I have found that it’s best if you conduct reader interviews yourself. It’s not always clear to a sighted disabilities office employee how to evaluate someone’s aptitude for becoming a reader. As a part of my interview process, I always give the interviewee one paragraph to read that is dense with scientific terms, and the three following sheets of visual information to describe: a complex calculus equation, a drawing of an acetone molecule, and a figure that depicts a ligand docked in the active site of Klebsiella aerogenes (KA) urease.
I listen, not for their ability to recognize and name symbols and chemical compounds, but for their ability to recite what they see in a manner that is clear, thorough, and accurate. Attention to detail is key. For example, with the urease figure, it is important to read the title and to describe that there is a chemical compound centered on the page, surrounded by multicolored circles with three-letter codes and a four-digit number. It is also important to state that there are different line styles: arrowed, solid and dashed. Most people do not even notice the title at the top of the page! The ability of someone to verbally convey descriptions such as these is more important to me than the ability of someone to understand the biochemistry.
Ligand Docking Image
Ideal Description: “Title of image: 1finalkawideopen-ZINC00388081. Holding the page horizontally, there is a compound in the middle surrounded by multicolored circles. Some of the components of the rings have arrows pointing to some colored circles. The compound seems to be made of 2 rings in the middle, the ring on the bottom is open on 2 sides on the left. From the first ring there is a red point leading to ARG2082, a purple arrow pointing from HN+ to ASP1967 and a purple arrow pointing from HN to H20. From the bottom ring, there is a purple arrow pointing from H3N+ to ALA2109. The two aromatic rings are surrounded on the left side by a greenish/blue line, but it starts to fade as it goes to the right side of the image. Also surrounding the aromatic rings and the line are labels HIS, ALA, VAL, LEU, MET.”
Scientific Text (sampled from my thesis)