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Workshop presented at the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference, 2001. Orlando Florida
by Jim Allan, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, , (512)-206-9315 

Learning Outcomes

  1. Attendees will be able to list the accessibility problems associated with multimedia textbooks
  2. Attendees will be able to identify organizations involved in making multimedia textbooks accessible to students with disabilities.
  3. Attendees will be able to examine examples of multimedia and describe accessibility problems.

Textbooks and other printed textbooks and instructional materials are slowly (rapidly, depending on your source) being phased out. They are being replaced with digital text and multimedia delivered via CD-ROM, DVD, or the World Wide Web. However, these digital materials are not accessible to students with visual, auditory or motoric impairments. This session will review the accessibility problems associated with multimedia textbooks, discuss current projects around the country that seek to improve accessibility, and participants will preview example materials and discuss accessibility problems.

Underlying Assumptions

  1. Accessibility must be built in, not added on. Universal design will benefit all users, not merely those with disabilities.
  2. As technology becomes more important, accessibility becomes more important.
  3. Additional dialogue and research are needed on emerging technological accessibility problems, no only for people with disabilities, but for all under-represented individuals in society--the poor, the isolated, and the vulnerable.

(Annenberg Washington Program; Communications Technology for Everyone, Implications for the Classroom and Beyond, 1994)


The foundation of accessibility for people with disabilities is the concept of redundancy. A foundation of redundancy allows the configuration of products, so an individual can access information and the computer in a method that is most beneficial and meaningful to that individual.

Accessibility to products is a compromise. All accessibility features do not need to be built into a product. However, the "hooks" or links to information for access for people with disabilities MUST be in place to provide access through existing accessibility tools. 

Redundancy for accessibility contains two components, input redundancy and output redundancy.

Input redundancy provides multiple methods of entering or selecting information on the computer screen. Redundancy of input includes or allows

  • keyboard equivalents for buttons (keyboard access to navigation on the screen)
  • access via mouse
  • access via speech
  • access via touch screen

Output or Information redundancy provides multiple or selectable forms of the information (output) displayed on the computer screen. Redundancy of output/information includes, but is not limited to:

  • access to information by assistive technology (screen enlargers, and screen review software)
  • descriptive video for action taking place in the video
  • closed captioning of any speech on the screen
  • text of the descriptive video
  • text of captioning
  • Spanish language version (including menus, buttons, etc.)
  • hot key describing key equivalents
  • descriptions of graphics available in accessible manner
  • text digitized speech visible on screen
  • visual indication of auditory clues (computer beep)

Other concerns and issues

  • labels on materials, disks etc. should be in large print (18 point)
  • documentation should be on disk in a marked up file
  • accessibility features should be selectable at any time with in the product
  • all materials should be based on an underlying structure (HTML, SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language), SVG (Structured Vector Graphics))
  • teacher materials concerning modification of instruction for students with disabilities
  • representation of people with disabilities within media materials