[athen] RE: more e-text discussion

Stewart, Ron ron.stewart at oregonstate.edu
Fri Feb 25 07:47:34 PST 2005


Hope you don't mind but I would like to share your email and my response with the group. I would not be surprised at all, we all deal with a lot of ignorance, and maybe it is just me but ignorance seems to be an epidemic these days.

I have had very similar discussions when doing sessions on e-text production, and in working with uniformed DS folks in explaining why this transition is necessary. People want to focus the entire conversation on why an MP3 file, or any audio file is good enough to meet the needs of the majority of individuals with print disabilities. That is the same misguided thinking that says audio tapes are good enough and we do not need to consider moving to a digital medium. It also reflects the same ignorance that says a dump of a scanned book to a cdrom, without editing is access. When we focus on the technology instead of on the purpose for using the technology we do a disservice to our clients and to our emerging profession.

The position typically is that their clients were all happy, that it is inexpensive to produce and very portable. Things that I would agree with on the surface, but in actuality are totally unrelated to the purpose for providing the access in the first place, and that is to access the curriculum. If they students choose to ignore their other options and just use a audio file for access then that is their choice, a poor one in my opinion, but that does not relieve us of our responsibility to show them the potentials.

Also when I hear that users are satisfied with a limited solution, first my blood pressure goes way up, then I have to ask what other options are provided to the clients so that they really can see what the possibilities are and which ones meet their individual needs. This is the same kind of thinking error that we encounter from administrators who say we do not have a problem because no one is complaining.

However the question really should be, if we are acting as professionals in the field of access technologies; how can we provide equitable access to the curriculum for our users that truly gives them a level playing field? As has often been stated this can not be done with an MP3 file, it is not indexed and does not allow for efficient use of the material, i.e. the ability to navigate it. We can not separate the technology or delivery mechanism from the teaching and learning process. The most successful students are those that know how to best access the required information to complete a required learning activity. With a text book that is done by drilling down into the material to the exact material required, and this can only be done with an ability to scan the material an almost impossible task with a typical audio file.

Listening to John Grisham on a audio book is a worthwhile leisure activity. Finding a specific set of cause and effect relationships is a learning activity which requires a specific set of tools and skills.

Now for your question:

XML is a meta-data based information structuring system, not really just a data delivery mechanism. It allows for the delivery of information into whatever format is desired as long as the appropriate data structure is contained in the underlying database, and the retrieval tool supports the data structure. For example, if I had the entire electronic textbook in my XML based book repository I could query the system for the book, and have it provided as an MP3 file or as a structured e-text file so that it could be brailed.

Ron Stewart


From: Robert Lee Beach [mailto:rbeach at toto.net]
Sent: Fri 2/25/2005 6:14 AM
To: Stewart, Ron
Subject: Re: [adtech-ps] FW: [DSSHE-L] How many blind objections to PDFs arebased on...

I really like that this person pointed out one fact. Many of the people
producing e-text are not users themselves. You'd be surprised how many
people I've argued with regarding the importance of indexing audio text.
They think they can just begin recording, turn the tape over when they ge
to the end, and keep going. Or, if producing on CD, they don't see the
need for marking the beging of pages with even the page numbers, much less
marking them so that each page is a separate track. I did get one person
to admit that producing whole chapters wasn't really the best for the
student, so they break the tracks into 5 or 10 minute segments. How
helpful is that? You then have to provide an index to show what pages are
included in each segment or the user still cannot find what they're looking
for without going through the whole CD.

Now, I have a question. I know XML can be displayed through a browser, but
how effective is it for production into, say, audio CD, MP3, or braille?


I know this is going to sound a bit
At 04:47 PM 2/24/2005 -0800, you wrote:

>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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Robert Lee Beach, Assistive Technology Specialist
Kansas City Kansas Community College
7250 State Avenue
Kansas City, KS 66112
Phone: (913) 288-7671
Fax: (913) 288-7678
E-Mail: rbeach at toto.net

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