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When Our Books Are Not on Tape

by Ronit Ovadia

Editor's Introduction: In order to be successful in college, it is obvious that students must be able to access their books. There are many ways of reading texts for class, some students use tapes, others scan their own books, many use human readers, and still others will contact the book publishers and ask for electronic texts.

In the article below, Ronit Ovadia, a junior from Scripps College in Claremont California, describes her experience with this last technique. Ronit is a Biology major, and also a board member of the National Association of Blind Students. She recognizes that a number of students have questions and uncertainties about obtaining electronic texts from publishers. Here she offers some very helpful tips and practical suggestions to help students take the mystery out of text access.

Checking the RFB and D website and realizing that none of your books are available on tape can be a very shocking, not to mention, scary experience. However, there is an alternative to getting books on tape. Many students are unaware of this, but you can contact the publisher of the book you will be using and request a copy of the book in an electronic format. This sounds difficult because publishers are so big and most of the time, they do not have a special department for disability requests. However, if you are persistent, this can be done. I will explain what I did to prepare for next semester and hopefully this will help you if you are in a similar situation.

After I panicked about not being able to find any of my books on tape, I started thinking about contacting the publishers. I found the website of the publisher of one of my books, a book for my biological anthropology class. They actually had a disability request section of their site, so asking for this book was easy. I just gave the ISBN number and within a week I got a response from the publisher saying that they would be able to send me the files in PDF format on CD to my house. This was provided for free because I live in California. This may not be applicable for all states because it depends on the laws established in that state regarding accessible book formats. However, it is always a good idea to tell the publisher that the law requires that they provide you with their book in an accessible format.

The next publisher I needed to contact didnít have a section for disability requests on their website, so I spent much more time searching for the correct person to contact. I contacted somebody at customer service by phone and was told that they would not be able to provide me with any files. I thanked her even though I knew she was wrong. Then I contacted somebody at tech support by email, giving the ISBN numbers for the two books in the email. I got a response within a week saying that they would be sending both books to me in PDF format on CD.

To sum it all up, it is possible to get books in accessible formats even if the books are not on tape. It just takes a little more effort and persistence. Just remember that publishers are required to give you books in accessible formats. If you have trouble convincing the publisher you need the book, ask your professor or disabled student office to help you contact the publisher. If you ever need any help with this or any other issues that come up, donít forget you can contact any of the board members of NABS and we will be more than willing to help you. Good luck!

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