UDL Spotlight

Not all Digital Textbooks are Created Equal

Posted by udlspotlight on January 12, 2010

logo for HTMLbooks showing hand with letters H,T,M,L

Pearson HTMLbooks logo

One of the UDL Guideline principles is to provide educational content in multiple and flexible formats (Multiple Means of Representation) to help ensure that every learner has basic access to the information they’re expected to learn. Traditional print-based curricular materials aren’t able to provide such flexibility due to the nature of the print format, which means individuals with learning, print, and physical disabilities, English language learners, and others who may struggle to use print must attempt to locate alternate formats. When digital products have been offered by publishers, most are not compatible with assistive technology and do not provide the depth of flexibility needed.

That is changing with the introduction of Pearson HTMLbooks™ . These new books offer the same text and images as the print format but in fully accessible e-versions and for the same price. Pearson, in utilizing NIMAS (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard) source files for their HTMLbooks, has created content that can more easily be converted to accessible formats such as Braille and text-to-speech. Pearson issued thirteen high school titles in 2009 and is slated to add more in January 2010. 

“We have been promoting the idea that there is a market for high quality accessible instructional materials for a few years, and Pearson has now stepped forward to test that hypothesis,” says Chuck Hitchcock, Director of the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials at CAST. 

Karen Janowski, a leading assistive and educational technology consultant, praises the move. “Pearson should be commended for recognizing the necessity of providing accessible curricular materials for learners with print disabilities and for providing this high quality option for students.” 

View Pearson’s Accessible Web-based Textbook

In the following section we point out the accessibility and UDL features in Pearson’s Miller & Levine Biology HTMLbook. The UDL features called out below in the Pearson HTMLbook align to specific checkpoints within the UDL Guidelines (each UDL Guideline checkpoint is represented by a circle in the image below; explanatory text follows in the UDL Guidelines graphic). Used with assistive technology, the HTMLbooks transform learning for students using textbooks, facilitating the learning process while promoting independence and success.

Screenshot from Miller & Levine high school biology HTMLbook with accessibility features circled 

Alignment with the UDL Guidelines

Access the complete version of the UDL Guidelines: Version 1.0

Multiple Means of Representation
1.1: Provide options that customize the display of information. Students can change size of text displayed, show and hide the Table of Contents.
1.3: Provide options that provide alternatives for viual information. Live text can be read aloud via a talking browser or screenreader. Also, there is a text equivalent for each image.
2.1: Provide options that define vocabulary and symbols. Key vocabulary is highlighted in bold, represented with a symbol and defined.
2.3: Provide options for decoding text or mathematical notation. Live text can be read aloud with a talking browser or screenreader. Also, vocabulary words include phonetic spelling, pronunciation.
 2.5: Provide options that illustrate key concepts non-linguistically. Illustration on page shows key concepts visually.
3.2: Provide options that highlight critical features, big ideas, and relationships. The “key” symbol and bold text highlight the main ideas on the page.
3.3: Provide options that guide information processing. Students have optional pathways through the content via the table of contents.
Multiple Means of Action and Expression
4.1: Provide options in the mode of physical response. Students have options in mode of physical response. Students can access all  content using keyboard navigation.
4.2: Provide options in the means of navigation. Students have options for physical access with navigation support (clickable table of contents, “skip directly to…”, back/next arrows, enter page number)

Kudos to Pearson for providing students with a fully accessible Web-based textbook – and for setting the bar for all publishers of curricular materials! 

Listen to an Interview with Pearson

Tom Starbranch, Manager, Accessibility and Compliance at Pearson, discusses what differentiates the HTMLbooks™ from other digital textbooks and the important role educators play in requesting accessible materials from publishers.
Other publishers have produced HTML versions of textbooks, what’s different about these new versions?

Transcript of audio clip – Tom Starbranch – 40 sec. 

What efforts could CAST, the AIM Center, or anyone interested in accessible content and UDL make to encourage states and districts to consider using HTML textbooks?

Transcript of audio clip – Tom Starbranch – 23 sec. 

Learn More

Stay tuned for additional releases:  Pearson issued thirteen high school titles in 2009 and is slated to add three more (Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry) this month.

Stahl, S., Zabala, J., Hitchcock, C., & Hendricks, V. (2008). Accessible textbooks in the classroom.  Report prepared for U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Cooperative Agreement nos. H327P040003 and H327P040002.

Karen Janowski’s Ed Tech Solutions Blog

Rose, D., Hasselbring, T., Stahl, S., & Zabala, J. (2009). Assistive technology, NIMAS, and UDL: From some students to all students. In D. Gordon, J. Gravel, & L. Schifter (Eds.), A policy reader in universal design for learning (pp. 133-154). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

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