Today we had two representatives from Sight and Sound http://www.sightandsound.co.uk/ show us their new print to audio software. Many of our visually impaired students currently rely on scanners to be able to convert the print material into audio using OCR (Optimal Character Recognition) software. In the past this would mean the student or a helper having to lift the lid on the scanner and slowly scan each page of a book one at a time. Sight and Sound now sell the PEARL Rapid Scanner, which looks a bit look a small bendy desk lamp and easily folds away for storing. You hook your scanner up to a PC that has the Open Book software installed, and then put your book underneath the scanner. It will make a clicking sound to tell you that it has now taken a digital photo of that page and so it is ready for the next page. It took a significantly shorter time to scan the pages when we tested it than it did using a traditional scanner (around 5 secs per page). Whilst you are still scanning it will allow you to listen/read what you have already scanned and you can then save them to a USB as txt, open book, doc or audio files. This product could also be very useful to dyslexic users.
At the moment all of our scanning services for visually impaired students are held in our Assistive Technology Booths. These are great as they are fully equipped, bookable and can only be used by people who have a need for them. The only downside is that it can make some of the students feel a little isolated and separate from the rest of their peers. The advantage of something as portable as this, is that the user could easily set it up and use it on any PC. The downside is the cost implications of making the software needed available on every PC across the campus so that a student could be free to select where they worked with a scanner.
For people who liked the old buttons on the Sara scanner there is now a newer version of this model that instead of having a lift top scanner has a Pearl style digital camera instead. For more information about the PEARL Scanner go to:
Post by : Lisa Anderson