Central Access provides reading services for students nationwide

Rashay Reading, Staff Reporter

Central Access isn’t something heard about often, but it is a large part of the disability services at Central. The program provides students with access to alternative media such as books in braille and tactile graphics, among other things.

Central Access is not only open for Central students but is sought after by students and schools from other states as well.

“The goals of the program are to provide the most innovative, up-to-date, and accessible media for students,” said Andrea Zimny, program assistant for Central Access.

Some of the most common disabilities that require students to have to go to Central Access for help include dyslexia and forms of blindness.

Students who do not have any disabilities are also able to use Central Access’s programs.

Central Access has technicians that maintain the programs and create materials.

These technicians are usually student workers, but there are a few who are not.

Vernee Hemphill, a former Central student, is the lead technician at Central Access.

“It’s pretty nice. I learn something different all the time,” Hemphill said. “I do a little bit of everything. I’ve moved on to requesting files from publishers and processing. I check everybody’s work and make braille files and audio files.”

The most cutting edge programs that Central Access provides is the Central Access Reader (CAR). Central Access makes their own tactile graphics.

Tactile graphics can be maps or diagrams that are printed onto a special type of paper, which is then put through a machine that makes the ink swell. This allows blind or visually impaired students to feel the map or diagram.

Central Access Reader is a fairly new online program. It was created by Spencer Graffe, a senior computer science major, with the help of Marshall Sunnes and Wendy Holden, the Central Access program coordinator and accessibility & disability consultant.

Qualified students with disabilities can send Central Access their class or textbook list, and Access then contacts the publishers to get permission to use the books for the CAR program.

Students can download their books onto the program and the text will be broken down by headings and paragraphs.

The text is then read out loud, and the student can speed up or slow down the talking to whatever pace they prefer.

Words from the book can be highlighted, and wholes chapter can be saved and downloaded on an mp3.

The program is especially helpful because it can also read math equations and some foreign languages, such as Spanish and Russian, as well as English.

The Central Access staff takes pride in the fact that this is one of the first simple programs to read math equations.

“People send us the hard stuff to do because this is state-of-the-art kind of stuff,” Zimny said.

The materials used to make tactile graphics can be designed to have different textures so the student can differentiate between areas.

The process of making these graphics can take anywhere from ten minutes to one hour.

“You’re not going to find very many places, if any, in the nation that provide tactile graphics with the quality that we do,” Josh Jones, a Disability and Accessibility Coordinator, said.“It’s really cool that something that has been nationally recognized was created by one of our own students,” Jones said.