[Athen] Feds Give $1.1-Million for E-Textbooks for Vision-Impaired Students

Laurie Vasquez Vasquez at sbcc.edu
Fri Oct 15 09:19:21 PDT 2010

October 14, 2010, 6:07 pm

By Travis Kaya

A pilot program to improve access to e-textbooks for students with
disabilities that make it hard for them to read print got a $1.1-million
grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program announced

The Student E-rent Pilot Project, or STEPP, a public-private
partnership, will digitally format and distribute digital versions of
textbooks for use by students with disabilities like blindness and
dyslexia. Presently, most of these students have to rely on limited
college resources to access these books, but in this program, books will
be electronically reformatted so that they can be read out loud by
computers or e-book readers in a way that makes sense to students. The
grant will help the project add 1,000 books, including 80 percent of the
best-selling textbooks on college campuses.

The partnership is being co-sponsored by digital textbook provider
CourseSmart along with the Alternative Media Access Center of the
University System of Georgia, and the AccessText Network, a nonprofit
organization working with disabled student-services offices on campuses
across the country.

Typically, college students who have trouble with standard book formats
could only turn to their disabled student-services offices to have
textbooks translated into braille or scanned with rudimentary
text-to-speech computer software. *That process is time consuming and
costly,* said access center director Christopher Lee. *The staff
basically have to be publishers.*

With more advanced technology, CourseSmart*a joint venture supported
by several major textbook publishers*and other developers are
digitally reformatting hundreds of books that can be rented online at a
much lower cost to the students and the institutions. Tom Hadfield,
chief technology officer for CourseSmart, estimates that renting
e-textbooks will save students up to 50 percent on their course
material. *Rental is a big movement in the higher-ed course-material
fields,* but without STEPP*s reformatting efforts, *renting
textbooks excludes people with textual disabilities,* he said.

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