The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Friday, June 30, 2017

New Standards Rate E-Books’ Accessibility

Benetech, a nonprofit social enterprise that focuses on scalable technology solutions to improve accessibility and human rights, has rolled out a third-party verification program that lets schools and colleges determine how well e-textbooks meet the needs of visually impaired or dyslexic students or those with other print disabilities.

Called Global Certified Accessible (GCA), the program was developed in conjunction with the U.K.’s Royal Institute for the Blind, Vision Australia, and Dedicon, a Dutch creator of accessibility products and services, and underwent a six-month pilot. GCA is a standardized ratings system for evaluating digital titles based on more than 100 accessibility features. It can be used by publishers as well as school districts and higher-ed institutions, and recommends remediation where content falls short of its standards.

“We find that files improve significantly after first-round reviews and that subsequent files reflect the insights gained from our feedback,” said a Benetech release.

Accessibility is a key issue for schools, both to serve students better and to avoid legal action for falling short. A Blackboard study earlier this year indicated that the average overall accessibility score for college and university campuses hasn’t improved greatly over the past five years, inching up from 27.5% to just 30.6%.

On the publishing side, Ingram Content Group will incorporate GCA into its VitalSource and CoreSource platforms. Elsevier, HarperCollins, Harvard Business Publishing, Macmillan Learning, and Penguin Random House are among GCA’s other early supporters, although the system is now open to all publishers.

“Every publisher should strive to make their content as accessible as possible,” Denis Saulnier, managing director of product design and delivery, higher education, for Harvard Business Publishing, said in a Benetech blog post. “The first step is getting an accurate snapshot of compliance. Benetech’s process is invaluable in identifying areas of improvement and helping to prioritize work.”

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