2006 Conference General Sessions

CREATING A SYSTEM WIDE MODEL FOR SERVING STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITY IN POST- SECONDARY SETTINGS

 

Presenter(s)

Christopher M. Lee, Ph.D.
Alternative Media Access Center ,University of Georgia
Day
Phone
: 404—664—7113

Email: leecm@uga.edu

Presenter #2

Carol Pope
Kennesaw State University
, Office of Disability Services
Day Phone: 770—423—6443
Email: cpope@kennesaw.edu

 

Presenter #3

Carolyn Phillips
Georgia Assistive Technology Project, Tools for Life
Day Phone: 404—759—5364
Email: carolynpp@mindspring.corn

 

The purpose of this paper is to outline a pilot project to establish a University System of Georgia Alternative Media Access Center. Under federal law (1973 Rehabilitation Act/1990 Americans with Disabilities Act) students with print disabilities are entitled to the academic and intellectual resources of the nation’s colleges and universities. Through accommodation, these important laws have evened the playing field, providing this population with access to all the possibilities that education can offer. For institutions like the University System of Georgia CUSS), this mandate presents an important challenge - the timely conversion of a diverse and complex array of printed materials into accessible and user-friendly formats. With a growing population of eligible students enrolled in most of the USG’s 34 institutions, it was time to explore better ways to produce and deliver alternative media to students in post—secondary education settings with print disabilities.

During the past three years, a program has been under development at the USA Learning Disabilities Center called the Alternative Media Access Center. The program has involved using WebCT/Vista, an online learning environment, as a conduit to deliver whole textbooks and other readings to students with print disabilities. Students can then listen to electronic texts on their computers with a downloadable screen reader and other adaptive tools.

This delivery system has become the centerpiece of the Alternative Text Model moving steadily toward electronically delivered text (e—text) as the mot accessible, user—friendly, efficient, and cost—effective option to providing this accommodation to students with print disabilities. The recent expansion of on-line learning at all USG colleges and universities makes it possible to apply this model system—wide.

At the completion of the pilot, the program may be expanded to include another segment of USS colleges and universities or all 34 institutions. This program has the potential to streamline and improve the delivery of alternative media to all eligible students with print disabilities system-wide and it is the recommendation of the authors that the USS Alternative Media Access Center be established on the USA campus under the auspices of the Board of Regents.

The term “alternative media” has been chosen in preference to “alternative text” because it is more representative of the final product of document conversion. However, these terms are used interchangeably throughout the proposal.

In 2002/03 there were 131 students who had VI and 346 students with LD who accessed alternative text in USC schools. However, there were 97 students with other types of disabilities who also received alt—text. So the impact of this group must also be considered. For the purposes of this project, however, we will refer primarily to students with LD and visual limitations.

While the numbers of students with VI and ID have not increased at the same rate as the overall number of students with disabilities served, this group continues to grow steadily. It is important to note that with the addition of even one student with a print disability you can add, on average, five textbooks to be provided in alt-text per year (based on the USA LDC experience). System-wide, the number of textbooks requested per student is closer to two per student. This is most likely because some institutions are simply not equipped to fill all requests.

Approximately 20 to 25 percent of students with learning disabilities who registered for services at the USA LDC typically requested printed materials in alternative text. A larger group was actually eligible to receive the accommodation, but did not consistently use it from semester to semester, requesting only the occasional text or reading to be converted.

Overall, the numbers translate into an enormous job for disability service providers (dsps) within the USC. For instance, the actual number of pages produced (scanned, read, etc.) in—house at the UGA LDC, from Spring 2000 through 2002/03 totaled nearly 160,000 pages. Between the academic years of 1998/99 and 2002/03, eligible students at the LDC requested on average 4.3 books per year. It is estimated that the actual number of pages requested by 467 students in 2,030 readings (primarily textbooks), during the entire five—year period, exceeded 800,000 pages in all (based on a conservative estimate of 400 pages per book).

 

While no comprehensive survey has been conducted with dsps serving the USC’s population of students with print disabilities, more informal information has been gathered by groups such as CADSPHS (Georgia Association of Disability Service Providers in Higher Education) which is now Georgia AHEAD (Association for Higher Education Access and Disability). Many of these dsps are struggling to keep up with the students’ requests. Some operate one-person departments that serve all students with disabilities and provide all services with the aid of only a few student workers.

Many have never tapped publishers for electronic files (e-files) and don’t have the time or personnel to clean (proofread, format, add page numbers, etc.) when they do. Some are handing e-files to students directly from publishers, while others ask students to scan in all their own materials. The means and methods are very diverse, prompting the question:
A similar question was the basis of litigation in California and, in fact, was one of the primary reasons for the formation of the High Tech Center Training Unit that now serves more than 108 community colleges across the state with centralized alternative media services.

