Access to Academic Materials for Post-Secondary Students with Print Disabilities
DISABILITY SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS’ SUBMISSIONS
Disability-Related Support Review:
Submission to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, from the Steering Committee on Transcription Services (Ontario Ministry of Education) (February 2004)
For many students with a print disability (blind, visually impaired, learning disability and/or physical disability), the ability to read or manipulate print text material is difficult or impossible. For students in post-secondary education where the pace of classroom learning is rapid, the need for reading text material prior to lectures is imperative to success, limited or no access to text material can be barriers to learning, or to a positive and equitable educational experience.
Many students with print disabilities do not ever see a textbook. Many students receive texts immediately prior to the commencement of exams, which forces them to complete all required reading in a limited time. Students find it difficult to follow along with lectures, which place them at a significant disadvantage when compared with their non-disabled cohort.
In the Ontario post-secondary system, roles and responsibilities are articulated in the Service Resource Manual, Alternate Format Materials for Post-Secondary Students with Print Disabilities, developed by the Resource Services Library (RSL) of the William Ross Macdonald School (WRMS).
WRMS has co-ordinated the provision of audio, Braille, electronic text, and large print post-secondary textbooks for students who are print-disabled since 1983. This centralized transcription service is available to Ontario post-secondary students.
The service provides transcriptions of the following course-related materials:
The service does not provide:
It is recommended that orders be submitted as soon as course material is identified, preferably three to four months before material is required. Generally, the material is loaned for one academic year.
Each college and university has a contact person responsible for registering students and placing textbook orders with the RSL. This staff member usually works in the institution’s Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) or in the main library.
Students should provide the contact person with course outlines and reading lists containing complete bibliographic information of required texts. This information must be given to the contact person as soon as possible. If books are to be transcribed and the producers require print copies, it is the student’s responsibility to supply the contact person with print copies of the required text.
Upon receipt of an order from an institutional contact person, RSL will search the title to determine the availability of the alternate format requested. RSL will order previously recorded or Brailled titles from the appropriate agency.
If the text is not available, RSL will assign the order to a print alternate material producer. RSL will notify the contact person where the text order has been placed and the producer will notify the contact person if a print copy is required for transcription.
When the producer receives a copy of the text, the producer will provide RSL with the details of the production (e.g. timelines, number of pages, etc.)
RSL will then issue a work order to the producer and notify the contact person about the estimated completion date.
When the material has been transcribed, RSL will ship it to the contact person.
The material is returned to RSL by the contact person.
In order to address the lack of published materials available in alternate medium, the National Library of Canada, the federal cultural agency responsible for collecting and preserving Canada’s publishing heritage, and The Canadian National Institute for the Blind funded The Taskforce on Access to Information for Print Disabled Canadians. In October 2000, The National Library of Canada and the CNIB released a joint report entitled: Fulfilling the Promise: Report of the Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians. The report made a number of far reaching recommendations and advised that a Council on Access to Information for Print Disabled Canadians be established. As a result of this report, the Council was established in 2001.
One of the recommendations of the joint taskforce was a National Clearinghouse for print alternate material.
The Council, in partnership with the National Library of Canada and Library Archives of Canada, will be commencing a pilot project for a clearinghouse of holdings of print alternate materials in September 2004.
The long-term goal of the project is to allow a user to access a text directly from a transcription service producer. In turn, the transcription producer would have access to the text in an electronic format from the clearinghouse where it was deposited by the publisher. The institutions and the government would have no special role in this process.
At this time, there are a number of outstanding issues with respect to the pilot projects, including:
In addition, the Council is undertaking a research project in co-operation with the National Educational Association of Disabled Students to examine access to academic material for print disabled post-secondary students.
1a) What works well?
1b) What doesn’t work well?
2) What is the impact of the report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission?
If the report’s finding that publishers are responsible for providing all publications in print alternate material was the number one issue, turn around time would be addressed in many cases. However, the report does not make clear the publishers’ responsibilities; that is, it does not fully define what type of alternate format should be provided.
The Steering Committee recommends that the ministry work with the OHRC on the guidelines that are to be developed to accompany the report. The Steering Committee offers its expertise to the ministry on this issue.
3) What other supports could the ministry put in place to further assist institutions?
The Steering Committee recommends that:
In its report back to colleges and universities on its disability-related support review, the ministry highlight to the college presidents and university executive heads the need to raise with their Senates key issues that affect students with print disabilities, such as:
The ministry work with the federal government, other provinces and territories, and publishers to develop a long-term and viable process to ensure that students with print disabilities have access to quality materials in a timely manner.
Also see the report, “The Opportunity to Succeed: Achieving Barrier-free Education for Students with Disabilities,” from the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Several service providers, including the CNIB (who submitted this information for our consideration) contributed to this report: www.ohrc.on.ca/en_text/consultations/ed-consultation-report.shtml
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