Recording Centre’s vision for student support recognised
Swansea University's Recording Centre for the Blind features in the September/October 2007 edition of Insight, the magazine of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB).
Published under the title Helping students make the most of their time at university, the article describes how the Centre’s work impacts greatly on visually impaired students in Swansea, as well as at other Welsh institutions.
Kathy Williams, the Centre Manager, explains “Our job is to provide visually impaired students with texts in their preferred format as quickly as possible. Speed, accuracy and high quality are what we aim for above all. We provide a tailor-made service for each individual student and we have to be flexible and constantly able to adapt as their circumstances change and accessible technology develops. A student’s needs can change over the course of three or four years and the Centre has to be able to respond quickly whenever a new situation arises”.
James O’Dell (pictured), a visually impaired student who graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Spanish last year, was one of the many students to benefit from the Centre’s services. He said: "It's wonderful to be able to concentrate on enjoying my life and on studying, rather than worrying about how - or whether - my transcription requirements will be met."
The Recording Centre for the Blind was opened in 1994 with financial support from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). In 2003, the Centre moved to a purpose-built location in the middle of campus, close to the Students’ Union, halls of residence and the Disability Office’s Assessment and Training Centre. It is now funded centrally by the University and, working closely with the Disabilities Librarian, forms part of Library and Information Services.
The Centre, one of only six university-based UK transcription centres closely linked to RNIB, houses three broadcast standard studios and state-of-the-art DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) recording equipment. Up to 100 volunteers from the University and the local community give up an hour a week to record academic texts requested by students.
The Centre recruits volunteers with expertise in the students’ chosen subject areas and uses native speakers for foreign language recording. Master recordings of entire books are sent to the RNIB archives, where they become available to visually impaired people nationwide. In the last year alone roughly 1700 studio sessions resulted in 900 hours of new recordings, of which two thirds were archived by the RNIB. In recent years the Centre has also produced on average 10,000 pages of braille each year but there is now a growing demand for texts in electronic format.
As a unique resource, the Centre also supports other Welsh Higher Education institutions on a commercial basis and therefore has a measurable impact on the support provided to visually impaired students across Wales. Moreover, thanks to the successful outcome of the HEFCW reconfiguration and collaboration bid, the Centre can now guarantee a full transcription service for visually impaired students at Swansea Institute and Trinity College Carmarthen.