The VitalSource Resource

The VitalSource Resource

What does it mean for an eTextbook to be accessible?

Posted by Saskia Watts on September 09, 2019

Woman looking at laptop showing VitalSource Bookshelf.In the ever-changing landscapes of digital learning, accessibility, and higher education, it can seem a daunting prospect to stay on top of it all.
​In particular, accessibility is an important aspect of modern education, and one that is becoming of increasingly higher priority for institutions, publishers, and learning platforms alike. Digital textbooks undoubtedly open possibilities for students with disabilities in both online courses and those taught on campus. Features like text to speech, the ability to resize text, and navigational tagging ensure a stress-free learning experience for those with disabilities. A 2018 case study with BPP University found that students with a visual, hearing, or other cognitive disability were more likely to report that some features, such as the ability to magnify text, had a positive impact on their learning compared to their peers (94% versus 87%). It’s these positive impacts that truly sets eTextbooks a step above their print equivalent. 

There are many ways in which an eTextbook can be accessible, making the learning experience easier and less stressful for those who do not have the same sensory abilities that the majority enjoy. Some of these features, often exclusive to the EPUB format (which VitalSource encourages publishers to supply), include:

  • Magnification
    • Users have the ability to magnify content, sometimes up to 300%, allowing those with reading impairments to pick their ideal text size. Where it can, magnified text will also wrap around, eliminating the need to scroll horizontally to read everything on the screen.
  • Navigation
    • Where page numbers are available, they can be exposed in both the margins and contents page, making navigation easier.
  • Read Aloud
    • eTextbook platforms often have inbuilt text to speech with rewind, play, pause, and fast-forward functionality. This means users have total control over how they consume their content.
  • Colours and Contrasts
    • Users are given the opportunity to adjust the background to various colours, including sepia, cyan, or night mode—ideal for those with Irlen Syndrome.
  • Reading Options
    • eTextbooks allow for various fonts, including OpenDyslexic.

There are many more features eTextbooks offer that place them far beyond their print equivalents in terms of accessibility, and it is important for those who procure the content to pay special attention to these. This is especially true since an EU Directive came into force in September of 2018 that explicitly states the “need for digital materials from public bodies (which does include universities) to be accessible.” So now truly is the time for universities to sit up and pay attention to the accessibility of the education they are providing, especially digitally. 

To read more about accessibility features on the VitalSource platform, visit https://get.vitalsource.com/accessibility.

Topics: eTextbooks, Accessibility, Librarians

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