Public Affairs

CSU's Push for Accessibility and Efficiency

Feb. 4, 2011
By Elizabeth Chapin

CSU's Push for Accessibility and EfficiencyStudents with disabilities in the California State University system have a graduation rate comparable to the entire student population. This success rate is due in part to the wide range of services provided for the roughly 10,000 students with disabilities enrolled in the CSU.

Students with print disabilities such as visual impairments and dyslexia often need hard-copy textbooks converted into electronic text, or e-text. Depending on the disability, there are a variety of e-text formats including audio and e-text (includes Braille and Daisy files). Campus student disability centers are responsible for converting the textbooks into the appropriate e-text format.

The Center for Accessible Media (CAM) at the CSU Chancellor’s Office delivers electronic textbooks to students with print disabilities throughout California. By sharing resources in a centralized location, CAM streamlines the process campus disability centers must go through to provide students with accessible course materials.

“Before 2004, each CSU campus held its own e-text database and did separate text conversions. Many of them were for the same books, especially for underclassmen texts,” said CAM’s Director, Mark Turner. "The system could have been a lot more efficient.”

But Turner says things have turned around since CAM came along in 2004. Five years prior, AB 422 was passed by the California legislature. The law gave the CSU the ability to set up a center for sharing titles and coordinating requests. It also gave the legal right to share copy written material for this purpose and increased access to e-text databases held by publishers.

“Now, when campuses convert course materials into e-text, they enter the holdings into CAM. Since all 23 CSU campuses contribute texts to CAM, it significantly reduces the time it takes to get the text back to the student and the number of redundant requests to publishers - making the system time and cost efficient.”

In 2008, several University of California campuses received access to the CAM database. The CSU - UC collaboration now has a centralized database of over 20,000 holdings that continues to grow.

It’s also helping to meet the increased demand for e-texts. For example, Sacramento State's e-text production increased 85 percent in the last two years.

“In the spring of 2008, the center completed 260 e-text requests. In the spring of 2010, 478 e-text requests were completed,” said Melissa Repa, the Sacramento State Disability Center’s co-director. “CAM’s really helped us manage the increase.”

Turner is hopeful about what lies ahead for e-text and publishers and what it means for people with print disabilities.

“Publishers are already making textbooks available in e-text,” Turner said. “Hopefully, they will be compatible with the formats students with print disabilities need. That would make everyone’s lives a little bit easier.”

CAM has quickly become an efficient and effective system to serve students with print disabilities. Turner estimates a substantial amount in savings by the CSU and UC since its implementation.