Why You Should Check the Accessibility of the Textbooks for Your Class

To conform with a lawsuit settlement, all of the class materials and resources at my college must be 100% accessible.  That includes the texts and any online publisher-provided resources used in our classes as well.  We are not permitted to use an inaccessible textbook unless an accessible version is available.  Most publishing companies are aware of the requirement and are trying to make their texts and associated resources accessible, or at least are making accessible versions available. Especially for science texts, though, that takes a great deal of time and is an expensive process.  While many of the companies have made great progress and are genuinely trying, it remains that many science texts and associated online materials are not yet fully accessible.

My science department colleagues and I have been trying for well over a year to find fully accessible textbooks for our courses.  Most of us have been unsuccessful.  We discovered quite quickly that when speaking with publishers about their texts it’s not enough to ask if there’s an accessible version available.  For instance, I asked the accessibility rep from one publishing house if a text I use in my classes was accessible and was told that a PDF version was available upon request from my college’s Center for Accessibility.  However, my next question asked if all of the figures, illustrations, graphs, etc., in that PDF had alternative text, and if all equations could be read by a screen reader?  That question seemed to surprise him.  And his answer was no.  So, there was not an accessible version of the text even though the publisher truly thought there was.

In addition to the textbooks, other resources supplied by publishers also must be accessible.  For instance, PowerPoint notes must have subtitles, all illustrations, figures, graphs, etc., must have alternative text, the reading order on each slide has to be verified, and the slides should have a minimum font size of 24.  Due to problems with the accessibility of some publisher-provided study aids, such as drag and drop exercises, those resources also need to be carefully checked.

I was contacted by the president of a publishing company after emailing to inform them that I could no longer use their inaccessible lab text.  He was quite interested in and concerned about the types of accessibility issues in the text and has subsequently indicated that they now are working with a new company to help them ensure the accessibility of the next edition.  While I have great respect for that company and applaud the response, it unfortunately doesn’t help my present situation.  Though I reviewed many, I never have found a fully accessible lab book or one that has a fully accessible version available.  Yet my students need to learn and study the history, principles, procedures, results, and interpretation for all of the lab exercises they’ll be performing.  So, I plan to use online resources instead of a lab text this fall.  I’ve spent over twenty hours so far reading webpages and watching videos in an attempt to find acceptable, accessible online materials pertaining to each lab exercise.  I have found several good resources, but will need to expend a significant number of hours yet before I’m finished.  Creating a lab text substitute is incredibly time-consuming.

Are the textbooks and publisher-provided online resources used in your classes accessible?

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