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AG Healey uses lawsuit settlement to help visually impaired

Cape Cod Times - 6/19/2017

June 19--WEST BARNSTABLE -- It used to be that Cape Cod Community College students who wanted to use text-to-speech software to cope with visual impairments or other issues had to log onto a desktop computer at the O'Neill Center for Students with Disabilities.

But thanks to a $10,000 grant from state Attorney General Maura Healey's office, students can use the Kurzweil 3000 reader software on their laptops and smartphones.

"Now they can use it anytime they want, anywhere they want," said Doug Terry, coordinator for the O'Neill Center for Disability Services. "They don't have to come here and read books."

The text-to-speech software helps students with visual impairments, dyslexia and reading process disorders, said Kathy Fulginiti, adaptive technology specialist at the O'Neill Center.

Students with disabilities get a Firefly account to access the software, which allows texts downloaded as PDFs to be converted to speech.

In addition, Fulginiti uses a scanner in the O'Neill Center office in the process of converting old textbooks and professor handouts from text to speech.

The upgraded software that allows students to access the text-to-speech feature on a mobile basis was installed in September, Terry said.

Five students have used the updated equipment so far, including one whose physical disability keeps the student from being able to hold a textbook and turn a page, Terry said.

"It's opened up a lot more doors than we had in the past," Terry said.

The next step is to image the technology on every computer on campus, including the tutoring center, so students with disabilities may use the software by employing an access code.

That process will take place over the next year, Terry said.

Cape Cod Community College is just one organization receiving funds from the settlement of a suit against the world's largest ATM provider, Cardtronics, Healey said during a phone interview Friday afternoon.

The Cardtronics settlement of $1.5 million in 2014 followed accusations the company failed to follow an agreement from a previous settlement to make its ATMs accessible to blind and visually impaired users.

Healey said she is happy the settlement money is being used to help out people with disabilities.

Without adaptive technology "we lose the benefits of the special talents each person brings," Healey said. "We lose out as a society."

-- Follow Cynthia McCormick on Twitter: @CMcCormickCCT.


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