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Matt Burger, a senior in meteorology and mathematics, works in Alden Library's Shostack Adaptive Technology Room Friday afternoon, May 11, 2012.

Photographer: Patrick Traylor


Matt Burger, a senior in meteorology and mathematics, and Chris Guder, reference & instruction librarian, pose in Alden Library's Shostack Adaptive Technology Room.

Photographer: Patrick Traylor

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A Sense of Success: Alden’s Lynn Shostack Adaptive Technology Room

Matt Burger is a man of sense. He loves the stinging tension of sore muscles after rock climbing and the squeal of the electric guitar at the Smiling Skull Saloon on karaoke nights. But Burger's relationship with his senses is a complicated one. He has been blind since age four. Despite this "disability," Burger is able to accomplish goals many said he just couldn't do.

Burger, a senior studying meteorology and mathematics, is also a frequent patron of the Lynn Shostack Adaptive Technology Room.

The adaptive technology room, created through the Shostack endowment, is located on the second floor of Alden Library. The room allows twenty-four hour access to tools that can translate text to braille, create text through voice recognition and much more. The Shostack room provides individuals equal access to academic resources to aid success in their studies, professional work or research.

"As library collections continue to increase their digital content… new issues [arise] for students with disabilities with regard to access," said Reference and Instruction Librarian Chris Guder, who oversees the Shostack room. "By listening to our patrons, determining their needs and liaising with offices on campus that assist students with disabilities, we significantly reduce the risk that these students will not be able to use our collections to their utmost potential."

Much of the Libraries' collection is made available to students with disabilities via the software in the lab, which enables students to have PDFs read to them, or even to have those PDFs converted to sound files that can be played on mobile devices like phones or MP3 players. Students who prefer braille can have their journal articles converted to that format and printed out. Students with visual impairments can have the text on the screen magnified, or images in a book or other print sources magnified onto the computer screen.

The access, however, doesn't end there. Carey Busch from the Office of Disability Services collaborates with Guder and other Libraries staff to thoughtfully purchase and organize equipment and software. Together they ensure that what goes into the room is grounded in the needs of the room's specific community. For instance, the Faculty and Staff Delivery Service was recently expanded to include students who are registered through the Office of Disabilities. Now students with disabilities can have materials delivered to various sites across campus for more convenient pickup and access.

Easy access is a plus for Burger, who says he uses the Shostack room almost every day. Programs like JAWS and Dragon NaturallySpeaking help him to complete assignments.

"For research or history classes, I use JAWS," said Burger. "It reads what I want it to. It tells me how to use it, the actions [I'm making] and what it's doing on the screen. Really the only thing it doesn't do is read photo captions."

Dragon NaturallySpeaking allows Burger and other students to speak into a microphone to create text, which makes paper writing and communication via email a much simpler task.
Before coming to the Athens campus, Burger attended OHIO's Chillicothe campus for two years. Before that, he attended high school at the Ohio State School for the Blind.

"It was okay, but I wasn't really challenged," he said. "Their math and sciences were a bit relaxed in my opinion."

For a person who has known that he wanted to be a meteorologist since third grade when a thunderstorm cancelled field day, relaxed sciences just wouldn't do. But Burger's OHIO experience has been different.

"It's been good. Teachers [and staff] have been willing to work with me, and I need a lot of it. There's too much stuff on the board for me to get," he said.
Because of his involvement with the Shostack room, Guder often works with students like Burger. Student success is what he enjoys the most about his work.

"It's very satisfying to help students reach their goals," said Guder. "I like helping people find stuff they need and seeing their face when they realize they're able to do it on their own."

In 2011, President Roderick J. McDavis said, "Ohio University will draw both strength and distinction from its historic mission of extending learning opportunities to under-served populations, remaining … dedicated to access and opportunity…, and making selective investments in research areas that have the greatest potential for improving people's lives."

The vision McDavis had for the University is becoming a reality through resources such as the Shostack room and through the staff who work toward extending learning opportunities, access and opportunity for the underserved population.

Burger is also achieving his goals. He hopes to graduate this year, and in the summer, he will be heading off to Boulder, Colo., for an internship studying the warming of the firma layer of the Indian Ocean. After that, Burger intends to pursue graduate school.

The purpose of the Lynn Shostack Adaptive Technology Room is to help remove technical or physical boundaries for students, faculty and staff with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, or those who need assistance with reading, writing or studying skills. Through the use of adaptive technologies, students realize their promise, advance their knowledge and achieve excellence. And for many, including Matt Burger, that promise lives.