Accessibility at FDU

Tom Duran

BA, School of the Arts

Tom made a movie “In My Eyes” about his Cerebral Palsy. Article

Alyssa Shock

BA in Psychology, DJ at WFDU, University Honors Program, Psychology Club. Archived article.

Blind student DJ at the soundboard.

Excerpts from the article follow.

Blind from birth, Shock nonetheless is able to do almost all the things sighted individuals do. She maneuvers her way across campus with grace to the radio station’s studios in the Linden Court Residence Halls. … One of my favorite places on campus, besides the radio station is the river. I like to walk by the river and I can hear all the geese; sometimes when I’m walking with my cane, they will hiss at me and run away.”

At the radio station, Shock’s blindness is not an obstacle and with only minor adjustments, she’s able to host her show and do her own sound engineering. Unlike most blind DJs, Shock works the soundboard herself. The only accommodation to her blindness, being bits of stick-on Velcro and raised bumps stuck on certain controls, which enables Shock to navigate the board by feel.

“Typically blind talent has someone operating the equipment. The extra special thing about Alyssa is that she does it unassisted,” says Michael Phillips, chief engineer at WFDU. “We work with sound and lights on the console and she doesn’t see the lights, so we put physical landmarks on the consol so she can put her hand on it and find her way.”

Besides the low-tech Velcro on the console, Shock gets an assist from a more high-tech source: a screen reader. Shock makes her music playlists on her computer, which plugs into the soundboard. The screen reader is a software app that audibly narrates the text on Shock’s computer screen, including the time and song titles and lyrics. Well-accustomed to the screen reader, she has it set to read to her at the blisteringly fast speed of 450 words per minute, well above the average silent reading speed for sighted adults.

When she’s on the air, Shock manages everything by wearing two pairs of headphones at once: a pair of over-the-ear headphones for the screen-reader and a set of earbuds playing the broadcast stream of the show.

“Ten years ago, this would not have been possible at all. There’s enough technology around us now to make this possible,” says Phillips. “She has apps that talk to her and she’s so well-versed in the technology.”