Digital or E-text are electronic files containing the content of textbooks and instructional materials in a format than can be viewed and accessed by a number of digital devices. When used with certain assistive technologies (AT) the digital text can be highlighted (selected with a mouse or a keystroke combination) and read aloud by synthetic speech (text-to-speech). For high quality Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) Digital Text, content should be appropriately “tagged” to identify the parts of the document including titles, headings, and alternative descriptions for images.
The following are sources of AEM Digital/Text:
Bookshare is an online resource that includes a library of many digital textbooks for people with print disabilities. A grant from the US Department of Education allows Bookshare to offer FREE organizational memberships for U.S. institutions serving qualifying students, and FREE individual memberships for qualifying U.S. students of any age. When your school signs up for a free membership, you can easily acquire these books in accessible formats for your students who need AIM. Bookshare also provides a service to its members where they can submit a book to be scanned and converted into an accessible digitized format (includes DAISY, ASCII, HTML, and Braille Digital Format). For member schools and individuals, there is no cost to request and download the books in Digital Format. Bookshare has also been designated as a NIMAC Authorized User.
Some publishers of instructional materials are now making their materials available in specialized formats. There is no central clearinghouse listing who these publishers are. Schools are encouraged to ask sales staff from these companies for lists of AEM that they can purchase.
If a publisher has a specialized format of a copyrighted material, such as a textbook or contemporary novel, available for sale, it can be purchased and used by any student. That is, it doesn’t have to be reserved for the sole use of a student with a print disability.
Here is a list of some resources:
- Publisher contacts for information for Braille-related materials
- Commercial repositories of instructional materials in specialized format
- Mainstream sources of instructional materials
Free Online Collections Available for Use by All Students
The following are all external links:
- Alex Catalog of Electronic Texts
- Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE
- CK-12 FlexBooks
- Digital Book Index
- Flat World Knowledge
- Free eBooks at Fictionwise
- Free eBooks: The Ultimate Guide
- Internet Public Library
- MARVEL – Maine’s Virtual Library of Databases
- MIT OpenCourseWare
- News for You
- OER Commons
- The Online Books Page
- Open Library
- Project Gutenberg
- Read Print
- UDL Editions by CAST
Commercially Available eBooks
Other Options – Scanning:
Schools may choose, or may need, to produce their own Digital Text materials. Standard print material can be converted to digital text by scanning with a flatbed scanner using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. Under federal law, copyrighted materials can be scanned and used by students with qualifying print disabilities. Materials in the Public Domain, licensed under Creative Commons, or teacher-created can be scanned and used by all students. We have provided a link to more information about OCR software for your use.
While scanning materials may appear to be a good and less expensive option, the quality of these instructional materials needs to be at least as good as the original. To produce high-quality AEM can take a considerable amount of time and require special resources. For high quality AEM, Digital Text should be appropriately “tagged” to identify the parts of the document including titles, headings, and alternative descriptions for images.