29 October 2008

Thanks to the tireless efforts of many dedicated volunteer readers, UQ has, for more than 20 years, been able to support the academic needs of students with a vision impairment.

UQ graduate Elizabeth Richmond who, between 1985 and 2007, spent countless hours recording reading materials onto cassette tapes, is one of the Alternative Print Service’s longest-serving volunteers.

“I’d done a degree as a mature-age student at a time when they weren’t charging any fees, if you can believe that,” Mrs Richmond said.

“I saw an ad in the UQ magazine asking for volunteers to help read for sight impaired students – we had quite a lot of them on campus at the time, a number of whom had guide dogs.

“I was very enthusiastic so I volunteered, and I’ve been reading for them ever since.”

The Alternative Print Service was informally established in the early 1980’s when library staff members volunteered to read texts to audio tape for a blind student.

The University's first Disability Adviser, Rhonda Watson, appointed in 1987, managed the service until 1992, when Colleen Murdoch was employed as a coordinator.

Student Services' Yvonne Watts, who currently oversees the program, said “while advances in technology have eliminated the need for tape reading services, the committed contribution by all volunteer readers in supporting our students will always be remembered and appreciated".

For Mrs Richmond, being a volunteer reader was never a chore, rather an experience which provided her with many fond and amusing memories.

"It was such a nice environment and I was having such a good time," she said.

"The first thing I ever had to read was a law textbook which filled 52 90-minute tapes.

"It was my baptism of fire - I remember saying to my husband: 'if I had a dollar for every time I said end of footnote, return to text, I'd have a lot of money in the bank.'

"I remember going to the library in the city with one lass and her dog because she wanted some research done.

"She took along a Braille typewriter and I was reading aloud so we were getting a few dirty looks from people."

And now that Mrs Richmond's reading skills are no longer required, she has a lot more time to indulge in her other interests, which include Probus, French class, cinema group, book club and play reading group.

The individuals who devoted their time as volunteer readers include:
Hilary Andersen
Joan Apthorp
Coral Archdall
Jan Ashe
Barbara Baker
Josephine Bancroft
Joyce Beeston
Gloria Bracken
Gabrielle Bugala
Sally Carrick
Lesley Colling
William Francis (Bill) Darch
Wynn Davies
Marney Dunn
Marianne Ehrhardt
Hazel Francis
Lurline Gedge
Claire Henderson
Ngaere Henderson
Lyle Humphreys
Isabelle Kearsley
Joan Keefer
Ros Laundon
Helen Lavery
Evan McLay
Ian McMahon
Betty Oliver
Susan Pepper
Rosemary Phillips
Dell Purtill
Elizabeth Richmond
Margaret Ross
Lisa Sanderson
Helen Smith
Joan Sutton
Stella Tumalty
Ilo Merle Woods

Media: Penny Robinson at UQ Communications (07 3365 9723, penny.robinson@uq.edu.au)