Textbooks available for learning-disabled students

Fall ó it tends to mean different things for different people. For some, itís the season of football, hot-cider and Halloween. For others, it means replacing summer pool parties and adequate amounts of rest with classes and professors. Still, others have the simple fear of getting their textbooks on time. It may seem irrational and even a bit nerdy, but for many students with disabilities ó such as blindness or dyslexia ó it is a grim reality.

Itís not as if it is impossible for colleges to get the learning-disabled students the books they need.

As Gina Maffei, the Senior Account Manager at Widmeyer Communications stated, ìWhile disability services on campus work to get the proper textbook format, the process can be lengthy, and students may fall behind in their coursework.”

Why is it so difficult to get reformatted textbooks for the students who need them? Colleges must first search out the publishing company for an electronic copy of the text. If the publisher has this electronic copy, the College has to then transfer the file to a readable format for the disabled students. Otherwise, the college has to wait for weeks before it can even begin electronically converting the text. And for each new text, the process must start from the beginning, even if the publisher is the same.

However, Maffei believes there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Eight major college textbook publishers have partnered with the Alternative Media Access Center, spending over $1 million to create a national online database known as the AccessText Network. The site went up on Aug. 24 and claims to ìput you in a direct, streamlined publisher relationship like never before” for an annual fee of around $500. So far, the Center has kept its promise. Files are not only electronic, but also the server only requires a one-time verification for all files, regardless of publisher, allowing colleges to save both time and money. As an added bonus, colleges will be able to share their reformatted texts with peer institutions as early as this coming spring.

There are currently over 400 beta members and 900 interested institutions coming from at least 46 different states.