Lesson 20: Using Live Readers As a Student with Vision Loss

Key Considerations

While you are in college or career school, there may be materials or settings with materials (such as the library) that you are required to access independently and immediately but can’t due to your vision loss. As much as you will want to have all your course materials available to you in an accessible format, the reality is some of the information will not be accessible with technology or within the time frame you need. A solution for accessing those materials as a student who is blind or low vision is to hire a live reader (human reader to read aloud or record information for you). You may also need a live reader to help you locate and quickly review materials in the library while you work on a research project or someone to read gauges in a science lab while you perform an experiment.

If you decide to use the services of a human reader in college or career school, it will be your responsibility to advertise for, interview, hire, and train a reader. If necessary, you may also need to fire your reader. Creating an organized schedule detailing the dates, times, and locations you need your reader to meet with you as well as a payment schedule for the reader’s services are additional tasks you will have as an employer of a reader.

While you search for a reader who can meet your unique needs, hiring a friend may not be in your best interest, especially if you end up in a situation where you need to fire your reader. Becoming good friends or participating in social events with your reader is not a good idea either. Every effort should be made to keep the working relationship professional, not personal. Good candidates are those who are familiar with the subject matter you need them to read, are available during the times you need them to be, and can maintain a professional working relationship. You may want to explore hiring two readers, a primary reader and a backup reader because people do get sick and schedules can change.

Assignment #1

Create a job posting for a reader. Advertise the position in places where you might find potential candidates for the job such as in the guidance counselor’s office, with service organizations including your school’s student council, or on the bulletin board in your teacher’s class. In college, you can advertise the position in the Office for Students with Disabilities or on the department bulletin board. Telling your professor or the teaching assistant of the course you are hiring a reader may also lead you to a potential candidate.

Include the following information in your post:

  • Job Description of a Live Reader
  • Duties (or Skills) of a Live Reader
  • Projected Hours per Week/Availability
  • Cancellation Policy
  • Rate of Pay
  • Your Contact Information

Assignment #2

Develop a list of interview questions to ask your reader. Identify a sample item each candidate will read for you that includes a picture or a graph that will need to be described. Prepare to answer questions your reader may ask you such as, “How often and in what format (cash or check) will I get paid?”

Assignment #3

Practice giving directions to a live reader by having someone in your personal network read to you. Take note of whether your reader gets frustrated or impatient with your requests and determine how you will deal with this behavior.

  • Highlight information (you need to know how to tell a reader what information you want marked and how to mark it so different readers can be familiar with your system).
  • Review or repeat information.
  • Spell a word.
  • Point out words, dates, or other text emphasized in the reading.
  • Adjust the pace or tone when reading.

Assignment #4

Take notes as your reader reads pages 106 through 118 of Chapter 3 in College Bound, A Guide for Students with Visual Impairments, 2nd Edition, by Ellen Trief, aloud to you.

Did you have to stop your reader frequently?
Would it be advisable to have a recording of what your reader read to you to review later?