Access to Academic Materials for Post-Secondary Students with Print Disabilities
Service Provider Survey
Section A: Institutional Information
1. What type of institution do you work in?
29 (43.28%) University
Universities and community colleges clearly dominate the response base, accounting for almost 75%. CEGEPs, which are located only in Quebec, post 11.94% of respondents, followed by “other”, with an identical share of respondent institutions. Technical/vocational schools are represented by just under 3% of the total responses. Among those who answered “other” for this question, seven indicated they are employed in university colleges – an institution type most common in British Columbia –, two indicated employment in a regional college, one person simply indicated ‘college’ and another provided ‘CEGEP QBC’ as a response.
2. What is the [name, and] province/territory, of your institution?
Chart 38 shows the representation of service providers by province: Ontario 17, Quebec 12, British Columbia 11, Alberta 10, Nova Scotia 7, New Brunswick 5, Manitoba 3, Newfoundland and Labrador 1.
In order to protect anonymity of service provider respondents, we are not publishing the names of schools in this report.
The meaningful statistics to emerge from this table show that in Ontario, only one technical/vocational school responded, and that in Alberta, half of the responses came from community colleges. CEGEPs are limited to Quebec, so that number of schools of this type is not surprising. The category “other” primarily represents university colleges, which is a description of post-secondary institutions in BC. Overall, universities represent 44% of institutions represented in the service provider survey. Community colleges represent 30%, CEGEPs 12%, technical/vocational represent 3% of institutional responses, and “other” accounts for just over 10%.
3. Estimate how many students who require disability-related accommodations attend your institution?
The numbers provided in response to this question range from a low of two applicable students at a single institution to a high of 1,376. The following table displays the breakdown by province.
The three largest groups, as reported by the service providers are Ontario, with 8,806 students with disabilities, British Colombia with 4,304, and Alberta with 3,350.
4. How many students with print-based disabilities are registered with your office?
The breakdown of province by students with print disabilities is as follows:
According to our respondents, Alberta, New Brunswick, and Quebec have a higher proportion of students with print disabilities amongst the student population with disabilities. An interesting comparison can be made in terms of the numbers of students with print disabilities as a percentage of the overall students with disabilities population reported by the 67 service providers representing 55 schools.
The provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia reported a lower print disability student percentage than all others. New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Nova Scotia each have between 21% and 36% students with print disabilities. By far the largest number of represented students with print disabilities is in Nova Scotia, where 52% of the student population with disabilities have a print disability. It should be noted here that just under 49% of our student respondents were studying in Ontario.
5. Is your office the sole provider or producer of alternate format materials in your institution?
A large proportion of service providers answered that their office was the sole supplier of alternate format material. Our survey indicated that 67.16% of post-secondary institutions are the sole suppliers, whereas 32.84% are not.
Of those who are sole suppliers, 20 are universities (44%), 14 are community colleges (31%), three are CEGEPs (6%), two are technical/vocational institutions (4%), and six are “other” (13%). By province, the breakdown of those service providers who report that their institution produces in-house alternate format academic materials is as follows: Ontario 11 (24%), British Columbia 9 (20%), Alberta 8 (17%), Quebec 7 (15%), Nova Scotia 4 (8%), Manitoba 3 (6%), New Brunswick 2 (4%), and Newfoundland & Labrador 1 (2%). It is important to note that the question asks about provision and production.
Several write-in answers were provided for this question, suggesting other bodies that offer alternate format services. Most commonly cited were libraries, interlibrary loans and other academic departments. A small percentage of respondents indicated they obtain materials through provincial organizations such as CILS in British Columbia and the W. Ross MacDonald School in Ontario.
Service providers in the Maritimes indicated reliance on several different institutions, in addition to their own school, for alternate format materials. A community college in Nova Scotia indicated they provide services in partnership with the province’s department of education, while a Nova Scotia university respondent said the Atlantic Centre of Support for Disabled Students helped with the provision of alternate format materials. One university respondent in New Brunswick mentioned they obtain materials specifically from the University of Montréal library.
In Quebec, an array of different answers was also offered. Specifically, a division between CEGEPs in the east and west of the province was mentioned, with those in the west using the services of CEGEP du Vieux Montréal and those in the east obtaining materials from CEGEP du Ste. Foy. Several respondents indicated the use of one or the other of these institutions. Braille Jymico and SQLA were also mentioned as service providers for alternate materials in the province.
6. How many of the following people work in the disability services office or department?
This table shows all responses to the question of staffing in the disability service offices.
From the accompanying graphic charts it can be deduced that there is no ‘typical’ profile for any of the disability services in terms of staffing. There is a wide range of numbers given for each category. The highest for full-time is 40, while most schools indicate full-time staff of one-six. The highest for part-time for one institution is 20, while the average is in the one-five range. For volunteers there is a high is 50 to a low of zero. Paid student employees range from a high of 40 to a low of zero. Most service providers employ one-five paid student employees, likely through the Work Study program.
