Accessibility Partnerships in Higher Education Adoption
PHILIP: This was a very extensive process that required many layers of planning, partnerships, and priorities throughout the TBR system. We rolled this initiative out through a system accessibility task force that included representatives from each institution. We employed a “train the trainer” model to train more than 2,000 institutional faculty, staff, and task-force members to support each institution’s accessibility efforts to modify and employ an accessibility initiative template provided by the TBR system office. The TBR system office implemented a systemwide textbook audit to determine the accessibility of current adoptions used at our institutions. We found that out of 10K plus unique titles, only 10% could be delivered as accessible. We accomplished the aforementioned task through partnerships with supply chain vendors from content creation through end user players for ebooks. I will keep this response specifically to procurement. Our procurement initiative was essential in moving the system into requiring vendors to provide us with accessible materials and technologies in order to be considered as a business partner. In this process we created a specific workflow employed at all TBR institutions that required all adopters to follow in order to meet our obligations to persons with disabilities. This workflow included documentation to determine the current accessibility status of a vendor’s offering and accessibility roadmap for remediating any accessibility issues found with the product. No new and renewing contract could be signed or material adopted without this process. The key to this workflow’s success was the TBR system’s dedication to the accessibility initiative and our willingness to partner with vendors in helping them meet our needs for accessible materials and technologies.
JONATHAN: Fascinating, Philip. Part of the success for such a program involves multiple partnerships at various levels. I am happy to share that Pearson was able to successfully partner with schools across Tennessee in this initiative. Let’s focus on the publisher partnerships. What are the top accessibility challenges that colleges and universities need publishers to partner with them on?
PHILIP: I will not speak to the priorities of higher education institutions in answering this question. However, my experience and conversations with colleagues have identified several challenges that rise to the top.
Accessibility team contact to partner with and
The key to the entire process is building effective partnerships with vendors.
JONATHAN: Thank you Philip, we understand that we have the same goals and missions and appreciate the willingness for partnership. How do formats like properly structured and described EPUB3 factor into the discussions?
PHILIP: These are essential conformance issues so an individual with a disability can effectively access these materials with or without the use of assistive technology. This will also provide usability and multiple means of representation to better meet the variability of the audience. Simply said, EPUB content is by default dynamic and reflowable making it far easier to use on multiple devices. For example, instead of forcing the reader to pan and zoom around preformatted content, EPUB, more generally, makes content accessible to different modes of consumption, including assistive technology, and is one of the key characteristics that distinguishes EPUB from other portable document formats like PDF. EPUB is the future of “born accessible” publishing and promises independent access and acquisition by persons with disabilities that persons without disabilities currently take for granted.
At Pearson, accessibility is important to our customers and it is of equal importance to us. Content producers must align with standards, and we check against them. We have the same expectations for our product development partners that our customers have for us about accessibility.
The rise in accessibility requests from our customers has had many positive effects across our business. We now consider accessibility far upstream in the product life cycle, enabling our products to increasingly be in fact “born accessible.”
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