Access to Academic Materials for Post-Secondary Students with Print Disabilities
Service Provider Survey
Section B: Materials
16. Which alternate formats do your students require most?
This question asked that the respondents rank the most required types in order, from one to five. Most chose to respond only by ranking one to three, with a minority listing the top five. The accompanying five graphs show that the most required format as indicated is E-text (with 27 of 55 respondents, equals 41.5%), as shown in chart 50.
A few comments were provided in the open-ended space for this question, with a strong tendency toward student need for digital audio/MP3 format. Yet, a few related problems with the acquisition and use of digital audio formats were also indicated. “Unfortunately, we cannot borrow DAISY from RFB&D – which is a real nuisance for academic libraries,” wrote one respondent. Another respondent, from a community college in British Columbia, wrote that many students at the school are not yet familiar with DAISY and digital audio formats, and therefore don’t often request them.
A respondent noted that students with visual impairments could use Adobe Acrobat to read PDF files, since the magnifying glass option in the software allows users to enlarge text directly in the program. Clearly, for those schools that produce materials in-house, the capacity to produce different formats could impact on the identification of most required formats.
The full list of first preferences is as follows: E-text 27 = 41.5%, audio analogue 9 = 13.8%, large print 8 = 12.3%, Braille 7 = 10.8%, audio digital 6 = 9.2%, MP3 5 = 7.7%, PDF image 3 = 4.6%. E-text has by far the highest response rate, at 41.5% it is 27.3% higher than the second highest – audio analogue (13.8%).
The full list of second preferences is as follows: Audio digital 12 = 19.7%, large print 12 = 19.7%, E-text 10 = 16.4%, audio analogue 10 = 16.4%, Braille 6 = 9.83%, MP3 4 = 6.55%, PDF image 4 = 6.55%, PDF text 2 = 3.27%, DAISY book 1 = 1.63%. Responses to the DAISY category may be low because it is a newer standard or format.
Large print 10 = 17.5%, MP3 9 = 15.78%, audio analogue 7 = 12.28%, E-text 6 = 10.52%, PDF image 6 = 10.52%, audio digital 5 = 8.77%, Braille 5 = 8.77%, DAISY book 4 = 7.01%, PDF text 4 = 7.01%, tactile graphics 1 = 1.75%.
Braille 8 = 20%, large print 7 = 17.5%, MP3 6 = 15%, DAISY book 5 = 12.5%, PDF image 4 = 10%, audio analogue 3 = 7.5%, PDF text 3 = 7.5%, descriptive video 2 = 5%, audio digital 1 = 2.5%, other 1 = 2.5%.
Braille 8 = 20.51%, large print 6 = 15.3%, PDF text 6 = 15.3%, PDF image 4 = 10.25%, tactile graphic 4 = 10.25%, audio digital 3 = 7.69%, MP3 3 = 7.69%, DAISY book 2 = 5.12%, E-text 2 = 5.12%, audio analogue 1 = 2.56%.
Braille is the highest of the fifth choices for students. While Braille is considered the preferred choice for some blind/visually-impaired students, increasingly these students use electronic formats. Of course the preference for Braille as a format will be relatively low as only blind students use Braille texts.
17. Which alternate formats do you have most success in providing? Ranked 1-5.
Service providers have the most success in providing documents in E-text, with audio-analogue, Braille and large print close behind.
Open-ended comments are interesting. A British Columbia community college respondent noted that the school produces textbook materials, but only in cases where the provincial service cannot provide them in a timely manner. They also produce limited amounts of material in Braille, in the rare instance when students make such requests. But the respondent added the school is not equipped to produce DAISY books.
An Ottawa respondent mentioned their institution hopes to be able to produce DAISY and digital audio materials in the future. The respondent also noted that copyright laws limit large print reproduction capabilities.
Some of the following questions on copyright were also asked in the student survey. They are analyzed in greater detail in the section entitled “Dual Questions”.
18. Are you aware of your rights to produce alternate formats relating to the exceptions for persons with perceptual disabilities under the Canadian Copyright Act?
It has emerged from this survey that the issue of copyright is one of the most critical areas in the production of alternate format academic materials. In question 18, 68% of service providers reported that they are aware of their rights. Of those 21 respondents who were unaware of their rights, representing some 31% of all respondents, the following may be noted: around a quarter of universities and community colleges reported unawareness of their rights. The technical/vocational statistics are too low to really discern a trend, but the CEGEPs report a substantial 62.5% unawareness of copyright rights pertaining to alternate format academic materials.
