[athen] FW: [DSSHE-L] How many blind objections to PDFs are based on...

Stewart, Ron ron.stewart at oregonstate.edu
Thu Feb 24 16:47:06 PST 2005

This is germane out discussion on e-text


-----Original Message-----
From: Disabled Student Services in Higher Education
[mailto:DSSHE-L at LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU] On Behalf Of Marks, Jim
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2005 4:03 PM
Subject: Re: [DSSHE-L] How many blind objections to PDFs are based on...

I'm glad Carol pointed out that PDF files are a problem for people with
learning disabilities. My office has been discussing whether there is a
difference in e-text for students with learning disabilities and for
those who are blind or visually impaired. One staff member, a person
with a learning disability that impacts her ability to read print
effectively, said that e-text designed for blind users works very well
for people with learning disabilities as well. Yes, many people with
learning disabilities prefer to see the print versions of their
textbooks, especially the visual features of print such as graphics,
photos, etc. However, this can be easily accomplished by reading the
print book along with the e-text. We don't really have to get fancy
with the technology by creating e-text with all the visual features
built in. If we build e-text that works for blind users, then it is
universally accessible. This is very important to consider since the
numbers of college students with learning disabilities hover around 2 to
4 percent of students with disabilities while the blind and visually
impaired comprise about one half of one percent of students with
disabilities. In addition, many of the people who are designing e-text
are not users of e-text. They bring lots of talent to the process, but
they also bring in paradigms biased to visual access to print. If
e-text somehow splits into two camps, one for visual access and one for
non-visual, it could damage accessibility for all people with print
disabilities. There's no problem finding something that works according
to the needs and abilities of a particular individual, but we should
take care not to create an industry standard that won't work for
everyone. For example, my office sometimes does create PDF files, the
inaccessible type, that we give students to use with WYNN or Kurzweil
3000. WYNN and Kurzweil easily convert the PDF files, and students can
sometimes use the exact view features of these programs to see an image
of the book while the program reads what it thinks the image is saying.
We do not build accessible PDF documents, although some colleges and
universities do this routinely. We don't because other file formats
work so much better for everyone. Much depends on how the end user
reads the e-text. Point here is that PDF works for some, but not all.
And, again, please ask for XML version of e-text from publishers. XML
affords the highest degree of universal accessibility, and it's the
standard for K-12 education. Makes sense that higher education would do
the same.

Jim Marks
Director of Disability Services
University of Montana-Missoula
jim.marks at umontana.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: CManchester [mailto:cmanchester at HOWARDCC.EDU]
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2005 3:47 PM
Subject: Re: How many blind objections to PDFs are based on...

It's a problem for LD users also.

Carol Manchester

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