Rhine said the College and University Disability Access Collaborative (CUDAC) was created after the federal government mandated requiring institutions to make alterations to printed materials to accommodate students with disabilities. Nationally, just 25 percent of all colleges and universities are in compliance, while more than 30 percent have not attempted to comply and just three member institutions of SOCHE are in compliance.
As chair of SOCHE's Disability Services Committee and CUDAC project leader, Rhine spearheaded a grant project to help member schools combine resources to bring them into compliance with the federal mandate. For the development of the CUDAC project, SOCHE received $78,000 in funding from the Library Services and Technology Act, a grant from the federal institute of Museum and Library administered by the State Library of Ohio.
"Our institutions in this region have been struggling with this challenge of providing accessible print materials for students with disabilities for some time," Rhine said. "We came up with a creative solution that will provide access to a significant number of students in our region that have been denied the access to these materials that they deserve."
Rhine has worked to discover ways to share resources for students with disabilities since 2001, when she worked at the University of Dayton. She said that demand, timeliness of delivery and cost are the biggest obstacles institutions face and the main reasons many are not in compliance with the federal mandate.
Rhine coordinated a partnership between SOCHE and OhioLINK, which acts as a clearinghouse for the materials. The grant allows participating schools to organize in-house conversions using high-speed scanners and special software and upload the texts to the OhioLINK online library to share them. The equipment will be delivered soon, and training started in February at Wright State University.
"Technology enables us to offer accessible materials for students with learning differences like never before," Rhine said. "Our project utilizes the latest technology for text conversion and allows us to produce the material in ways that are student friendly so they can listen to their text books on their Ipod or mp3 player."
Rhine estimates the CUDAC project will help 1,500 southwestern Ohio college students with disabilities, including those with visual impairments. Thirteen participating institutions include Antioch University, Cedarville University, Central State University, Clark State Community College, Kettering College of Medical Arts, Miami University-Hamilton and Middletown campuses, Sinclair Community College, Southern State Community College, University of Dayton, Urbana University, Wilmington College, Wright State University and Wittenberg University.
"Hopefully this is the beginning of a longer-term project that will help students across the state," Rhine said. "The most exciting thing about this project is that thousands of students in the region will benefit. The disability service providers at the 13 participating institutions are committed to the success of our students and are thrilled to have the support we need to enhance their opportunity for success."
Written By: Cristina Recalde '08
Photos By: Robert Gantt
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