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Berkeley accelerating access to course materials for disabled students

May 8, 2013 by

As part of a settlement with Disability Rights Advocates, UC Berkeley will provide disabled students with more timely access to printed materials in alternative formats such as Braille, large print and audio.

UC Berkeley is making its vast library collections and course textbooks more readily available to students with visual and other impairments under an agreement reached Tuesday that could set a precedent for universities nationwide.

The settlement with the nonprofit legal group Disability Rights Advocates was reached after more than a year of negotiations and will provide students with physical, developmental, learning and visual disabilities more timely access to printed materials in alternative formats such as Braille, large print and audio.

The agreement is important because there are few standards required on such accessibility. The Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, doesn’t spell out what accommodations schools must make and includes a clause allowing schools not to make any concessions if costs create an undue burden, said Rebecca Williford, an attorney for the disability rights organization.


“We hope that this is setting a precedent for a model that other universities can follow nationwide,” Williford said. “Access to print material is an emerging issue. We’re hopeful that the technology is going to get better and better and that the agreement with UC Berkeley will help to put students on a more equal playing field.”

The disability rights group represented three Cal students who said they were frequently stymied in obtaining course reading assignments and library research materials in accessible digital formats.

One of the students, Tabitha Mancini, said it could take two to three weeks to get materials on the course syllabus converted to the correct format and that she often had to go through the time-consuming process of scanning library books herself. Once scanned, she can use a computer software program that reads documents and tracks words.

via Berkeley accelerating access to course materials for disabled students – latimes.com.

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