[athen] RE: [adtech-ps] Access to E-Text Dilemma (long response)

Berkowitz, Daniel J djbrky at bu.edu
Wed Feb 23 18:25:41 PST 2005


How interesting - I have a similar view on this subject but approach it from a different angle. In my opinion, the provision of textbooks in alternate formats has shifted to a cognitive disabilities paradigm. Every since RFB&D added the "D" in recognition of the then increasing (and now overwhelming) number of students they serve with learning disabilities, student with visual impairments have been losing ground in the minds and actions of disability service providers.

It may not seem like it here - but hang-out on the NABS and ICU Listservs and you will witness a different opinion of how students with blindness and those with low vision are considered and serviced. I have spoken about this with my low-vision students and heard backlash both against the LD population and how the low-vision population has had to put up with alt-text services designed for dyslexics and modified to their needs - instead of the other way around.

Outside of our profession, students for whom English is a second language can benefit from having alt-format materials. Over the past few years I have had low vision students from the Pacific Rim and having access to eText has not only allowed them access to course materials, but also assisted them in improving their English language skills.

Money is of serious concern and for any eText production proposal it should be a central theme - the amount of money to be saved by doing this stuff in house. Of course the OCR-Fullerton letter helps the argument that doing it in-house is faster as well.

As for traditional audiotapes - except for what is readily available from RFB&D and others, I have made the switch to eText for all of my students. Efficiency has increased dramatically as one student eText editor can clean and prep files much faster (and cheaper) than reading and recording. Programs such as Text to Audio and AT&T Natural Voices have allowed me to create audiobooks in a fraction of the time and effort needed to wrangle readers and track their progress.

What eResources the institution is willing and able to offer is also a point to consider. The electronic resources available through campus libraries or subscription library services (money again) are also a resource for our students.

Ron - you ask the direct question "why are our peers in the DS offices so unwilling to embrace this progressive strategy?"

I do not believe it is a matter of being unwilling as much as it is a matter of being unable or unsupported or unfunded or a combination of them all. Your typical DSS office at a smaller institution is a single staff member who has enough on their plate without also having to learn all about eText. There are only so many hours in the day and institutional support for many of our professional peers is limited - at best. It is enough they keep their heads above water trying to keep up with their students basic needs let alone seek to influence or serve those not directly under their area of responsibility.

Look at your job title - Director of Technology Access Program. I am certain you know how very rare your job and its title are. Look through the job titles of the people on these lists see how many are "coordinator" or "specialist" or "technologist" and how few have anything resembling the Director level as concerns technology in their title. Heck, I have "director" in my title but my official job responsibilities do not specifically mention eText or AT as they were written before such things existed. I would love to have a staff position dedicated to these matters.

I have run a one-person office in previous jobs and know how difficult it can be. I suspect that most of our brethren out in postsecondary positions are not technically savvy or do not have the time or knowledge necessary to pursue the skills necessary to provide AT and/or eText. They know it to be important but they simply cannot fathom taking on additional responsibilities - and I do not blame them. How many of us know schools that have set up some sort of AT workstation or lab and it is either ignored by the students or woefully underutilized.

How many other jobs out there call for such a diverse stable of abilities? For a good laugh sometime read some of the job descriptions on DSSHE or in the Chronicle. How many DSS coordinators are expected to be able to read and understand LD documentation, manage AT, counsel psych students, speak to campus facilities, create alt-format texts, have a working knowledge of all sorts of disabilities and issues -- small wonder so many either purposely limit what they do or burn out altogether.

And as for the appreciation that there are 300 people on these two lists -- I am certain you understand that you are speaking to the choir - 300 individuals (a good number of whom may be overlapping lists) out of more than 3,500 colleges and universities and 6,500 registered 'higher education institutions' in the United States alone leaves many out of this discussion.

I am not trying to be depressing but more play the Devils advocate -- in my years of experience I have spoken with and consoled my fellow professionals who are simply overwhelmed with expectations. Why do they not embrace your ideals? -- why not just pour gasoline of the flame ...

To steer back to your original question - comments:

The overall jist of your comments puts one in the mind of Universal Design. For some of the best work available regarding UDL I recommend visiting the website of CAST:
The on-line book Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age is an excellent primer on the topic!

In many ways I place much of the responsibility on the shoulders of K-12 education and how they prepare students for postsecondary education. K-12 must redesign how they create student expectations for services. But that is another topic for another day.

Daniel J. Berkowitz
Assistant Director
Boston University
Office of Disability Services
19 Deerfield Street, 2nd floor
Boston, MA 02215

617-353-3658 (voice)
617-353-9646 (fax)
617-947-4666 (mobile)
djbrky at bu.edu (eMail)
buodsdann (aim)

-----Original Message-----
From: adtech-ps-bounces at lists.oregonstate.edu [mailto:adtech-ps-bounces at lists.oregonstate.edu] On Behalf Of Stewart, Ron
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 9:24 PM
To: adtech-ps at lists.oregonstate.edu; athen at lists.oregonstate.edu
Subject: [adtech-ps] Access to E-Text Dilemma

I would like your feedback, comments and direction to any relevant
research that address this question:

Why is it so difficult to move disability services offices from a
blindness centric model of e-text and alt format provision, to a more
holistic model that is really willing to consider all individuals with
print disabilities?

In our heart of hearts, or at least mine, I think we all know that
access to good quality electronic resources helps to level the playing
field but why are our peers in the DS offices so unwilling to embrace
this progressive strategy. Money is the obvious answer, and the one
that I keep hearing from campuses, but I do not find that to be a viable
response given what I see is the increasing student effectiveness that
is provided by e-text and e-book access.

Can you point me to any research that support my conclusion, and any
that argues against it. Have any of you had to formulate a similar
argument for an e-text production program, what do you think?

Given that there are over 300 people subscribed to these two lists I
hope to hear from more than the usual active participants.


Ron Stewart, Director
Technology Access Program
Information Services
Oregon State University
109 Kidder Hall
Corvallis, Oregon 97331
Phone: 1.541.737.7307
Fax: 1.541.737.2159
E-mail: Ron.Stewart at oregonstate.edu
WWW: http://tap.oregonstate.edu

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