National Achievement Award winner John Russo lives in Texas, but by many accounts, his speaking demeanor is reminiscent of John F. Kennedy. Teachers report that he is popular on campus delivering "standing-room only" tutoring sessions to 20 or 30 students. Currently thriving in graduate school at Texas A&M University, John is a passionate advocate for RFB&D's services, which he began to use at Saddleback Community College. Here, he describes how assistive technology levels the playing field for blind and visually impaired students, opening up a critical inroad to independence.
"Let’s compare independence in terms of a sightless individual with a sighted person. In a school environment, a sighted person can purchase a book at a book store; they have it right there immediately. Then as they read, they can use a highlighter and take notes on pertinent information that they’d like to relocate at a later time.
"Well, we need to be able to do essentially the same tasks.
John Russo speaking at the NAA reception in Washington, DC, 2/3/10
"With the RFB&D website now available to us, we can find a book title and either order it on the phone or find it online; and we can find the link to the download on that book. As soon as we hit 'Download,' within minutes we have that book on our PC and can load it into to our DAISY player. That gives us instant accessibility to this book, any time, anywhere. Late at night, early in the day, we have that book in the palm of our hand, and we can read it.
"Now, the DAISY player has an added feature of allowing you to set marks at various points within the text, and you can compare that to highlighting. So if there’s information that I’m hearing and consider important, and might want to refer back to it at a later time, I can insert a mark – and we can place an endless number of marks in multiple books on these players. So this allows us to relocate that information immediately.
"The DAISY players also allow you to go from page to page, similar as a sighted person flips the pages. Or it allows us to just go chapter by chapter. These navigation features enable us to function as though we do have eyes. And because the book is in the palm of our hand, we have it and use it any time we need it.
"This is independence: we don’t have to rely on anybody to get our studying done