New CSUF Braille Transcription Center Promotes Access to Postsecondary Instructional Materials For The California State
College students with print impairments face a double challenge in pursuing a quality education. First, they must obtain instructional text materials in alternative formats, ranging from large print and audio tape to Braille and electronic text. This in itself can be no small hurdle. But, satisfying this personal, and legal requirement, is of little use if students do not receive the alternative format materials at the same time as their non-disabled peers. Thus, timeliness is the second, and frequently overlooked, challenge of providing equal access to academic information.
A new project based at California State University, Fullerton, attempts to address both of these access challenges. The CSUF Braille Transcription Center (BTC) has recently been established with a $350,000 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a "Model Demonstration Project to Improve the Delivery and Outcomes of Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities (CFDA 84.078C)." Co-directed by Dr. Jamie Dote-Kwan, California State University, Los Angeles, and Jeffrey C. Senge, CSUF, the BTC presents a multi-campus model of service delivery that will be eagerly followed by all those who are responsible for and concerned with providing equal access to information in postsecondary education.
The CSUF Braille Transcription Center Projectby Jeffrey C. Senge, M.S., Information and Computer Access
Program (ICAP) Coordinator, Office of Disabled Student
Services, California State University, Fullerton
Jamie Dote-Kwan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Division of
Special Education, California State University, Los Angeles.
The purpose of this project is to create a center for the production of instructional materials in Braille. The Braille Transcription Center (BTC) will allow the California State University (CSU) system to provide blind students access to instructional materials in Braille at the same time as print reading students. A recent study of 18 of the 20 CSU campuses indicated that many campuses may not be providing a sufficient level of Braille accessibility for their Braille reading students (Senge & Dote-Kwan, 1995). Currently, instructional materials including course syllabus, class handouts, and examinations are not distributed in Braille at the same time these materials are distributed in print. While it is difficult to measure the precise effect such delays in access to instructional materials may have on a student's opportunity to achieve, this practice undoubtedly reduces program accessibility to one degree or another.
The basic design of the BTC project is as follows: Students, faculty, or staff located on a participating CSU campus will send the instructional materials they desire transcribed into Braille to the BTC. The information may be sent by conventional mail, over-night courier, fax, or electronically over the Internet. Once the instructional material has been received, the staff of the center will convert the information into Braille. This task will be accomplished by utilizing state-of-the-art computer-based Braille production systems. All embossed documents will be checked for formatting and errors in transcription by a Library of Congress certified Braille transcriber. After the transcription process has been completed, the embossed documents will be returned to the appropriate party by conventional mail or over-night courier.
Since the primary mission of the BTC will be to provide Braille access in a timely manner, an outreach program will be included in the project. This essential component will focus on making students, faculty, and staff in the CSU system aware of the BTC and what their responsibilities will be in making the program successful. Every effort will be made to encourage and support the use of existing technologies, including fax machines and E-mail, to expedite the transfer of information and materials. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of submitting instructional materials to the BTC far enough in advance to allow for sufficient time to transcribe and return the instructional material by the desired date.
The final function of the BTC will be to act as a resource. Technical support and training will be provided to CSU campuses that already have on-site Braille production equipment. The BTC will also conduct evaluations of computer-based technologies related to the Braille transcription process. All findings will be documented and made available to other campuses in the CSU system.
This innovative project offers a solution to the problem of providing individualized instructional materials in Braille to students throughout the CSU system in a timely manner. The creation of the BTC will not only provide an increased opportunity for students who use Braille to achieve but will undoubtedly raise the CSU system's level of compliance with existing civil rights laws.
For more information on the BTC contact:Jeffrey C. Senge, M.S.
Information and Computer Access Program (ICAP)
Coordinator Office of Disabled Student Services (UH-101)
California State University, Fullerton
P.O. Box 34080
Fullerton, CA 92634-9480
Phone: (714) 449-5397
References:Senge, J.C., & Dote-Kwan, J. (1995). "Information accessibility
in alternative formats in postsecondary education." Journal of
Visual Impairment and Blindness, 89, 120-128.