In the comments section of this question, one respondent indicated their understanding is that materials cannot be reproduced in larger formats, according to the law. Another respondent indicated knowledge that if the service centre receives electronic copies of course materials from the bookstore, students who need alternate formats must prove to service providers that they have purchased a print copy of the material. Another respondent wrote that while disability service providers there are familiar with the copyright act and its exceptions, other areas within the educational institution weren’t as familiar.
19. Are you aware of your responsibilities when producing copyrighted material in alternate formats?
Related to the last question, question 19 asked about awareness of responsibilities regarding the production of alternate format academic materials. The figures are almost identical to the previous question, with a difference of just one extra service provider more on the “no” side. The breakdown, therefore, of institution type by awareness of copyright responsibility is also quite similar.
One respondent from British Columbia noted that while they were aware of copyright legalities, they weren’t familiar with the need for a rights management statement. A community college respondent also indicated unfamiliarity with rights management statements, wondering where they might obtain samples of such documents. One CEGEP respondent noted that knowledge of responsibilities under the act were “not our responsibility,” since the CEGEP Ste. Foy looks after such matters relating to the production of the materials for students.
Of those who indicated familiarity, one Nova Scotia community college respondent said procedural guidelines were in place at the school to ensure adherence to the copyright act. An Ontario community college service provider noted that only students with documented disabilities are granted access to services, ensuring copyright exemptions are only granted to eligible students.
20. Are you aware of your responsibilities for reporting the production of alternate formats and payments of royalties through your institution’s Access Copyright Agreement?
Just over 45% of service providers are aware of their responsibilities, close to 55% are not. One respondent wrote about a lack of familiarity with these responsibilities, asking, “Who should we report it to? This has never been addressed. Besides, aren’t we covered under the copyright act if the material is not available in an alternative format (except for large print)?” Another respondent, representing an Ontario university, wrote, “We only produce chapters, which don’t have to be reported.” One respondent noted that the college’s library is responsible for adhering to these regulations, and that they “stringently follow rules.”
21. What changes, if any, would you like to see in the Canadian copyright law that would facilitate the ability to provide academic materials in alternate formats to the students with print disabilities on campus?
Several suggestions were included in this open-ended question. Of the more than 30 comments provided, roughly 25 percent indicated that publishers should either be required to provide an electronic version of each academic text produced, with purchase, or should be required to supply such a format upon request. A few other respondents simply wrote that publishers need to be made more aware of the needs of students with disabilities.
While four respondents voiced a desire to see students with disabilities granted complete exemption from the copyright act, a larger percentage of respondents wanted to see exemptions made for certain types of alternate formats. Four people indicated a desire to see large print reproduction included in the exemptions, while two respondents wanted to see reproduction of materials into close captioned video be allowed. Another wrote that electronic text reproduction under the individual use exemption should not be limited to just a portion of a text, while one person said that students should be allowed to use a scanner to scan chapters as needed. Two people mentioned that exemptions should be made for course pack production.
Two service providers expressed interest in seeing certain aspects of the current act clarified. One respondent wrote, “I'd like to be clear where we stand when dealing with books published in the U.S. and how we can get at Canadian versions in a timely manner to assist students as they register for courses,” and another requested a clear definition of the concept of individual fair dealing for academic purposes. One respondent wanted the inclusion of all print disabilities within the “Canada Post ‘Blind Post’ mailing exemption.”
Finally, three respondents indicated the need for a national clearinghouse or database of alternate format resources, and all suggested this to be co-ordinated through the National Library of Canada, or Library and Archives Canada, as it is now known.
It would appear, then, that the overall points to stress from these comments is that there exists a dire need for action from publishers. Some publishers of texts are seen as preventing many students from gaining access to academic materials in alternate format, or, at the least, their actions are a hindrance to the dissemination of such information. Also, issues arise with regard to copyright, which, it is suggested, must be altered so as to allow the reproduction of certain types of alternate formats. There is also a need for greater clarity in relation to the copyright act and exemptions for students with print disabilities.
22. Does your institution produce a complete alternate version of the textbook (or other materials) in alternate formats (including charts, graphs, sidebars etc.)?
Over two-thirds of service providers stated that their institution does not provide a complete version of the texts in alternate format. This is mollified somewhat by respondents that claimed in the open-ended comments that they would do so if requested, but do not normally. Of interest here is the response rate from question 19 in the student survey, where some 53% of respondents stated that their institution does provide complete alternate versions of texts. There is a large discrepancy here, with some 33% of service providers stating that they provide complete versions, a difference of 20%.
