2004 Conference Proceedings

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Steve Noble
Policy Analyst
Kentucky Assistive Technology Service Network
8412 Westport Road
Louisville, KY 40242
Phone: (502) 327-0022 x268
Toll-Free: (800) 327-5287
Fax: (502) 327-9974
Email: Steve.Noble@mail.state.ky.us

Elizabeth Coombs
EASI (Equal Access to Software and Information)
PO Box 818, Lake Forest CA 92609
Phone: (949) 916-2837
Email: beth@easi.cc

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), educational entities including public universities and colleges are required to provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure that students with disabilities have effective access to all educational experiences. When students are unable to effectively utilize standard printed textbooks because of a disability, then educational entities must provide effective forms of alternative access to these materials in the form of "reading accommodations," which may include the use of an assigned human reader, books on tape, Braille, large print, or books in electronic formats that can be used with computers or computer-based reading machines. In recent years, textbooks in various digital formats have quickly become the fastest growing preferred alternative format for most students, including both traditional on-campus students as well as students attending via distance learning classes.

Current Factors at Work
A number of factors have been at work in recent years that have helped bring about the digital revolution for alternative format materials. This presentation will discuss a number of these.

With the launch of digital talking book technology by Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, the availability of digital materials at the national level has increased significantly. These digital textbooks are currently being made available in structured audio format, although full-text full-audio textbooks offer the promise of even greater levels of utility to a wider variety of consumers. The current level of availability of RFB&D's AudioPlus materials will be discussed, along with future plans for expansion.

The presentation will also provide an update on the current plans for digital rollout at the National Library Service, and will also outline the availability of instructional materials though Bookshare.org, both being additional national entities through which alternative format materials are being made available. At the state level, some statewide consortiums are being formed which are often facilitated by the passage of authorizing state statutes. This presentation will address two such state consortiums, one newly operational state consortium called the Kentucky Instructional Materials Consortium and the other being the current framework to create a web-based e-text repository within the California State University system.

In addition to national and state efforts to create digital libraries of alternative format materials, it is quite common for universities and other educational entities to create onsite materials in digital materials, either by simply scanning materials and using OCR technology, or by recording human readers using digital audio. This session will provide a brief overview of two such operations, an e-text creation program via scanning at Eastern Kentucky University, and a newly launched program of the Kentucky Department for the Blind to provide postsecondary students in Kentucky with structured full-audio digital textbooks.

Utility and Level of Accessibility
One factor driving the push for digital materials is coming from users themselves, that being the fact that digital materials have a much higher level of effectiveness for most users in most instances. Especially when one considers the variety of output options available for users when both full digital audio and full digital text are both available in a structured and linked environment, such as is available with full-text full-audio digital talking books.

This presentation will examine some of the results of a national study conducted by RFB&D and funded by the U.S. Commerce Department in which students utilized digital textbooks as part of their standard academic curriculum, and will further discuss some of the key factors of digital textbooks which inherently increase the level of accessibility which can be provided by such a format. In this study, students used digital talking book technology in a genuine learning environment and were supplied with books that he or she needed for course work within the context of his or her normal curriculum. Unlike previous DTB consumer testing, this was the first time the technology was used in an educational setting anywhere in the world. Participants in this study included a mix of students with various types and degrees of print disabilities. Most student participants had some form of learning disability, while a smaller percentage of students were blind or had low vision. Schools included in this study were Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ), the University of Montana (Missoula, MT), the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (Austin, TX), the Henry M. Gunn High School (Palo Alto, CA), and the North Dade Middle School (Miami, FL). The results gleaned from students taking part in this study will be shared during the presentation.

Legal Factors at Work
Another important factor is the growth of state legislation designed to place a requirement on textbook publishers. States like California, Arkansas, Kentucky and New York have state laws that mandate that publishers provide accessible electronic versions of textbooks to postsecondary institutions upon request when they are needed by students with print disabilities. This presentation will discuss the availability of digital materials through textbook publishers themselves, and the typical level of accessibility of these materials.

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