The Disabled Students Program is planning a substantial upgrade for its technology systems in hopes of giving its students easier access to new educational resources.
Mark Grosch, DSP adaptive technology specialist, said the organization is planning to update some of the services it currently offers to disabled students through special technology programs in the DSP’s Adaptive Technology Center, located in the Davidson Library. Existing features in the center – like voice-recognition systems, assistive writing and listening programs, and a computer screen that can magnify text – will be upgraded, and new services will be made available, Grosch said.
The ATC – a two-room computer lab primarily used by visually impaired students for its software that can scan and read back text from books or lecture notes – will be undergoing software upgrades and a server update.
“Basically, we are upgrading [the ATC] from the ground up,” Grosch said. “We’re going to be setting up a scanning station at our new office … [and installing] the new software that is coming out in the labs.”
In addition, Grosch said the DSP recently received a grant to buy a new server and a new $10,000 brailler, which embosses text to make it more easily readable. Grosch said funding for the brailler came from the ADA Advisory Committee – a UCSB committee comprised of faculty, staff and students that provides resources for disabled students – and the Student Fee Advisory Committee.
Gorsch said the DSP’s newly upgraded server will include a centralized network where student notetakers can import and upload their notes.
“We will install a server so they can scan it … and access it no matter what workstation they are at,” Gorsch said. “It’ll give the students more time to read and less time waiting for the pages to be scanned.”
Grosch said more upgrades to the ATC will include the installation of a new program called Kurzweil – which can convert imported text files to computerized speech, according to the product’s website. Grosch said the new technology would make access to information simpler and faster to visually impaired students.
“It is a pretty robust text-to-speech software program,” Gorsch said. “[Students] can import the text the first time and export it as an mp3 they can listen to on their iPod.”
Gorsch said the DSP currently owns six licenses to Kurzweil, but the organization is planning to purchase four more. In addition, Gorsch said the DSP staff is developing a system to allow students to check out the program to use for about a day. He said this would give students access to the system whenever they need it, even when the ATC is closed.
“We will check out the software to people for a 24 period … so they can legally borrow the software for a couple days, but it deactivates,” Gorsch said. “It gives them a little bit of flexibility.”