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Updated 8:30 AM June 1, 2004
 

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Spotlight: The gift of sound


Books served as a bonding agent with David Erdody and his father. When his dad's vision was threatened as a result of diabetes, Erdody started to think of a way visually impaired and physically challenged people could continue to enjoy reading.
(Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

Erdody, a computer systems specialist at the English Language Institute, is the founder and operator of AssistiveMedia.org. The Web site provides spoken word recordings from publications such as The New Yorker, Harper's, Scientific American, Wired and Smithsonian, as well as works by independent writers, all typically unavailable to blind and physically disabled people.

Erdody founded Assistive Media (AM) in 1996 and is financially supported by The Glaser Progress Foundation, The Ann Arbor Lions Clubs and other contributors. It is a service that he says "is a pursuit of happiness through the love of reading and passing it on to people with visual disabilities." Erdody says his goal is to close the gap between written text and audio recordings, thereby heightening educational, cultural and quality-of-living standards.

Erdody's efforts recently were recognized by C-SPAN, which named him a winner in its 25th anniversary essay contest. In his entry Erdody told of watching C-SPAN's programming about books with his father. The C-SPAN school bus recently visited Ann Arbor in Erdody's honor and stopped at the Visions 2004 Technology Fair for the blind and visually impaired at Washtenaw Community College.

The service brought raves from Pulitzer Prize-winning author/historian David McCullough, who wrote Erdody expressing his admiration for the project. The organization itself has garnered praise from The New York Times, Yahoo Internet Life, Modern Maturity and Closing the Gap magazines and has been featured on NPR's "Talk of the Nation." RealNetworks Inc., the company that innovated Internet media, named AM the best nonprofit Web site in 1999.

"Although our service was initially developed to aid the blind, many people can benefit from AM," Erdody says. "We reproduce a broad range of copyright-approved materials so that we have a little bit of something for everyone. Not only can our Web site be enjoyed by any persons who need reading assistance, but it also can be used by those who simply enjoy being read to."

With a crew of volunteer readers and U-M work-study students, AM is able to produce hundreds of titles a year. The readings are free and available at http://www. AssistiveMedia.org.

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