[Nmabs] Textbooks for disabled, Particularly College Students

David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Thu Sep 3 21:42:49 CDT 2009


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> From 
> <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/08/28/access>http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/08/28/access 
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>Textbooks for the Disabled
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>August 28, 2009
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>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.
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>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.
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>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.
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>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.
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>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.
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>AccessText aims to mitigate these woes by streamlining the request 
>and delivery process, says Ed McCoyd, executive director for 
>accessibility affairs at AAP.
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>"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."
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>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.
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>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.
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>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.
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>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.
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>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."
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>The network includes 92 percent of all college textbook publishers 
>and is recruiting even more, according to AAP officials.

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