Of the comments provided for this question, the majority of service providers indicated that complete textbook reproductions are generally not done in-house, but there are exceptional cases. One respondent offered an example of such an exception, writing, “Normally we don’t – unless the alternative format is late and the student needs material ASAP (but we don’t provide the whole text, just the needed sections). For example, if we are waiting for a Braille text, and it is late with a certain chapter, we will provide a part of the chapter and some charts for the student, especially if the material is mandatory for a text, exam, paper, etc.” At another school, texts are reproduced in-house when the total page count does not exceed 300 pages. In another instance, it was suggested that in-house reproduction is completed if no other source exists for the desired alternate format, while another respondent noted “We will do so if it is requested.”
At other post-secondary institutions, complete reproductions are done in-house into certain formats. For example, one respondent noted that reproductions can be done in-house with Kurzweil 3000 software. Another respondent noted their institution offers in-house production of texts into large print, as well as offering audio descriptions of charts and graphs. One respondent wrote that workbooks can be put into PDF format and burned onto a CD-ROM for students to use. Kurzweil 3000 is designed for print impaired students who are sighted, and therefore not necessarily useful for students with visual impairments. PDF formats also pose a problem for students with visual impairments, because an institution is reporting that productions are available does not mean that it is in a usable format for all students with print disabilities.
23. Roughly, how many hours per day does staff spend producing or co-ordinating alternate format academic materials and services?
Service providers appear to have difficulty in answering this question, due in large part to the complex nature of breaking down hours spent doing different tasks at their offices. There is a large amount of scanning required at certain times, such as the beginning of a semester and exam time.
The following issues were raised in the comments provided:
- One respondent indicated their institution produced 31,209 pages last year, a commitment of 2,522 production hours.
- Another indicated a commitment of 30 hours per semester.
- A British Columbia university college service provider said 100 hours per semester were spent in such activities.
- An Alberta technical school respondent offered that the time commitment “increases dramatically at start of term”.
- A British Columbia community college respondent wrote, “This depends on the current need and whether we have received materials through CILS. We did not receive any newly produced texts for students at one campus this semester so the hours were quite high, I would guess about 20 per week.”
24. Roughly, how many hours per day do staff spend scanning and editing academic materials for alternate formats?
The most common response was one hour of scanning time, which eight institutions chose. This question had a particularly low level of response; often due it is claimed, to the complex nature of the financial operations of the disability service centres in calculating costs to specific services. Many staff responded in the open-ended comments that they simply could not separate a scanning budget from the overall budget.
As with the previous question, one respondent noted that more time was spent on this activity at the start of a semester. A British Columbia university college respondent estimated 50 to 60 hours per semester were spent scanning and editing, while another indicated 10 hours per semester was the likely timeframe. Two others noted that these activities were the responsibility of other parties, with one indicating that CILS in BC takes on the tasks, and another respondent saying each student is responsible, once they have been trained on the equipment. Production of alternate format materials can be very time-consuming, depending upon the number of students served and the types of academic materials and formats required. It may be more economical and efficient to have a central agency do the production providing the central agency has the expertise, staff, equipment and knowledge of standards. Getting back to the issue of timeliness, if the identification of resources is not timely, it doesn’t matter where the production is done, it can’t be done on time.
25. Prior to production, do you verify whether a ‘title’ is already available (in house or elsewhere, e.g. AMICUS) in an alternate format?
Eighty percent of service providers state that they do check to see if a title is already available in alternate format before they begin to produce it, whereas just over 6% say that they do not, and around 14% state that the question is not applicable. Of those four (6.15%) institutions that do not check the availability of alternate format productions prior to production one is in Alberta, one in Manitoba, and two in Quebec. Furthermore, of the five New Brunswick service providers who responded to this question, four state that this prior checking is not applicable, yet in question 8 all seven New Brunswick service providers stated that they do produce in-house academic materials in alternate format.
One respondent noted that service centre staff ask the campus bookstore to check on title availability, while a British Columbia university college respondent said they verify that information with CILS. Still another service provider said their institution checks with CNIB, RFB&D and Braille Jymico before considering producing titles themselves.
RFB&D was noted by two other respondents, as well. An Alberta community college respondent wrote, “a few years ago we checked every request against the RFB&D holdings and had no matches so we decided to stop that activity for a while”, while an Ontario community college respondent noted that they check with publishers, as well as “sometimes RFB&D.” One respondent noted that while they do seek to verify availability, they had never heard of AMICUS.