Accessibility issues with publishers' digital materials
Federal law requires that higher education institutions that receive federal funding (think financial aid and grants) make all instructional materials accessible to all students. Unfortunately, publishers are not governed by these same laws. So content or tools on a publisher's homework website (that comes bundled with the textbook), could present accessibility problems. We at PCC cannot make changes to the publishers' websites. So if barriers exist, an accessibility plan will need to be developed to ensure all students can achieve the course's outcomes. This may mean extra work for the instructor, so choose carefully.
Is that "free" software bundled with the textbook, accessible?
Disability Services and Distance Education test the accessibility of 3rd party tools and websites every week. Check to see if we have already tested the software you are interested in, and see how it ranks in terms of accessibility.
Check our list of accessibility tested software and web applications (PCC employees only)..
If you need a publisher's homework site or any other non-PCC, non-D2L tool that you use or want to use in your online course, tested for accessibility, please contact Karen Sorensen in Instructional Support.
Questions to ask before adopting publisher and 3rd party materials
Ask about the accessibility of their materials:
- Are the videos captioned and audio recordings transcribed?
- There should be transcripts for audio recordings and captions or subtitles for video. If there are not, ask the publishing representative if they would provide a captioned version in a timely manner if a student who needed them registered for your class.
- Can all of the text that is displayed on the screen be read aloud by text-to-speech software?
- Screen readers (assistive technology used by people who are blind) read real text. They cannot read images of text or text embedded in Flash animations/movies/simulations.
- How accessible are the E-books?
- Check to see if you can find a Document Accessibility Profile (DAP) (currently in beta) on the e-book. The goal of DAP is to make it easy to find and use accessibility information for electronic textbooks and other documents,
- Can all interactivity (media players, quizzes, flashcards, etc.) be completed by keyboard alone (no mouse required)?
- People who are blind or people who have upper mobility disabilities cannot use a mouse. They use the keyboard to navigate and interact with the Web. It is required that any interactive elements on the publisher's website (or on a DVD included with the book) be operable by a keyboard alone if they are used in your course. For example: An interactive exercise that requires dragging and dropping is not keyboard accessible, so unless there is a keyboard option to dragging and dropping, that sort of exercise should not be used in your course.
- Is there any documentation available (VPAT or White Paper for example) that confirms accessibility or usability testing results?
- A VPAT is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. It is used by many organizations to report the level of accessibility of their software products. If the publisher doesn't have a VPAT or any research that confirms the accessibility of their product(s), don't just take their word for how accessible they are. Ask them these questions and contact Karen Sorensen in Instructional Support/Distance Learning or Kaela Parks in Disability Services if you need any assistance in verifying the accessibility of a publisher' materials.
If any of these answers are "No", you might want to consider a different publisher.
Ask about security:
Ask about the usability and interoperability of their materials:
You need to consider all of these aspects when adopting outside materials. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the interim Manager of Technology and Support in Distance Education and Instructional Support, Andy Freed.
- Is your multimedia (Adobe) Flash or (Oracle) Java-based? (Another way to put this, is "Can your materials be watched on an iPad?")
- Content created in Flash and or Java can be inaccessible and may not run on mobile devices and tablets, which are becoming more prevalent.
- Does any software need to be installed on student or PCC computers?
- If software needs to be installed on PCC computers in a particular lab, consult with that lab's coordinator.
- What are the computer requirements for using their materials? Will the materials work on mobile devices?
- Distance Learning tells online students that these are the computer requirements for taking an online course. If your course requirements are greater or for a classroom-based course, make the computer requirements known in the class schedule.
- How will students get access to the materials?
- Does it require an access code? If so, students should be aware that used books may not have the necessary access code or may have an old unusable code.
- Can the electronic content be made available for purchase through the bookstore?
- Some students would like to own the material so they have it for future reference (rather than just online during the term.)