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DIALOGUE Interviews Morgan Roth of RFB&D
If you have attended school as a visually impaired student, chances are that you have relied on the services of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) for textbooks. Whether you needed HAMLET for English literature, COMO SE DICE for Spanish, or ACCOUNTING for business, RFB&D has always been the go-to source for obtaining audio editions of books for school. We caught up with Morgan Roth, RFB&D's vice president of strategic communications, for insights into how RFB&D's services are changing with the advances in technology. Here is what she shared with us.
RFB&D, a nonprofit volunteer organization, is the nation's educational library serving people who cannot effectively read standard print because of visual impairment, dyslexia, or other physical disability. "Our mission is to create opportunities for individual success by providing, and promoting the effective use of accessible educational materials. Our vision is for all people to have equal access to the printed word," Roth said.
RFB&D is growing every day. Currently serving over 140,000 students from kindergarten through graduate school, by the end of the decade, RFB&D intends to serve one million individuals with its collection of recorded materials and other services.
RFB&D's traditional "product" is its recorded content. The CV Starr Learning Through Listening® Library of recorded textbooks and other educational materials is unique. The recorded content is fully accessible in that all features of the printed text are provided, including detailed descriptions of footnotes and every graphic, from photographs to maps to charts and graphs. Books are recorded by more than 5,000 volunteers recording in 29 RFB&D studios across the country. Volunteers are highly trained and must have expertise in the fields they read to ensure fluency of presentation in complex subject matter. RFB&D is currently transitioning to an all digital production system and offers more than 23,000 titles on CD. These books, RFB&D's AudioPlus® textbooks, are fully navigable by page, chapter or subchapter, and can be electronically bookmarked to facilitate reference and study.
Because RFB&D is a library, the organization also provides a host of library services including bibliographic and reference searches.
Finally, RFB&D provides full support and service for the Learning through Listening programs, including the nonprofit sale of specialized players for their recorded books. Service and ordering is available through the toll-free member service center and for registered members, online at www.rfbd.org .
"We look to complement other services for students, including braille, to ensure that students with visual impairments and other print disabilities have a full arsenal of skills and resources to reach their potential. To that end, we view other educational service providers in the disabilities education community as partners, rather than competitors," Roth said.
RFB&D has no guaranteed sources of funding. It depends on the generosity of private and public funding partners to ensure that education remains a right and not a privilege for students with disabilities that make reading challenging or impossible.
"We are very excited about our transition to an all-digital environment," Roth said. RFB&D's AudioPlus books are an enormous step forward for members because of the convenience, portability, navigability and fidelity they offer. Digital technology has made RFB&D's books much more effective study tools. Now, with the press of a button, students can jump from page to page or chapter to chapter and a standard textbook now fits on a single CD. Gone are the days of having to manage 10-12 four-track cassettes per textbook, and having to rewind or fast-forward through a series of beep tones to locate a specific page or chapter.
RFB&D is also very pleased to announce a new partnership with the Center for Applied Special Technologies (CAST). The partnership will initiate a series of managed projects and programs to develop new technology-based tools, services and strategies that students and educators can use to facilitate reading and study skills. The goal of the partnership is to advance learning technologies that provide students with disabilities greater access to high-quality educational content and to ensure that these tools get into the hands of the students who need them.
To learn more, visit RFB&D's Web site at www.rfbd.org or call 866-732-3585 and select option 5.