Access to Academic Materials for Post-Secondary Students with Print Disabilities
Student Survey Details
Section D: General Questions
In this final section of the student survey, we asked three questions (the last being in three parts). We queried the students on issues such as where students first learned about academic materials in alternate formats, and how they rated the quality of these materials. Finally, we asked them to list their top three best experiences, and their top three worst experiences, after which they were asked to comment on how service could be improved.
32. How did you first learn about the availability of academic materials in alternate formats at your institution?
With a total of 92 responses, the disability service provider offices are by far the most common method for students to learn about the availability of alternate format materials. In fact, the total for all other responses combined (88) is smaller than the service provider office responses. After the response “other”, instructors were the next most common source of learning about the availability of alternate format materials, with 20 responses. External organizations were next with 16 responses, and the “other” category totalled 14. On the lower end of the response scale came librarians and resource centres.
Three respondents gave answers under “other” suggesting that high school teachers were able to inform them about the availability of alternate formats at their post-secondary institution, while two relied on information provided to them by course counsellors.
Additional answers provided under “other” were:
Several comments were provided with this question, with some suggesting other sources of information about the availability of alternate formats at respondents’ institutions, and some students providing insight on the information-gathering process:
33. How would you rate the quality of alternate format academic materials that you receive?
How students rate the quality of the materials that they receive is perhaps one of the most important issues considered in this survey. This question is compared with a similar question found in the service provider (question 10) survey, and analysis of the comparison can be found in the conclusion/recommendations section of this report. The statistical response to this question can be read in different ways, almost like a half-full or half-empty glass.
Of the 123 students who provided a response to this question, 11 (8.9%) said that the quality of alternate format academic materials was poor. Thirty-two students (26%) said it was average, 49 (40%) that it was good, and 31 (25%) reported the quality to be excellent. Dividing these statistics up, it can be said that 35% of the students report the quality to be either poor or average, and 65% that it was either good or excellent. The single largest response, however, came from those who claimed the quality was good, and the smallest response came from those who said it was poor. So while a large number of respondents told us that they often don’t receive their materials on time, when it is produced, the quality is generally good to excellent.
The following comments were provided, indicating that materials presented in various formats could be improved:
Information from the open-ended comments is invaluable. The comment, for example, that states that books produced on recycled paper does not “Kurzweil”, or scan, well, is the type of response that would not be gleaned from a checklist response. Other issues are also made clear: despite the fact that there exist a variety of options open to students with print disabilities, many problems remain. Text placed in boxes, and text that the instructor has underlined, is difficult for text-to-speech programs to read. Furthermore, throughout the survey, the poor quality of readers has been emphasized. These are issues that go beyond the abilities of the software, yet they are essential components of the quality of academic materials in alternate format.
34.a) Provide up to three examples of the most and least successful services/experiences that you have encountered relating to accessing alternate format materials at your institution.
This question has its counterpart in the service provider survey. It offers students the chance to list the top three best and worst practices and experiences that they have encountered at their institutions.
First Most Successful Services/Experiences
Of the answers provided as respondents’ first choice for most successful service or experience, specific alternate formats were often cited, as were adaptive technologies. Kurzweil, which is a method of reading, not a format, was the most common first choice, but books on tape or CD, DAISY books, large print, JAWS, Zoomtext, CCTV, EyeTech and PDF technologies were also all mentioned.
Receiving alternate format course materials in a timely fashion was mentioned by six respondents, as was the helpfulness of the disability service centres on campus. In some cases, the prompt provision of materials and the helpful nature of disability services were intertwined in student comments. Regarding timeliness, for instance, one student wrote, “All of my tapes are ordered and ready to use by the first day of school. The staff is on the ball.” Another student, who spoke of their disability service centre, wrote, “They do an excellent job at getting alternate formats (i.e.; E-text) for me quite timely.”
The ability to take extra time in writing tests and exams was listed as a first choice by five respondents, while four students mentioned the ability to locate a good tutor when needed.
Three students mentioned specific interactions with instructors as their choice for most successful experience. One student wrote, “(With) one instructor I don’t have to even ask for anything, it is always available.” Another mentioned that their instructor “emailed course outlines in electronic format to me,” while a third student cited email from instructors as a positive experience.
