University of California, Berkeley Settlement

Synopsis

  • Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) represented 3 students with print disabilities regarding barriers to alternate media.
  • The parties used a ‘structured negotiation process’ (vs. lawsuit) that took more than a year to complete.
  • The complaints focused primarily on timely access to materials as well as library accessibility (print books/journals and catalog software).

Outcomes

Alternate Media Services

  • Implement shorter alternate media delivery timelines:
    • Textbooks: 10 business days
    • Course readers: 17 business days
    • Portions of critical materials: shorter (not specified in fact sheet)
    • Delivery of timely requests 3 days prior to start of class
  • Deliver ‘recommended materials in accessible formats: The settlement states that both required and recommended materials shall be made available in accessible formats. Historically, some campuses have only applied accessibility requirements to required materials.
  • Reminders: The agreement establishes a higher institutional burden involving 3 separate email notices beginning 6 weeks prior to the term.
  • Turnaround of print materials: The settlement agreement provides the campus 3 days to return hard copy printed material to a student that had been borrowed to allow scanning. While some campuses have reasonable turnaround times for this step, I suspect that many do not commit to meeting this 3-day target.
  • Interim Services: The agreement includes personal readers as 1 of an array of services for students awaiting their alternate format materials.
  • Tracking database: UCB will maintain an online alternate media request/response tracking systems which allows students to (1) request materials online; (2) track the current status of their request and compare this status to the date of request receipt and ‘due date’; and (3) receive push notifications (via email) to students.
  • Direct access to course sites by alternate media production staff: Alternate media production staff will be granted direct access to course sites without obtaining faculty permission for purposes of acquiring electronic course materials for conversion to alternate formats.
  • Online eText conversion program: The agreement references a free, online text conversion program that will allow students to upload files and have them converted into various accessible formats.

Library Accessibility Capacity/Procedures

  • Library catalog systems: The agreement not only requires extensive remediation of online catalogs within university control (as specified by Jim Thatcher—the identified web accessibility expert) but also requires the campus to engage in ‘..reasonable best efforts to persuade outside third parties to implement the changes necessary” to make these systems accessible.
  • Library title quality: Students will receive copies of print materials in ‘OCR-scanned digital format’ within an average of 5 days. The campus will engage in a basic screening of the first portion of this material to correct ‘obvious errors’; however, additional editing beyond error correction (e.g. text equivalents for non-text elements, semantic structure, reading order, etc.) is only conducted if a student requests additional editing.
  • Library title timeliness: Enrolled students with print disabilities will have 3 days following receipt of ‘OCR-scanned digital formats’ to request further editing of these materials to address accessibility issues outside of OCR accuracy.
  • Specialized scanning hardware: The agreement indicates that the campus has acquired special scanning hardware that allows rapid, high-quality scanning of materials without requiring de-binding. Assistance with scanning will be provided for persons with physical disabilities.
  • Coverage exclusions: The agreement includes several key exclusions for library materials that are not required or recommended for a course:
    • The library won’t convert non-text content (e.g. images, STEM equation/symbols, and foreign languages)
    • The library won’t convert materials into hard copy formats (e.g. Braille, large-print)
    • The DS office—not the Library—will conduct additional editing of OCR-scanned digital formats

Timely Adoption

  • Impose consequences for failure to meet timely adoption deadlinesCcourse instructors may be referred to the Vice Provost for Faculty if they refuse to submit textbook adoptions at least seven weeks prior to the start of classes—as long as the faculty member was made aware of this responsibility and ‘knowingly refused’. The VP will then determine whether the faculty member engaged in ‘misconduct’ per UCB’s Faculty Code of Conduct.

Campus-wide AT Availability

  • Assistive technology in computing labs: The agreement commits the campus to provide a ‘basic AT package’ that meets the baseline needs of students with print disabilities on at least 1 workstation in all general computing labs. This consists of Acrobat Pro and a collection of free software applications including a screen reader, TTS reader, a MathML player, and DAISY player.

Lessons

  • Likely precedent-setting for future OCR investigations/lawsuits
  • The timelines are challenging when applied to all requests
  • Alt media capacity requires investments to meet growing demands
  • Print disability issues extend beyond blindness

References