Access to Academic Materials for Post-Secondary Students with Print Disabilities
Service Provider Survey
Section C: General Questions
26. Are there any barriers that prevent you from maximizing your services to students with print disabilities?
Just a quarter of respondents report that there are no barriers. Almost exactly three-quarters state that there are barriers that prevent them from maximizing their services. This is a large and worrisome number. The second part of this question asked participants to identify the barriers.
If yes, what are they? Check all that apply.
Clearly, issues of funding and of equipment are the biggest barriers to delivering academic materials to students, with delays cited next. The majority of answers in the comments provided alluded to the fact some instructors choose course reading materials fairly late in the semester planning process, thereby reducing the amount of time disability service providers have to reproduce materials into alternate formats. One Quebec respondent added that sometimes it is the students themselves that do not provide sufficient advance notice for alternate format requests. Another related roadblock cited is that students must wait to obtain funding for alternate format materials, which sometimes does not arrive until classes have already begun. Another concern raised relating to course materials is that course packs sometimes contain what one respondent termed “illegible articles.”
Three respondents cited concerns with having to deal with external agencies for alternate format production. One British Columbia university college respondent wrote that the provincial external agency is unable to keep up with the demand for alternate format materials, while an Ontario service provider pointed to the money and time required to deal with outside agencies as problematic. One respondent noted that RFB&D won’t send electronic format texts to Canada, which limits the easy availability of materials in such formats.
Finally, three respondents pointed to a lack of availability of electronic files from publishers, which affects how quickly texts can be obtained for reproduction into alternate formats.
27. As a service provider or librarian, how would you characterize your level of knowledge regarding the production of alternate format academic materials?
From question 8 in this survey it was ascertained that some 77% of responding service providers’ institutions produced in-house alternate format materials. From such a rate, it is therefore all the more important that 27% state that their knowledge of the production of alternate format materials needs improvement. It is an area that the service provision professionals must address. One-third of the service providers state that this knowledge is average, 9.5% that it is good, 20% very good, and 9.5% state that their knowledge of the production of alternate format academic materials is excellent. Overall, around 40% report a good, very good, or excellent knowledge, and approximately 60% report a ‘needs improvement-average’ range of knowledge.
One university respondent wrote that the department that deals with alternate format provision has existed at the school since 1990, yet the current staff has only been together for one year. Despite this, they have consulted with similar institutions in North America for advice and assistance. While this respondent feels they are doing a very good job, a comment is provided, “It could always be better.”
Another respondent indicated, “I have a reasonable knowledge of the technologies used and needed. I feel that my legal knowledge is incomplete.” Legal implications were also cited by another service provider, who wrote, “copyright laws are often bothersome.”
28. As a service provider or librarian, how would you characterize your level of knowledge regarding the availability of alternate format academic materials?
In question 25, it was stated that 80% of service providers who produce in-house alternate format academic materials check availability from other services prior to in-house production. In the above question, we asked about their knowledge regarding the availability of alternate format academic materials. The responses state that 18.5% need improvement in this regard, almost 28% see their knowledge as average, 26% as good, 20% very good, and 7.7% as excellent. The breakdown of the sliding scale is as follows: some 46% report a knowledge in the range of ‘needs improvement–average’, and 54% are in the ‘good-very good-excellent’ bracket.
The one open-ended comment provided for this question notes, “It would be nice to have better access to international material and more French language material (including DAISY from RFB&D). I am working on creating connections with services in Quebec.”
A brief comparison of Questions 27 and 28 is seen in Table 30 below.
29a) Is there a process for the evaluation of production of alternate format materials at your institution?
For this question the responses are 18.7% yes, 64% no and 17% not applicable. Of the 11 N.A. responses, six came from universities, one from a community college, and four from a technical/vocational institution. Slightly under two-thirds of service providers responding report that there is no process to evaluate production of alternate format materials. This is an area that service providers might wish to examine more closely, and perhaps set a process in motion where evaluation standards are designed and implemented.
Three people noted that student feedback is solicited, whether formally through surveys, or informally. One Quebec respondent wrote that no evaluation process exists at their institution, but “we need such a procedure.”
29b) If yes, who is responsible for the evaluation of alternate format production and delivery carried out at your institution?
At one institution, the director of student services undertakes this responsibility. A Nova Scotia community college respondent wrote that the Department of Education oversees production evaluation.
30. Is World Wide Web accessibility for students with print disabilities being addressed at your institution?
Seventy-three percent of participants state that Web accessibility is being addressed at their institution, while 27% state that it is not. Three respondent service providers stated in question 8, however, that they produce in-house Web resources. The production of these resources and the availability, or addressing the availability, of web accessibility, are separate issues. It would appear to be the case, considering so much course material is now available online, a majority of service providers should be addressing and providing Web accessibility for students with print disabilities and this seems to be a priority based on responses. It should be noted that many students who use the Internet, have assistive technology.
