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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Read out loud.

We're generally taught to read to ourselves soon after we learn how to read. But there are still many reasons to read out loud, to your children for example. Or for those who are blind or have other disabilities that limit print reading ability. Audiobooks, podcasts, and the like are very helpful, but what about reading text books? The newspaper? A letter from a friend? A menu at a restaurant? Thankfully there are many services available that provide audio versions of printed text, but they all need volunteers to run. Here's how you can help:

* Readers read out loud, narrating the text and describing any visual elements like graphs, charts, and equations. Specialized readers proficient in math, science, finance, accounting, computer science, foreign languages, and other technical areas are often in short supply. So if you have those skills, consider reading out loud.

* Directors guide the reader, operate recording equipment and make corrections to the recorded material when necessary.

* Editors review the audio files and help with production of the final version.

* Scanners use the internet to submit text, modify files and prepare them for audio or Braille publication.

These are just a few of the many ways you can help. Excited? Great! Now here are three organizations you can contact to volunteer or obtain services:

--> Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic is a national nonprofit organization in existence for over 60 years. They provide digitally recorded textbooks "in every subject area and grade level from kindergarten through graduate studies". They have studios nationwide. Contact the national headquarters at 800-803-7201 for more information or visit rfbd.org.

--> Read This To Me is a free reading service for blind and low vision people. It "allows blind and low-vision people (clients) to have printed documents read to them over the phone. All a person needs is a phone line and a fax machine (no computer is required.)" Volunteers only need a few minutes a day and the willingness to make a long-distance phone call. Learn more about volunteering with Read This To Me.

--> Bookshare.org prepares books in audio and Braille formats. The need volunteers to scan books and prepare books for publication on Bookshare. All you need in an internet connection.

Remember you can also make donations, and spread the word about these great opportunities and services. Organizations like the International Association of Audio Information Services have other resources for books, newspapers and other materials available in Braille and other formats. They need volunteers too! Talking books can make such a meaningful difference in a person's life. Happy reading and happy listening!

"He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses." -Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)

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