Pearson books is one of the top rated text book providers in the US. Many schools use not only their textbooks, but their online learning services, which are not compatible with access technology used by disabled consumers. Online textbooks and homework are both offered as images of the text itself, rather than as standard text. These pictures are not accessible to those using text-to-speech software, which can convert text files into an audio format to be listened to by the consumer. Similarly, consumers who are blind and low vision cannot access the image files, either. OCR (optical character recognition) technology can translate these images into text files; however, the material can often become irreparably damaged, sometimes to the point of illegibility, if this extra step is necessary.
The general response from Pearson has been that this issue is something which schools' disabilities departments must address. However, in order to provide the accommodations students require, the original material must be in a compatible, usable format initially. At this time Pearson has shown no interest or intent of making their work accessible. Tell Pearson books online learning is for everyone (including the blind and learning disabled).
I am writing to you in regards to your online homework, known as labs, in addition to your online textbooks and quizzes provided for schools and universities. I or someone I know uses access technology to read textbooks and other schoolwork. Your online lab work and textbooks are fundamentally incompatible with all forms of accommodations for both the blind and learning disabled.
In the past, your response has been to say that this problem should be addressed by departments of disability services on an individual basis. However, because your text is presented in the format of an image, there is little that the disabilities department can do, short of having to read and record each homework assignment and then have a student utilize an assistant to complete daily assignments.
Aside from being prohibitive, the lab functions which allows students to retry a problem after reaching an incorrect answer cannot be accessed. Therefore, students with disabilities are unable to achieve the higher grades other students are permitted to strive for by modifying their errors. For a student with a learning disability, work which may take only minutes for a person without a disability necessitates hours of time. The effort of simply reading robs learning-disabled students of a chance to truly focus on the material. Similarly, blind students, unable to access the material independently, either through screenreading software or Braille, may not be able to comprehend or concentrate sufficiently, meaning that the concepts are often not adequately mastered.
Many people with learning disabilities never properly learn to spell. This does not affect the ability to learn; however, it elicits problems which often require the implementation of a computer program which supplies spell-checking features. As the current lab setup does not have a spell-checking function, modified words must be manually copied into the correct space in the lab. People with dyslexia often struggle to copy accurately, and in addition to requiring additional time and resources, this extra step can take many tries before accuracy is achieved. The addition of copy, cut, and paste features could save hours for a student.
All issues surrounding reading accommodations also apply to online textbooks, help sections, and hints. These facets of the program need to be readily accessible to screenreading technology; graphical images or blips will not be detected, and blind or low vision users may miss these cues altogether.
As one of the leading providers of textbooks for students, it is inevitable that students with many types of disability will be accessing your services. Such students have just as much right to access your material as any other student. Though departments for disabilities are required to help all students in need, this burden does not and should not lie solely on their shoulders. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that your materials be compatible with accessibility aids.
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