Students with reading disabilities, blindness, and low vision often require high quality electronic files, or e-text, of their course readings so they may have equal access to the curriculum. They may use software to receive that equal access, but only if the e-text is prepared correctly.
Disability Services is responsible for ensuring students have equal access to their required textbooks. All other course materials are the responsibility of faculty and their departments. Disability Services is happy to serve as a resource to faculty in this endeavor.
How to provide e-text for your students
The best way to provide e-text to your students is to offer them the readings as searchable PDFs, accessible websites, or accessible Word documents. Here are some tips on how to get started.
1) If you have an existing PDF, check to see if it is searchable by attempting to select the text on the page. Drag the cursor over text. If it highlights, then your document is searchable. If, instead, the cursor draws a box or tints the entire page, you will need to convert your PDF. This tutorial demonstrates how to create searchable PDFs (.DOCX) through OCR in Adobe Acrobat. Academic Computing makes Adobe Acrobat available to faculty and departments free of charge upon request. Instructional Technologies and Design Services will assist faculty in learning how to use Adobe Acrobat as well.
2) Make sure your image quality is high. If the document was scanned with low resolution or the original was a poor quality photocopy, the student's software may be unable to read it.
3) Ensure the text is clean with no marginalia, underlining, or highlighting, all of which can interfere with the student's software.
4) If you have a high quality hard copy that is clean, a new searchable PDF can be created with a scanner. Department staff can often assist with this process.
5) If you need to obtain a new, clean, original copy, Google the reading and/or search the library databases. Librarians can assist with this. If requesting a document through Interlibrary Loan, be sure to note that you require a "clean and searchable" copy. Don’t waste time creating a new, possibly flawed, copy if a perfect one is already out there.
6) Put the electronic copy in Blackboard or on reserve in library so all students may access it. If you are unable to do this, speak with the student about the best way to share large files with him or her. (They are usually too large for e-mail.)
How to do it wrong
Here are some common mistakes when creating e-text.
1) Don't scan an old Xerox that has been through multiple generations. The student's software won't be able to translate the text when the image quality is so poor. Instead, start with an original clean copy from a book or journal if an existing electronic copy is unavailable.
2) Don't scan a hard copy without making it searchable. The student's software will only "see" a file of images and won't be able to read the text aloud to the student. See above about creating searchable PDFs.
3) Don't scan a hard copy with shadows, underlining, highlighting, and/or marginalia. This will confuse the student's software, as such marks will obscure some letters, change others, and add still more. Make sure you scan a clean copy. See above for tips on how to find one if you don't have one already.
Accessible Readings Have Other Benefits Too