Working with Readers

About Sarah Blake LaRose

Sarah Blake LaRose is a freelance writer and a professor of Biblical Hebrew at Anderson University School of Theology in Anderson, Indiana. She is one of three blind academic scholars who received the Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind in 2016 in recognition of innovative work in the field of access to biblical language texts and tools for people who are blind.

Have you ever been frustrated by the need for information which is not available in Braille or large print or in digital format? If so,
working with a reader is another way in which you can access the information you need.

Working with readers can feel like another challenge on top of numerous things confronting a new college student, especially one who has previously had access to materials in braille. This article will help you in planning how you will handle this new adventure. Whether you are working with a reader for one day’s search for information at the library or for regular homework sessions, the tips here will help you to find your readers and get them to do the job well for you.

Finding Readers

There are many ways to find someone who can read for you. The following are just a few.

  1. Family members may be willing to help.
  2. If you are a college or university student, put signs in the Disabled Student Services office. This office may even provide you with a listing of people who want to work as readers, and some offices will even employ the readers just as they employ tutors.
  3. Put ads on bulletin boards in widely traveled areas around the university.
    • Near the cafeteria
    • Near the post office
    • Library
    • Dormitory lobbies
    • Community bulletin boards
  4. If you can afford to pay readers or if your rehabilitation agency is providing funds for you to do this, register with the office of student employment and/or the employment commission in your community. If you cannot afford to pay your readers and are not receiving assistance from your rehabilitation counselor, Try other methods for locating readers who will volunteer.
  5. Put an ad in the paper.
  6. Put an announcement in a church bulletin.
  7. Use word-of-mouth.

    8. Contact community service organizations, senior citizens’ groups, etc. Members are often eager for things to do and would love to have the opportunity to assist you.

Interviewing

When I hired my first readers, I experienced a number of problems which would never have happened if I had interviewed them first. It may be hard to think of yourself as “the boss,” but this is exactly what you are. If your reader does not respect you as an employer, he or she may not provide you with good reading. The first step in establishing a good working relationship is the interview.

Your interview should include some questions which will help you to know the person and his or her interests. It should also allow you the opportunity to find out how well he or she reads and whether you like his or her reading style. Finally, it should give you an opportunity to explain the requirements of the job and your expectations.

Ask about applicants’ areas of interest and ability. Some types of reading might be best handled by someone with some knowledge in the subject area. Examples include foreign language, mathematics,
science, and courses with medical terminology.

Ask about applicants’ schedules. Are they available during class hours to read tests? Are they available at other times to assist you with library research? Have they had other jobs before?Do they often have other engagements which you perceive might interfere with their ability to meet your deadlines? Making poor grades because I chose not to do my own work was a pill I sometimes had to swallow. Making poor grades because my readers neglected their work and I had to cram left a very bitter taste in my mouth and often motivated me to look for new readers.

Have applicants read materials similar to those they will be required to read.

1. Do they read too fast or too slow? How do they respond when you ask them to speed up or slow down?

2. How do they handle unfamiliar words?

3. Do they interrupt the reading to make comments or summarize?

4. How clearly do they describe pictures, diagrams, graphs,
etc.?

Once you have your readers chosen, the key to a good working relationship (and your success) is your ability to run your business. You must handle the financial aspect as well as make sure that your readers’ work is done in a way that will give you the information you need.

Paying Your Readers

Your readers need to know how often they will be paid. Some state agencies which pay for reader service require the client to send in a form before they will send the money. In this case, it is best to pay the reader out of your pocket and reimburse yourself when the check comes from the state agency. Readers came to you because they need money, and they generally cannot afford to wait several weeks to get paid. Also inform the readers of the pay rate. I keep a log of hours, and so do my readers. This way there are no discrepancies regarding the amount of money I owe a reader.

When I have material read on cassette without my supervision, I pay by the amount of cassette time, not by the amount of time the reader spends correcting errors. I once had a reader bill me for 14 hours of time when I received four hours of cassette. I could only afford to pay for 45 hours of reading per month, and I felt that she must have been extremely perfectionistic about her reading. This is a good quality in a reader, but there is a limit to the amount I am willing to pay for this kind of reading. We came to a mutual agreement that I would no longer be able to employ her, and I found another reader who was able to read fluently without making many corrections on the cassette.

Time Management

You may find it helpful to set up a schedule so that you know the reader will be available. There may be days when the reader is not needed, but it may be helpful for both of you to know that there is a specific time when he or she may be called and expected to come and read.

Even if the reader is reading on tape, have the reader read while you are present. This will allow you to monitor what is being read. If you do allow a reader to record material without supervision, monitor progress by giving reasonable deadlines and insisting that they be met. You hired your reader so that you would have timely access to information.

Making Sure The Job Is Done Well

If a reader has done a poor job, your access to information could be limited. If the material which was read was related to your schoolwork, poor reading can negatively affect your grades. Therefore, it is important to know how to get the highest quality work out of your reader.

Let the reader know if he/she is reading too fast or too slow. A good reader should be sensitive to your needs.

You should be familiar with the organization of the library and the types of reference materials available there so that you can direct your reader to the information you need when you are doing research. Do not assume that your reader will know where the material is located or how to use the library.

Firing Readers

Firing readers is unpleasant, but it is sometimes necessary. Do not allow other relationships to influence your working relationship. If a reader is not working out and the problem cannot be resolved, then it is necessary to fire him or her. The best way to do this is to be honest and tell the person that you feel that your working relationship is not working out and that you feel it would be best if you found another reader. It is unfair to leave a reader hanging, waiting for you to call about more work.

Conclusion

Working with a reader is not always the most efficient method of gaining access to information. However, when used in combination with other methods, the use of readers is a perfectly good way to get information.

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