‘Voices Matter’: See what can’t be seen
Matthew Spinneberg educated attendees on challenges the print impaired community faces on a daily basis in his “See What Can’t Be Seen” presentation for Moorpark College’s Multicultural Day.
Spinneberg, a 28-year-old instructional assistant for ACCESS, works directly with students to support and help them learn how to use tools and software for vision impairment. ACCESS stands for Accessibility Coordination Center & Educational Support Services, is a service center at Moorpark College where students can also seek aid for other disabilities.
He shared some helpful tips for using technology tools such as “voiceover” and “speak screen” to help boost confidence and productivity in navigating daily school responsibilities for students with vision impairments.
Spinneberg became legally blind when he was 17 years old due to a genetic disease. He shared his difficulty in school with reading and math, and opened up that he dealt with depression.
He admitted that at first, he was hesitant in using speech-to-text or voice over. He wanted to zoom in on everything even if a single word took up an entire page.
“I didn‘t want to be a slave to the [robotic] voice. I wanted to try and magnify everything,” Spinneberg said.
During his presentation, he reassured students that there is always hope and that there’s help available for any struggles they might be dealing with.
“I’m speaking in front of you to show you that there’s nothing that can stop you from moving forward, there’s always a solution to help you whenever you‘re struggling,” said Spinneberg.
Voice over and speech-to-text are both tools found on iPhones meant to assist vision-impaired people with reading, or to navigate anything else on the smartphone that is essential to a college student. Aside from completing important tasks such as reading or writing emails, you can also use speech-to-text to translate and read closed captions when watching Netflix, regardless of the language.
Spinneberg played a clip from a foreign film titled “Oversized Cop” with speech-to-text as an example of what it’s like watching a movie without using your eyes. Hearing the sounds and descriptions of the scene and how quickly the closed captions are translated to English is fascinating to know how far technology has come.
After the speech-to-text and voice over presentations, he taught students with iPhones how to enable both tools, even to those who aren’t visually impaired.
Spinneberg shared that these tools can also be beneficial to sighted people and can help to read a textbook faster, or to multitask.
“Voice over and speech text are like curb cuts in the curb for a wheelchair,” he said. They were designed for people who have reading disabilities and for physical vision disabilities, but anybody can use these tools to read, just like the curb cut. Anybody can wheel their stroller up that ramp when that ramp was designed for somebody that is bound to a wheelchair.”
ACCESS Coordinator, Silvia Arzunyan, added helpful tips to Spinneberg’s presentation.
“If you can purchase your book online to download to your device, it helps with cost, carrying things around and accessibility and reviewing things very quickly,” Arzunyan said.
When using an online book with speech text, it also highlights the text being read out loud. Arzunyan shared that this can be helpful to any student when studying for an exam or completing assigned readings.
“It helps your eyes track the words, it helps bring familiarity, it’s reinforced learning even if you aren’t part of the print impaired community,” said Arzunyan.
She added that ACCESS is open to visible and invisible disabilities.
“There’s no limitation to the disability a student can have. It can be anything from depression to maybe they broke their writing arm and need assistance with that,” Arzunyan continued. “We’re open to everyone – it’s confidential [and] voluntary, if you see someone who is struggling on campus refer them to ACCESS.”
Spinneberg’s presentation for Multicultural Day offered the Moorpark College community with a glimpse of what it’s like to be part of the print impaired.
For more information visit ACCESS located on the first floor of the LMC building, or call their office at (805) 378-1461.