, according to the agency’s director.

“Thanks to this grant, Audio-Reader’s blind employees, now and in the future, will have the ability to thrive in their positions,” said Janet Campbell, director of Audio-Reader. “Audio-Reader is committed to maintaining a highly competent workforce that represents the diversity of our community.”

For more information about Audio-Reader, visit the organization's Web site or call (785) 864-4600. Services are available free of charge, but donations are welcome.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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