[Nmabs] Textbooks for disabled, Particularly College Students
dandrews at visi.com
Thu Sep 3 21:42:49 CDT 2009
>Textbooks for the Disabled
>August 28, 2009
>The Association of American Publishers and the University of Georgia
>this week unveiled an electronic database aimed at making it easier
>for blind, dyslexic and otherwise impaired college students to get
>specialized textbooks in time for classes.
>The database, called <http://www.accesstext.org/>AccessText, is
>designed to centralize the process by which electronic versions of
>textbooks are requested by colleges and supplied by publishers.
>Experts say it will allow disabled students to get their textbooks
>more efficiently, help colleges save money and avoid lawsuits, and
>protect publishers' copyrights.
>For students whose disabilities prevent them from using traditional
>texts, the normally straightforward task of acquiring books for
>their courses can be tedious and frustrating. Federal law requires
>that colleges and universities provide disabled students equal
>access to educational materials, but this is often easier said than
>done. College officials have to track down and contact the publisher
>of every textbook that each of its disabled students buys and
>request an electronic copy. If such a copy exists -- the likelihood
>shrinks the older the book and the smaller the publisher -- college
>officials still have to convert the file to a format that can be
>read by whatever reading aid the student uses. If not, the college
>has to wait, sometimes weeks, to obtain permission to scan the book
>and create its own electronic version.
>Once a college has an electronic copy, converting to a readable
>format can be another complex process, says Sean Keegan, associate
>director of assistive technology at Stanford University. Math and
>science texts often arrive as scanned pages, and cannot always be
>easily read by the character-recognition software the university
>uses to turn them into standard electronic files, Keegan says. "That
>can take a longer amount of time to process that material internally
>and turn it around and give that to the student efficiently," he says.
>Meanwhile, delays in the process can make it impossible for disabled
>students to prepare for and participate in classes. "Students need
>to have a book in time so they can do the assigned reading and study
>for tests and papers," says Gaeir Dietrich, interim director of
>high-tech training for the California Community Colleges system. "So
>if the book doesn't come until the term has been in session for
>three or four weeks, that puts that student very far behind." Some
>students have sued colleges over such delays, she says.
>AccessText aims to mitigate these woes by streamlining the request
>and delivery process, says Ed McCoyd, executive director for
>accessibility affairs at AAP.
>"There's a lot of transactional friction taking place currently,"
>says McCoyd. "What AccessText is trying to do is take some of that
>out of the transaction by having parties agree to streamlined rules up front."
>Having colleges submit requests using the AccessText portal should
>eliminate the need for the publishers to require endless paperwork
>with each request to protect its copyrights, McCoyd says. Under the
>system, the copyright protection agreements can be handled once,
>during registration, and the requester's bona fides can be verified
>by a log-in.
>Currently, colleges that get tired of waiting for publishers to
>process the paperwork and procure an electronic copy of a text
>sometimes just scan a text themselves to try to satisfy the needs of
>disabled students in a timely fashion, says Dietrich.
>AccessText is also set up to eliminate the need for different
>colleges to convert the same text to a readable format once it is
>acquired. Currently "numerous schools could be doing the exact same
>thing, converting the same text," says Bruce Hildebrand, executive
>director for higher education at the publishers' association. Under
>the new system, "if one school has already spent the time and the
>money to convert a file to a format, they could advise the
>AccessText network, which could then make the info available that it
>was still available in that format, and that school could share it
>with another school" -- thereby sparing those colleges the time and
>resources it would have used to convert the file themselves, he says.
>Eight major publishing houses paid a total of just under $1 million
>to develop the AccessText network and maintain it through its beta
>phase, which will end next July. From then on, it will sustain
>itself by billing member colleges between $375 and $500 annually,
>depending on size.
>Dietrich notes that community colleges might not benefit from the
>AccessText network as much as other institutions, since "we have a
>lot more vocational classes and basic-skills classes, and a lot of
>those books don't come through those big publishers, they come
>through specialized publishers," she says. "It doesn't solve that
>part of the problem for us."
>The network includes 92 percent of all college textbook publishers
>and is recruiting even more, according to AAP officials.
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