Clearly, there is a critical imperative for USC institutions to provide timely textbooks in acceptable alternative formats to students with print disabilities - an imperative that currently may not be met across all USC schools.

Availability of Alternative Formats
In 2000, the UGA LDC was serving an increasing number of students requesting books on tape. The alternative text coordinator began outsourcing or procuring as many texts as were already available in alternate formats. It was the quest to “procure” rather than “produce” alternative text that led to: 1) the development of a protocol to search for texts that may already be available in other formats; 2) the establishment of a formal library database of audio collections that were already recorded at the LDC; and 3) the search for better ways to produce alternative text using technology.

Procuring or outsourcing alt-text is a time-consuming but worthwhile task. A dsp at a USC college or university need not conclude that s/he will have to hire a reader, recruit a volunteer, or scan every textbook requested. But few dsps have the time or resources to make a comprehensive search of all available sources for every book requested in alt—text.

In 2002/03, 64 students requested 257 textbooks and other readings in alt—text at the UGA LDC. That year, the percentages of methods of procurement or production at the QUA Regents Center for Learning Disorders.

A total of 71 percent of requests were procured or produced using the most time- efficient and cost—effective methods (i.e. outsourcing and scanning), 29 percent was recorded by paid readers. This moved the UCA LDC closer to the alt—text model than ever before, making better use of all available resources. It is important to note, however, that there will always be a component of students with print disabilities for whom a human reader is the optimum choice of alternative formats and any system-wide program should be designed so that this option continues to be available.

Costs
The cost of the methods of procurement and production vary markedly, with the hiring of student readers representing the most expensive method of producing alternative text. Procuring alt-text from the RFED and the NUB (Special Needs Libraries) are the least expensive options. For example, the cost to convert a single textbook, Herbaceous Perennial Plants by Allan M. Armitage, in a variety of methods. The UGA LDC converted this reference book for a student during the spring 2004 semester. It contains 1,091 pages of species and individual plants in both Latin and English terms. This represents one of the most challenging types of texts to read due to its content and length and would cost approximately $720 for a hired reader to record. This figure is based on the formula that a reader can record approximately 20 pages per 90-minute cassette tape.

Adding in administrative and media costs, the total cost of reading and recording this book is approximately $720. In this instance, the LDC actually obtained an electronic file from the author, a UGA professor. A staff worker was then able to clean the text. It was saved in a Word file on CD and given to the student who accessed the text using Kurzweil 3000. This method cost $299 by comparison, a savings of $421.

Remarkably, these are the types of books dsps are most often called upon to convert in—house — chemistry, biology, statistics, and references — because of the frequent turnover of editions. Faculty members typically prefer to use the latest editions in their classes. Even though every effort was made to obtain these texts in alternate formats using other resources, the LDC needed to convert 47 percent of all texts (29 percent recorded by human readers and 18 percent scanned) requested in 2002/03.

References
1. Board of Regents of the University of Georgia. Annual Reports on Students with
Disabilities, 1998/99—2002/03.
2. UGA Learning Disabilities Center. Alternative Text — A Five Year Comparison of
Data, 1998/99—2002/03.
3. Chancellor’s Office, California Community Colleges. Guidelines for Producing Instructional and Other Printed Materials in Alternate Media for Persons with Disabilities. Preface and Part 1, April 2000.
4. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Stats for College Level Borrowers, National and Georgia, May 2004. This data was collected, compiled and presented by a blind student, Brian Oglesbee, who is a graduate of the University of Georgia.
5. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. University System of Georgia Colleges and Universities with Institutional Memberships to the RFB&D, as of March 2004.
6. USA Learning Disabilities Center. The Cost of Alternative Text Production, March 2004.
7. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Proposed Global Institutional Membership for the University System of Georgia, March 2004.
8. UGA Learning Disabilities Center Website. Alternative Text (Books on Iape) online order access and forms.
http:/ /w ww cc e.u ga ed u/ id ce nt er /s er vice /bco ks/r eguest
9. UGA Learning Disabiiities Center. Alternative Text Request Form (paper).
10. UGA Learning Disabilities Center. Alternative Text Summer Orders 2004 Database.
11. UGA Learning Disabilities Center. Alternative Text Summer Readings 2004
Database.
12. UGA Learning Disabilities Center. Alternative Text Production Options Demo (CD
with purple cover).

13. UGA Learning Disabilities Center. Copyright Statement which appears at the
beginning of each online reading in Vista/WebCT.
14. Chancellor’s Office, California Community Colleges. Guidelines for Producing
Instructional and Other Printed Materials in Alternate Media for Persons with Disabilities. Part 1, Legal Requirements and Appendix V, April 2000.
15. UGA Learning Disabilities Center. Alternative Text Student Agreement.
16. US. Postal Regulation E040 Free Matter for the Blind and Other Physically
Handicapped Persons.
17. UGA Learning Disabilities Center. Alternative Text Library Collections Database.


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