In addition to the answer options provided for this question, a respondent from an Alberta technical school indicated the institution contracted with 15 service providers.
Provision of Alternate Formats
7. How is the provision of alternate format materials funded?
6 (9.52%) Internal sources
Almost two-thirds of service providers report that their funding comes from both internal and external sources. One-quarter report that funding comes from external sources, and almost 10% indicate internal funding. One service provider chose ‘not applicable’, and five did not answer the question. British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario have the highest proportion of funding coming from both internal and external source (of the provinces with large response rates). Two-thirds of Quebec service providers report that their funding for alternate formats is received from external sources.
All relevant responses from Quebec service providers indicated that the provincial ministry of education provided funding for the production of alternate format materials. A university service provider indicated the institution has used ministry funding for various alternate format production-related expenses, including hiring a volunteer co-ordinator, and the purchase of technology such as scanners, alternate format software and MP3 players. One college in the province made the distinction that the ministry funds production of alternate format materials for students with visual disabilities, while the college itself funds production of materials for those students with learning disabilities.
A respondent from an Alberta technical school mentioned that the institution covers costs associated with alternate format materials when external funding is not available or is insufficient. At a university college in British Columbia, an internal student employment program provides staff to help with the production done in-house, while the school accesses an external grant if students need financial assistance to source their own materials. A Nova Scotia respondent indicated government funding was accessed through the department of education, under the LMAPWD Federal-Provincial agreement.
8. Does your institution produce in-house alternate format academic materials?
A large majority of respondents (77.27%) indicated that their institution does produce in-house alternate formats, with 23.73% responding that this isn’t the case at their institution. Table 28 shows the number of institutions per province that produce in-house and the percentage that these institutions represent from the overall provincial numbers of institutions responding.
In the open-ended section of this question, one Ontario community college respondent indicated their institution produces “any material requested”. Another institution primarily produces course packs, “after the student has purchased the print copy and the bookstore has sent us the electronic copy.” A Quebec college service provider said their institution produces lecture notes in alternate formats, while an Alberta technical school mentioned in-house production of handouts.
One Quebec university respondent expressed concern with course pack production at their institution, writing, “We need to go further with course packs. Our bookstore has been helpful, but we still find that PDF files are a problem in terms of access.”
If yes, which of the following do you produce?
Clearly, exams and textbooks are most often produced. The statistics reveal a big gap ‘beyond the textbook’ especially for accommodations for supplemental readings, online courses, databases, periodical indexes, Web resources and coursepacks. This, it could be argued, shows the need for more information, training, awareness, and collaboration between service providers and librarians.
9. Where are your in-house alternate format academic materials produced?
The Disability Service Centre is by far the most common place for the production of in-house materials (46). The second largest single response was for the campus print shop (10). The library was reported to produce in-house materials by three respondents, with 13 choosing “other”.
Of those who elaborated on “other”, a university respondent in Quebec mentioned that service providers at the institution do a great deal of scanning, as well as conversion of materials into MP3 files. However, the respondent added, they encourage students to use their adaptive technology to read file formats “when appropriate and possible.” A Nova Scotia college respondent wrote that some students produce materials themselves, using technology received through the Canada Study Grant, while a Newfoundland college produces some material at their institution, and some is produced by local businesses for the college. Finally, an Alberta technical school respondent indicated “some programs have produced materials directly for the student.”
10. How would you rate the quality of in-house productions of alternate format academic materials?
Fifty-one (of 67) respondents chose to answer this question (which could be considered a low response rate). Of these, just one reported that they would rate the quality of in-house materials as poor. Twenty said that it was average, twenty-three good, and 7 that it was excellent.
While open-ended responses for this question indicated that, for the most part, service providers are happy with the quality of materials produced in-house, limited resources, staff unfamiliarity with technology and the time involved in production all play a role in reducing the potential quality of such materials.
One respondent wrote, “We rarely have time for editing properly,” while an Ontario community college respondent indicated, “Exams are perfect, but text and workbooks have OCR errors.” An Alberta respondent expressed satisfaction with the quality of materials, but said that the quantity that needs to be produced in alternate formats poses a problem. Another respondent in that province stated that audio material is currently produced on tape at the institution, and the quality would be better if it was produced in digital format. One area of interest, or concern, is that while 59% responded here that production quality was good to excellent in question 22, only 32% of service providers state that they provide the whole book with illustrations, side bars, etc.
11. How many of the following people are involved in this in-house production of alternate format academic materials?
The above totals indicate 82 full-time staff, 65 part-time, 44 volunteer, and 62 paid students are involved in production on campuses across Canada based on our respondent group of service providers. Only seven respondents reported no staffing for in-house production.
12. If your alternate format academic materials are produced elsewhere, or in conjunction, where do such materials and services come from?
