Accessibility and eTexts

My favorite part of the sandbox experience is the conversations that I have with participants.  Each participant brings a unique perspective to the sandbox topics.   I have learned so many useful, beneficial things from these conversations!

One of the unique perspectives on e-texts for me was a conversation that I had with Valerie Schoolcraft,  e-Text Sandbox participant and Director of Disability Services here at JMU.  Valerie and I talked about accessibility and e-texts.

When it comes to accessibility, e-texts and e-readers offers so much promise.  Unfortunately there is a  huge gap between the promise of a  universally usable device or software and the reality of the current devices and software.

The web for the Office of Disability Services states its mission —  “Disability Services assists the University in creating an accessible community where students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to fully participate in their educational experience at JMU.”  They work hard to make sure that students facing different functional limitations,  including vision and hearing impairments, motor disabilities, or reading and attention problems, receive appropriate accommodates.

As we look at e-texts, we need to consider accessibility for students.

The sandbox discussions have touched on the variety of electronic formats for e-texts.  Some formats are more useful than others  when it comes to accessibility. Accessible formats include, ePub, Daisy, PDF, and HTML.   E-book reader technologies, whether devices, web-based services, or installed software,  offer varying levels of accessibility. The Diagram Center established by the US Department of Education  (Office of Special Education Programs)  maintains a product matrix of e-book hardware and software that is a useful resource for checking on accessibility.

On her blog No Shelf Required, Sue Polanka includes an interview with Ken Petri, the Director of the Web Accessibility Center at The Ohio State University.  The 25-minute audio podcast provides an excellent overview of accessibility and e-books. The post “Accessibility and eBooks – Resources and an Interview” (October 6, 2010) also includes  links to resources  recommended by Petri  on accessible formats, e-readers, and  e-book repositories.   In an update, Polanka wrote “Accessibility and eReaders: functional requirements,” with useful links to the book chapter written by Ken Petri on e-book accessibility for her publication No Shelf Required 2:  Use and Management of Ebooks (ALA Editions, 2012).


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