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News & Press: Amnet Thought Leader Series

Let's Make Things Easier: Simplicity Through Partnership

Thursday, April 18, 2019   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Jonathan Thurston

Let’s cut to the chase: Accommodation for the access needs of all students with disabilities can be challenging. Talk to anyone who works in an accessibility support services capacity and they will share stories of difficulties encountered in creating equally effective opportunities within the classroom.

You might hear stories of chopping the spines off textbooks so the hundreds of paper pages can be digitized with optical character recognition. Or maybe how they had to cut a book into sections to mail off to different companies for Braille conversion only to get them back weeks later at high expense. They might mention the extensive work involved to remediate PDF files (originally designed for printing) with navigable tagging and structure. This all represents time and resources better spent with the learner, and our customers understand this.

With an increasing call for education products that are born accessible, Pearson has set the foundation to transform our product creation into one that embraces accessibility from beginning to end. Easing the burden of access and allowing every learner an equal opportunity is our mutual goal and is the heart of every customer partnership.

Disability Support Services will often request electronic files from publishers or the Access Text Network. These files often need heavy remediation, depending on the learner needs. Delays in delivery can cause delays to access, rushed work, additional frustration, and extensive expenditure of resources.

Imagine if we could cut some of the steps and red tape out of this process. We are listening to our customers and collaborating with many of their partners to eliminate traditional hurdles. Forging cutting edge partnerships is part of our plan to allow as many learners (with different styles and tool preferences) access to our products as possible.

VitalSource, T-Base, and Kurzweil offer three examples of Pearson partnerships designed to make things easier.

VitalSource Partnership

Learners can now purchase directly from our Pearson Accessibility Bookstore where they can find a growing collection of Higher Education titles. This library is loaded with titles that have been structured, described, and verified with accessibility in mind.

The EPUB (electronic publication) format is designed to be accessible. EPUB is used by most mainstream publishers and can provide sought-after functionality when rendered with a verified accessible reader. Extensive testing has proven that the VitalSource Bookshelf reader closely aligns with WCAG AA standards, which makes VitalSource an ideal and appropriate partner. VitalSource titles are loaded with Accessibility 1.0 metadata, making them highly searchable. Visit our accessibility store and browse our current selections:

T-Base Partnership

Braille and large print production can offer its own challenges, notably high production times and cost. To provide the quickest possible access for Braille and large print users we needed to research new options for our customers. We were looking for the ability to deliver braille and large print to our customers with speed (as opposed to waiting weeks or months) and at a lower cost. This led us to T-Base.

T-Base has developed proprietary software-based transformation solutions for accessibility, and Pearson has shared our top requested titles so they can be preprocessed and archived. This allows these titles to be delivered upon demand and eliminates many of the traditional frustrations.

Kurzweil Partnership

Kurzweil is a tool used by many of our learners and designed to work with all kinds of learning styles. Our customers will often request digital files in order to convert and remediate them before loading into this tool. This can add delays and expense to access.

A new groundbreaking agreement designed to lift this burden of customer remediation and conversion is in the works. A pilot is underway that is designed to make things easier by refining the process. Our mutual goal is to deliver the file directly to the learner within the Kurzweil application by simplifying the conversion process.

A new Pearson Library full of pre-processed eTexts is planned to be linked within Kurzweil 3000. This will allow files to be delivered directly to a specific learner account upon request. Support personnel can also be granted access to allow them to further customize the file as needed. We plan to fully operationalize this effort for the Fall 2019 back-to-school season.

Let’s do this!

This is just the beginning. Success with these pilots has energized our desire to close the gaps even further, to launch even more solutions, and to partner with our colleagues who work daily in an effort to create that truly equal experience in the classroom. We will continue to work toward incorporating accessibility into the fabric of our products and holistically improve learner experiences.

This article is brought to you through a partnership with Amnet, a technology-led provider of services and solutions, catering to the needs of businesses for content transformation, design, and accessibility. The points of view expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of Amnet or of BISG.



Jonathan Thurston is the Head of Accessibility Product Management for Pearson where he is responsible for the execution of Pearson’s Global Product accessibility initiative and overall management of their higher education accessibility requirements and standards. His past experience includes managing the e-book and accessibility programs for several large publishing houses in addition to teaching design and digital media for different universities and working as an interactive designer with numerous agencies. Born in the Bay Area, he currently lives in the greater NYC area with his wife and growing family.


Robert Martinengo says...
Posted Tuesday, April 23, 2019
It's encouraging to learn about what Pearson is doing (much of which I was suggesting to them for years in my old job). But there is still an element missing. Students with disabilities are not a group, a community, or a cohort - they are individuals, with differing requirements and preferences. It's almost impossible for a publisher to match the personal attention that students receive from the disability service office at many colleges and universities. One thing publishers need to do now, if not sooner, is provide students with information about the accessibility of their products in an easy to find and understand manner (call it Nutrition Facts for accessibility). If publishers like Pearson want their accessibility efforts to succeed, they need to understand that students with disabilities (and for that matter, disability service offices staff) have little reason to trust them - that trust must be earned.


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