An important criteria for an access assistant is an understandable voice. This is particularly true for the access assistant recording my materials, but it applies to whomever I work with. Difficult accents, indistinct pronunciations, and quietness can, unfortunately, prove to be a barrier between me and information. Every person is different in what voices they can and can’t readily understand. Some accents are easy for me to understand and do not pose any problem whatsoever, while some accents are extremely difficult. I prefer access assistants who can speak quickly. It will be different for every visually-impaired and blind student. In the end, the call should be made by the student rather than the disabilities office.
Some people, when faced with a page of text and asked to read, will speak the whole thing in a steady stream as if it were one sentence. For me, it is much more difficult to track with content when things like paragraph breaks, commas, semi-colons, and even periods are not reflected in the recording. Punctuations marks exist visually for a reason: to provide clarity and display organization of thought.
I need to have the same clarity and organization reflected in the recordings I listen to. An excellent access assistant is set apart by their attention to the non-verbal parts of writing, namely, punctuation and structure. They have an understanding of the functions of different punctuation marks, and indicate them with appropriate pauses and pacing.
See Recording Method
for some very specific guidelines I give access assistants about recording scientific articles.
Accurate, fluent verbal expression of mathematical equations is not a common skill, even in people who specialize in math and science. Therefore I often do a bit of training for my access assistants. To begin, I make sure they memorize the greek alphabet, learn the proper terminology, and know the correct order to read each of the phases in a long equation. Some instructions that I give them are very simple. For example, I ask them to make sure they name brackets and parentheses correctly. There are many such details that a sighted person breezes over because they are used to reading and writing math, not speaking it. Once I am confident about an access assistants ability, I might also assign them to record the equations in the articles/chapters to be added to my library of recordings. I have mathematical expressions recorded separately from the main body the text and saved in a separate file within the larger folder. It is helpful to have equations quickly accessible, rather than having to listen through the entire paper/chapter.