The following are other responses given as first choice for most successful experience:
Second Most Successful Services/Experiences
A large number of respondents providing second choices selected either the availability of course materials in their format of choice, or the availability of adaptive technology needed to read texts. Books or exams in audio format were mentioned four times and Kurzweil was mentioned three times, while several other technologies (audio-visual lab, Inspiration, Zoomtext, TextHelp, MP3 players, tape recorders) were all mentioned once.
Extra time for exams and/or assignments was also offered several times as a second choice, with seven respondents indicating such. This was followed by the helpfulness of instructors and/or faculty in general, and the helpfulness and knowledge of disability services staff, both of which were offered by five students as their second choice. Four students wrote about test/exam accommodations (quiet room, having materials scanned, the use of a computer for exams), while three respondents indicated the provision of assignments and/or exams in alternate formats as their second choice. Finally, two students mentioned tutors as their second most positive experience.
The following are other answers provided as number two choices:
Third Most Successful Services/Experiences
A variety of responses were provided as third-most successful experiences. Exam accommodations were most often cited, with eight respondents mentioning they receive quiet rooms, equipment needed to write exams, exams in alternate formats, and readers or scribes as needed. Similarly, the provision of extra exam time was another common response, with five students indicating this as their third choice. Six students mentioned the supportive and approachable nature of their disability services staff as their third choice. Online courses and large print materials were both mentioned twice.
Here are other answers given:
FIRST Least Successful Services/Experiences
A large number spoke about timeliness issues as their first choice for least successful service or experience. Nine respondents wrote they experience delays in obtaining their course materials in alternate formats, particularly at the start of a year or semester. In addition, one student mentioned paperwork delays, which can also lead to delays in the delivery of alternate format materials. On the issue of the time it takes to obtain alternate formats, one student wrote, “Send the tapes faster. A course lasts 12-14 weeks, and it can take six weeks to get a recorded cassette,” while another student indicated that, during the 2003-2004 school year, “I didn’t get my books until November.”
Another common choice for least successful experience was concerns over instructors who either appear ignorant of the needs of students with print disabilities, or are uncooperative toward student needs. Six students made comments raising such concerns, with one respondent writing that there should be “more communication between faculty and the staff at disability services.”
The inconsistent quality of various alternate format materials was a concern raised by four respondents, as were concerns about the time commitment students must invest in scanning their own course materials into a suitable alternate format.
Quality concerns regarding notes completed by note-takers were mentioned three times, and three respondents also indicated a shortage of available books on tape. The difficulty in getting publishers to provide an E-text version of a book was a point raised by two respondents.
Other responses provided were as follows:
SECOND Least Successful Services/Experiences
Quality issues were again commonly cited, as four student respondents pointed to inconsistent quality of alternate format materials as their second choice for least successful service or experience, and three people wrote about quality issues with the equipment required to use such materials.
A shortage of materials available in specific alternate formats (books on tape and large print texts) was mentioned three times, as was the issue of late arrival of materials converted to alternate formats for student use. Finally, two people spoke of exam concerns, with one writing “loud testing during exam,” and another simply mentioning exams/test problems in general. Two people wrote that not all courses are properly adapted for persons with disabilities.
Here are other choices offered by respondents:
THIRD Least Successful Services/Experiences
While a variety of different answers were provided as third choices, one theme that did arise was concern surrounding exam accommodations. Four students wrote of such issues, with one indicating instructors sometimes don’t have exams ready on time, and three mentioning inadequate or inconveniently located computer technology in exam rooms.
Two students indicated a lack of understanding among the public about disability issues was their third choice for least successful experience. Several other good answers were provided, as follows:
An important element of this survey was the open-ended comments solicited from the participants. In this final section, we asked respondents to provide their opinion on how the services could be improved.
How Could These Services Be Improved?
Many good suggestions were offered by student respondents, as to how services might be improved in question 34:
These comments point out a variety of issues of importance to students in the delivery of services. Key issues identified include funding, on-site access (physical, computers and adaptive software), better access to appropriate alternate formats, and co-ordination/communication with faculty, tutors, and service centre staff.
The following student comment highlights the need for better delivery mechanisms and better support from publishers: "There should be a more (efficient) centralized way of getting books in alternative formats. Pre-arrangements should be made with publishers such that E-texts are readily available to students with disabilities once books are published".
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