Accessible college textbooks: From problematical to profitable

Following is an excerpt of an article published by Robert Martinengo, Founder, Consumer Accessibility Information Label Association (CAILA). The article explains how publishers can serve the needs of college students with disabilities while making, not losing, money.

For years, publishers have been encouraged to produce books that are accessible to students with disabilities. Those advocating for accessible books include people with disabilities, naturally, and organizations that represent their interests. But the sector with pressing legal, practical, and economic interests in the accessibility of educational materials are colleges and universities

Writing and publishing for everyone; Not just the 90%

Authors need to consider accessibility when creating materials and choosing a publisher, but how can they this when it is such a misunderstood word?

Accessibility, in regard to publishing, means making content available in alternative formats for individuals with visual impairment or learning disabilities.

People may conjure up Braille as making content accessible to people with disabilities or learning issues. Publishing, however, has progressed so much farther than this. Using such technical standards as ePub3, HTML5, alt text, and other specific initiatives, publishers can make their content accessible to a growing audience.

How to incorporate accessibility throughout the publishing process

In his recent webinar, “Making Textbooks Accessible to Students With Disabilities”, Robert Martinengo, Publisher Outreach Specialist for the CAMI project at AMAC Accessibility, said that the issue of accessibility is even more important when it comes to digital products.

“The ability to navigate through a digital textbook is a critical component of accessibility,” he said. “Navigation is enabled by consistent and rational use of tags throughout the text.”

In addition to effective navigation, accessible manuscripts should also include these four elements, said Martinengo:

Featured Member: Embracing change in an evolving textbook industry

Kevin Patton, the author of 10 anatomy and physiology textbooks or manuals in over 40 editions, shares his views and strategies on how to adapt and remain relevant and successful in the fast evolving textbook industry.

TAA: At this stage in your writing career, where do your developmental interests lie in terms of your current text projects?

Kevin Patton: “Presently I am passionate about using current learning theories to adjust the construction of my textbooks, including text, illustrations, and learning enhancements. There is an ongoing explosion of research helping us better understand how people read and learn. Classrooms and textbooks need to keep up with best practices.

How to successfully incorporate text, pictures and audio into your learning materials

Incorporating multimedia resources into learning materials is now standard practice, but according to Laura Frost, Director of the Whitaker Center for STEM Education and chemistry professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, it is important that educators incorporate text, pictures, and audio in ways that will be most useful for learners. Frost is also author of the textbook General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry 2e (Pearson).

Accessibility at the tipping point: Opportunities for authors

In October 2012, The Academic Author ran an article entitled “How to make your e-textbook more accessible to students with disabilities”. Since then, demand for accessible materials has continued to grow. This article will briefly recap the need for accessible materials, describe the progress (and sometimes lack thereof) in addressing that need, and examine the opportunities and challenges this represents for authors.