Accessible Reading materials
for blind and visually impaired students
Why we need the University Central Scanning Service?
Academic departments must ensure that course reading material is made available in an accessible format for their blind and visually impaired students.
This means that all course notes and handouts should be made available in a readable format and that all essential reading is identified early enough to make it available.
For a printed book to be readable by a blind student it must be made available as a digital file and this file must be delivered in a readable format.
The task of making available essential textbooks in digital format is a far from trivial process. Departments' previous experience of out-sourcing such work has had less than acceptable results, with materials arriving too late or not at all.
Therefore, from its inception the Central Scanning Service has included the scanning of essential texts for visually impaired students as a key service deliverable.
What is involved in scanning of essential texts for visually impaired students?
To be successful the following must happen:
Academic Departments must identify essential reading and make requests made in advance.
- Academic teaching staff must ensure that their essential reading is identified in advance (typically 10 weeks prior to required reading date).
- Department should make timely requests for all essential reading to be made available in accessible format via the Central Scanning Service.
- Department should ensure that they assign meaningful "required by" dates.
Library Request Service process the departmental requests.
- Requests are prioritised in relation to the "required by" dates.
- Textbooks are sourced and if not available in e-format are prepared, packaged and delivered to Learning Services for scanning.
Scanning Service process the materials received from the library.
- Textbooks are scanned under the Copyright for Visually Impaired Persons Act (CVIP) licence and delivered as individual chapters files.
- The scanned chapters are made available to the Disability Service for proofreading and adaptation.
- Proofreading and Adaptation team prioritise received materials based on the "Required by" dates and work to deliver to the student in advance of this date.
A Summary of the Copyright for Visually Impaired Persons Act is available within the RNIB Guide to CVIP.
Proofreading and Adaptation of a chapter takes typically four times longer than scanning the same chapter and can take even longer depending on the content.
- Meaningful "required by" dates are essential for the team manager to schedule the workload and ensure that the student has their reading material at the start of the academic week in which they will require it.
What is the Disability Service's role in this area?
The Disability Service has the following related responsibilities, to:
- invite visually impaired and blind students to meet with an adviser to have an assessment of their requirements;
- inform academic departments of student requirements via the Disabled Students Adjustment system hosted on Pegasus;
- support students in developing the necessary skills to make use of technology to access their courseware;
- train and manage the adaptation and proofreading team;
- secure the funding for the production and post production of all materials processed for blind and visually impaired students. This cost is not charged to Academic Departments.
What do the Proofreading and Adaptation team do?
The proofreading and adaptation team have the following functions:
- Manage the timely delivery of digitised material to the student.
- Proofread for mis-recognition errors.
- Adaptation of non-standard textual content where it is non-sensical when read aloud.
- Adaptation of non-textual information.
- Manage delivery to the student via dedicated Disability Service network space.
The proofreading and adaptation team can not take responsibility for correctly interpreting non-textual materials included within the textbook.
- Where the absence of the non-textual information could equate to a loss in information presented to the reader, academic staff may be contacted to provide textual descriptions. Where possible the proof-reader will provide their best interpretation of the intended message of the image or diagram and the academic will be asked to verify that this is appropriate.
- Where the textbook itself uses images in the context of a description this would suffice in terms of readability.
What do Academic Teaching staff need to do?
Ensure that you are aware of any blind or visually impaired students within your class group.
Ensure that you identify your essential reading well in advance and that your department request the production of these texts in an accessible format via the Central Scanning Service. Such requests should be made through the Scanning Request Form for E-Learning Items which can be found on the library website.
Ensure that all requests are accompanied by "required by" dates. Such dates should be chapter specific where a large volume of material is requested. If required and not made available at the time of the request the Proofreading and Adaptation team will request these when your material becomes visible to them via the management system.
What have students said about the new service?
"Getting the required book after the assignment is of no use to me. I haven't even looked at it now as I have to move on to the next area."
Student dissatisfaction with the service thus far has been isolated to the timeliness of receiving materials, with some not being available until after they are required.
This situation arises for one main reason which is that academic departments do not identify their essential reading far enough I advance and do not therefore make scanning requests in time. The problem can be exacerbated when there are no meaningful required by dates and so no information with which to schedule the workload which is in process.
"For the first time ever, this semester I have the reading materials that I need. It's such an improvement."
The success of the system hinges on the timely delivery to the student. Students have commented favourably of the network delivery of materials.
Related Recommended Reasonable Adjustments
Disabled students adjustment reports are held on the Disabled Students Requirements system hosted on Pegasus, searchable by class code or student registration number. Below is a list of all current reasonable adjustments related to visually impaired and Blind student reading requirements.
The recommendations and proposed arrangements below are made following discussion between a Disability Adviser and student. Departments or members of staff considering alternative reasonable adjustments which will ensure that the student is not substantially disadvantaged are asked to discuss these, in advance, with the student and the Disability Service.
- Provide reading lists prior to the start of each semester or module. These should define core and additional texts, and indicate the most relevant chapters;
- Assist student to acquire digitised versions of reading materials, in liaison with the library;
- Provide all textual materials, including copies of overheads (with regard to student's print requirements);
- Provide in advance for all forms of teaching session, an outline of content, any written instructions, and copies of OHPs and handout materials;
- Provide ad hoc handwritten materials (e.g. tutorial solutions) in printed or digital format;
- All written materials to be provided should be provided on disk or in digital format;
- All online and electronic materials should be accessible;
- Provide full verbal commentary of visual demonstrations - this may necessitate a separate 1:1 session;
- Ensure that all teaching staff, including visiting staff and postgraduate tutors, are aware of the student's needs;
- Provide following year's options in advance/at end of current year;
- Provide assignment titles at the start of each semester/module;