[athen] RE: [adtech-ps] FW: [DSSHE-L] How many blind objections to PDFs arebased on...

Berkowitz, Daniel J djbrky at bu.edu
Fri Feb 25 08:07:14 PST 2005

Sometimes we get so caught up in the technology that we forget its original intent. In the case of eText usage by LD students, the change over to electronic text is primarily so that we can make use of new technologies such as TTS programs and MP3 conversions. Simply to provide a better avenue towards providing the student with an audible version of the textbook that is faster to create than traditional audio taping.

LD student will still have access to - and I expect them to use - their textbooks. The whole purpose of audio versions of their textbooks is that it allows them a multisensory approach to the material which will enhance their comprehension and alleviate the impact their diagnosed disability has on their ability to access their course materials efficiently. Audio or eText for LD students is not supposed to replace the textbook - it is supposed to enhance the student's ability to access the material.

In many cases we have to remind and teach/re-teach our students why they are getting this accommodation and how they are supposed to be using it. An eye opener for me were two students I had years ago who shunned RFB&D tapes and wanted them recorded in-house.

Student #1 made the case that RFB&D tapes recorded everything - every detail, picture caption, footnote, chart, etc. and she did not need all of this. Her LD impacted her ability to read large blocks of text and all of the extraneous stuff was distracting and time consuming. Especially the science and biology books she had to read. This was a fair and understandable request.

Student #2 did not like the RFB&D books because of the 4-track recording. She told me straight out that she wanted to listen to the books on her car stereo while commuting. When I explained to her how she was supposed to make us of her books on tape - she balked and told me she never bought the textbooks. This request was rejected.

We also have to recognize that LD is an umbrella term and it covers many different types of cognitive learning issues. Many of us are not only responsible for providing the alt-format materials, but are also responsible for determining the validity of the request and specifically to what extend the student will receive the accommodation. I have had students who insisted upon getting books on tape because of their LD only to find out that for their K-12 years they had been getting this service and not needed it because their diagnosed condition did not warrant it. Then we find ourselves in the position of weaning these students off their learned helplessness.

In the eText production process for LD students, I instruct my editors to remove all pictures, charts, graphs, etc. because the student will have the textbook and be reading along. This is especially so when the books are to be converted into MP3. I do have them replace pictures with text informing the reader that a picture, etc. has been removed and to refer to the text and page number.

However, flexibility is the most beautiful things about eText. Nothing gets erased and raw scans that have graphics can be edited in a different format as necessary. I can take one book and produce it in multiple formats for different end-users specific needs.

And if I may remind the list of my comments yesterday - among us we may know the difference between WYNN and K3000, what XML is, how these processes work and their function and we may even have staff dedicated to doing all of this stuff. Keep in mind that outside of this list and even outside of the DSSHE list or others is a vast number of our fellow professionals who know none of this and/or do not have the resources to pursue it. Let us not get so technical in our thinking that we forget them.


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)


From: adtech-ps-bounces at lists.oregonstate.edu on behalf of Stewart, Ron
Sent: Thu 2/24/2005 7:47 PM
To: adtech-ps at lists.oregonstate.edu; athen at lists.oregonstate.edu
Subject: [adtech-ps] FW: [DSSHE-L] How many blind objections to PDFs arebased on...

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

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