[Athen] Online eBook Accessibility

Petri, Kenneth petri.1 at osu.edu
Wed Mar 26 14:07:00 PDT 2014

VitalSource is both mostly EPUB 3 compliant and very accessible with a screen reader. All of this depends on the book, of course, but my experience has been both with books that I sideload into VitalSource (on both Mac and PC) that content accessibility is high and the screen reader is announcing structures such as lists and headings, in addition. MathML renders and the screen reader will access math contents (VitalSource appears to be using MathJax for rendering and MathPlayer for TTS with the math. My experience, since I'm using a newer version of IE and Windows that does not support the current MathPlayer, was that the math read acceptably, since the book apparently had some sort of text equivalent inside the annotation portion of the MathML island.). In books you buy through VitalSource, you can set highlights and take notes on specific highlighted text very effectively using a screen reader. This is literally the only system I have seen where this can be accomplished painlessly and with a high degree of accuracy. The Android and iOS versions of the VitalSource player are less accessible and have fewer features. They seem mostly for review of text. But the PC and Mac VitalSource Bookshelf is highly accessible. Another thing to note for VitalSource on the PC and Mac: though you can sideload EPUB 3 and it will display well, you cannot set notes or highlights on sideloaded content.

CourseSmart is as Dan says: If the book has been processed by AMAC through the STEPP grant program they were running, the underlying book text can be accessed via the web browser version of CourseSmart. You cannot set a hgihlight or take a note using a screen reader in the "accessible" version of their player (which, as Dan says, must be "turned on" on your account via contact with a CS rep -- it's a painless process, but an extra step). Books that have not been handled by AMAC can have flakey content that has very little structure and no alts for images. The AMAC books are quite serviceable, however. It is important to note that the books a user is seeing are scans. The accessible version of the player adds HTML "under" the scans.

I don't know Chegg. Kno is a bust for accessibility. Completely inaccessible when I last looked at it about three months ago on iOS.

Google Play accessibility on iOS has gone backward in recent versions. You now do not have direct access to the book text so there is no way to set highlight or take notes. It is also pretty difficult to use on PC or Mac with the screen reader (delivered within a web browser). I would say, nearly impossible with any level of confidence on PC and Mac. (This is really too bad because Google Play is a great place to store books. All my books are there.)

Kindle on the web (Kindle Cloud Reader) is completely inaccessible, but Kindle does pretty well most other places now. The Kindle apps on iOS and Android have strong accessibility -- settting notes, highlights, navigation, etc. are all quite good now, especially on iOS. On Mac there is no accessible solution. On PC there is a somewhat problematical solution called Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin. It allows for screen reader access to the interface surround the book text and that works fairly well. When it comes to reading the books however, you have to use the built-in TTS engines and navigation shortcut keys, which allow for navigation by sentence and continuous reading only. You cannot move by word or character and you have no direct access to book text in the Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin. You can, however, set a bookmark and make a note, though the note attaches to the entire page, rather than to a specific piece of text.

The Kindle FIre HDX is pretty nifty and, in my view, is the best implementation of Android Talkback for book reading available, currently. Still, screen reader users who want a tablet should probably stick with an iPad mini or other iOS device. Even with all of the work Amazon has done to incorporate Talkback into Kindle Fire HDX, the Android platform does not compare very favorably to iOS.

The problem with Kindle, in the long run, is Kindle books are in a proprietary format that currently does not handle accessible math and does not allow for video or audio. My guess is the Kindle format (KF8) will evolve over the next year and have much more capability. Side loaded content is converted by Kindle into a Kindle readable format, but you lose the ability to sync notes and highlights and page progress is "off" -- progress between platforms for sideloaded content is unevenly reported.

TL;DR: VitalSource on PC or Mac is best. Kindle is coming on strong recently.

[The Ohio State University]
Ken Petri, Program Director
Web Accessibility Center, ADA Coordinator's Office and Office for Disability Services
102D Pomerene Hall | 1760 Neil Ave. Columbus, OH 43210
614-292-1760 Office | 614-218-1499 Mobile | 614-292-4190 Fax
petri.1 at osu.edu<mailto:petri.1 at osu.edu> | wac.osu.edu<http://wac.osu.edu>

From: athen-list [mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman13.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Wink Harner
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 4:00 PM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network'
Subject: Re: [Athen] Online eBook Accessibility

Thanks a million Hadi!

Appreciate your collective contribution.


From: athen-list [mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman13.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Rangin, Hadi Bargi
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 12:53 PM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network
Subject: Re: [Athen] Online eBook Accessibility

Hi Wink,

Ken and I presented at the CSUN last week. We don't have any comprehensive paper to answer all your questions but I guess our presentation at CSUN would provide answers to some of your questions. Maybe Ken and I can coordinate with Norm and present it at EASI for those who couldn't come to CSUN/our session.
I will send you the presentation offline.


From: athen-list [mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman13.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Wink Harner
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 2:28 PM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network
Subject: [Athen] Online eBook Accessibility

Hi out there in ATHEN-Land,

Anyone have any first-hand experience with the use of screen readers or TTS readers with online textbook sources such as:
- Chegg
- CourseSmart
- GooglePlay-
- Kindle
- Kno
- Vital Source

Publisher denied a PDF file and suggested the student purchase one of the electronic versions of the requested book from the sources (above). Student's preference is PDF, but if he can get the file to read aloud, he may be OK. I have asked him for his preference.

What experience do any of you have in the TTS capabilities on any of those e-book sources listed?

Let me know!

Thanks in advance for your collective knowledge.

Wink Harner
foreigntype at gmail.com<mailto:foreigntype at gmail.com>

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