While one Ottawa respondent indicated a Web Accessibility Committee was in place at their institution, the majority of responses given noted that the process isn’t that streamlined in most cases.
At one British Columbia community college, the disability services office works with departments such as computer services or the library to ensure website compliance. A BC university respondent noted computer services works only on the accessibility of the university’s website, and not on individual sites. One Ontario community college service provider said that the marketing department develops websites, but that they aren’t fully accessible, so the disability services office offers technology to ensure students can read the sites.
Two respondents noted that they have raised issues of website accessibility with their institutions, and while they are supportive of the need, action has not been taken to ensure compliance.
If yes, which offices address World Wide Web accessibility?
31. Is the following information available to students in alternate formats?
This question is a ‘dual question’, in that it is also asked in the student survey. For that reason it is analyzed in greater detail in the conclusion section of this report. Responses from service providers (and they could check more than one response) are listed in Chart 74. The percentage breakdown of these responses is as follows:
Of the ten comments given for this question, five respondents wrote that all materials listed were available in alternate formats upon request, while three noted that some or all of the materials are available online for student access. An Ontario college respondent noted that the availability of course outlines in alternate formats at the institution depends on the individual instructor and department involved, but that in instances where such material is not readily available, the disability services office will reproduce the documents. Finally, one university college respondent from British Columbia noted they are unsure if the materials are available in alternate formats.
32. For students with print disabilities, which services do you feel that your institution provides most successfully (list up to three)? Which services do you provide least successfully (list up to three)?
Most Successful Services
FIRST Most Successful Services
Of the responses given for first choice, the production and/or provision of E-text materials was cited most often by service providers. The ability to provide exam and test accommodation, and the conversion of materials to audio format, were the two next popular choices, each having been listed by six respondents. Five people pointed to their institution’s ability to provide adaptive technology to students as their first choice, with scanning equipment, assistive technology computers, Kurzweil (an assistive technology software program used for scanning) and an assistive technology lab being mentioned as specific examples.
Services for blind students were also considered as strong points, with two respondents listing their institutions’ capacity for producing Braille as successful services, and two respondents simply mentioning the ability of their institution to provide alternate format materials for blind students.
Online technology was cited twice, with one respondent pointing to their institution’s availability of materials on the Internet, and another service provider listing the ability to produce online texts as a most successful service. The ability of the institution to provide software training to students was also mentioned twice.
Finally, six service providers simply mentioned their institutions’ ability to provide alternate formats as their greatest success, while the following responses were each offered once, verbatim:
SECOND Most Successful Services
Of the services listed as second most successful, the availability of adaptive technology on campuses was the most popular choice. The choice was cited by 11 respondents, with four simply mentioning adaptive technology in general, and others mentioning specific equipment, such as Kurzweil, enlargement software, screen readers, online databases, and an assistive technology computer lab.
The provision of materials in Braille, E-text availability, audio format provision and exam/test accommodations were all second-most popular number two picks, each being mentioned three times. The ability of the institution to scan materials into alternate formats, and the provision of enlarged print texts and/or tests, were each listed twice.
Finally, the following services were each listed once, and are presented verbatim:
THIRD Most Successful Services
The ability of an institution to accommodate for exam needs was a popular third choice, being listed by six respondents. The availability of scanning services was second, with two service providers indicating such.
The following choices were each presented once as third-most successful service:
Least Successful Services
FIRST Least Successful Services
The ability to provide needed academic materials in Braille was most often noted as the least successful service of an institution, being listed by six respondents. Production and provision problems were next, with five mentioning digital audio or audio analogue as problematic, and one specifically writing, “audiotaping quality is not great.”
Access to publishers and their texts for alternate format provision, the provision of alternate formats for students with learning disabilities, a shortage of adaptive technology equipment for loan, and the inability to access course instructors quickly and easily were all cited twice by respondents.
The following answers were all given once, and are presented verbatim:
SECOND Least Successful Services
While not all respondents offered second choices for least successful service, concerns surrounding the ability for alternate format requests to be fulfilled in time for the start of a semester were most commonly offered, with three mentioning slow turnaround times for requests. Inadequate access to equipment and concerns surrounding audio formats were next, each being mentioned twice.
The following responses were each given once:
THIRD Least Successful Services
The following third least successful services responses were each offered once:
The final part of this last question asked the service providers how these services to students with print disabilities could be improved. It is from this type of feedback, from the professionals working in the field, that we can make recommendations and draw conclusions. It has been shown repeatedly throughout the survey research that Canada’s service providers do an exceptionally good job and that they are greatly appreciated by the students they support. The answers they have provided to the questions in the survey have contributed to the composition of a profile of the many post-secondary institutions in the country in terms of the issues related to alternate format service to students with print disabilities. From this last question we sought their advice and opinions on how to improve the services that they offer. Many comments from service providers, on a range of issues, mirror comments provided by the students to this question.
How Could These Services Be Improved?
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