The responses were: 28 Provincial/Territorial/Regional Resource Centre, 21 Canadian, National Institute for the Blind, 31 Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, 26 Self-production (by the student), 19 Other. Respondents could select more than one choice.
An area of possible confusion in the responses to this question may be that for those who responded their alternate formats came from, for example, CNIB or RFB&D, these alternate formats could also be coming through the provincial resource centre without the service provider being aware of the source. It is important to note here that Canadians can only get taped books from RFB&D, not current technology such as DAISY books.
A few service providers wrote that materials are increasingly coming from publishers in electronic formats. In Quebec, institutions indicated that private organizations, such as Braille Jymico, produce materials in Braille, while the previously mentioned CEGEP du Vieux Montréal and CEGEP du Ste. Foy were also mentioned here, as were SQLA and SAIDE. The majority of respondents from Ontario providing open-ended responses indicated materials are sourced from the W. Ross MacDonald School, though one respondent mentioned the organization is too slow in providing materials for their students.
RFB&D and CNIB were both mentioned once as sources for alternate format materials, and a Nova Scotia university mentioned that other libraries in provinces that are part of CAER were called upon to provide materials. A Newfoundland & Labrador community college respondent mentioned that text enlarging was done by a “local Mail Boxes company,” while an Alberta community college obtains some materials from the Edmonton Public Library.
13. What percentage of your budget is allocated for the production of alternate format academic materials?
This question returned the least amount of responses in the entire survey. As indicated in the open-ended comments, there was difficulty in separating the proportion of the budget that went toward the production of alternate format materials from the overall disability services budget. Also, there is a marked discrepancy in the proportion of a budget allocated for this production between the beginning of each semester and the remainder of the academic year. Another factor appears to be that many of the respondents simply had little control over the bookkeeping and accounting aspects of their operation so could not accurately estimate the allocation of resources.
The responses in Chart 48 represent the following percentages (from 0-20%; 6 said 0, 3 indicate 1%, 2% or 3%, 2 indicated 15%; 1 indicated 16%).
Some comments were provided for this question. A college in Quebec commented that the cost involved in production is “negligible, except for man hours,” while an Ontario college respondent wrote, “No idea, we just do it.” A respondent in Manitoba said that some funds for alternate format materials are taken from the proctor budget, and a Nova Scotia community college relies on in-kind partnerships to secure funding. What would be useful in further study is which post-secondary institutions operate with and without an internal budget for alternate formats and relative impacts of the allocation of resources.
14. What type of training is required and/or given for disability service staff/volunteers who are involved in the production/delivery of alternate format materials?
The amount of training that disability services staff undergo ranges from quick tutorials in programs and software use, to full hands-on training with professionals. What emerges from the survey responses is that the situation, on the whole, is far from uniform or satisfactory. It must be borne in mind, however, that there are quite a variety of experiences in the staff that work at these centres, such that some require only training in the recent technologies, and others new to the field require full training.
While a small number of respondents to this question indicated that no training was provided for staff and volunteers specifically for alternate format production, many noted that in-house training was provided in software and adaptive technology (Kurzweil training being a popular answer), to degrees varying from “some” to “in-depth”. Still others wrote that staff is largely self-taught on alternate format technology. Several institutions noted that the focus is more on training students on the use of adaptive technology, rather than training staff on such things. And this is borne out by students who told us that, for the most part, they receive training.
A respondent indicated that at their institution, “Work-study students are trained on the computer technology and software. We request feedback from the students who are receiving the materials, and then put them in direct contact, so if there are any issues (formatting, software etc.) they can be dealt with directly.”
A CEGEP respondent wrote that staff at the institution were given the opportunity to attend a conference on the production of alternate format materials. A respondent in British Columbia indicated that tutorials were provided for scanning, Braille and audio recordings. At one institution, noted a respondent, an instructional handout was provided to those doing readings on cassette tapes, while more advanced users are shown how to convert files into MP3 format.
15. Who within your institution is responsible for the production and dissemination of alternate format academic materials and information to the students?
A variety of different responses were provided for this question. Many indicated that disability service centre staff are responsible for such activities, either as a team or led primarily by the disability services co-ordinator. Others indicated the work is conducted jointly by the disability service centre and the educational institution’s library, with one handling the production of materials and the other responsible for ensuring materials are distributed to students. One community college in Newfoundland relies on a collaborative effort between the disability services co-ordinator and instructors, while a respondent in Alberta stressed that educational departments should bear more responsibility. Finally, one respondent noted “It is our office. But, ideally, it should be a shared activity/function with the library and the bookstore.” We must acknowledge here that British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba have provincial funding for production of alternate formats.
Fifty-three of 66 responses (80%) reported that the disability service centre was responsible for the production and dissemination of academic material and information in alternate formats. Six respondents (9%) answered that the library was responsible. Lastly, seven (10.6%.) answered that “other” was responsible for this production and dissemination.
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