College or graduate students who need APA-published books for their coursework-but who are blind, visually impaired, have a learning disability or a physical disability-are benefiting from an APA program launched in August that allows their college disability official to order "alternative text" versions of the books online.
Instead of reading the work on the printed page, a student uses a computer loaded with reading software to listen to the text aloud, via a synthesized voice.
APA sends the electronic file to the student's college, which provides the student with a password to open the secure file. One student can use each electronic copy of the book, which costs the same as the print version. APA also waives that fee if the college certifies that the student bought a print copy.
"We wanted it to be easier and more efficient and quicker for graduate and undergraduate students in psychology," says Janet Soller, PhD, of APA's Office of Publications and Databases.
By mid-November, APA received 22 requests from U.S. colleges and three from Canada, says Marion Harrell, APA permissions manager. The most-requested alternative-text book is the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" she notes.
The new APA program addresses an increasing nationwide need for alternative texts, as the number of students with disabilities enrolled in college grows.
According to the Department of Education, the percentage of college students reporting some type of disability increased to 11.3 percent in the 2003-2004 student aid survey. Another study by the department found that the percentage of young people with learning disabilities enrolled in all forms of postsecondary education more than doubled from 1987 to 2003, when it reached 34.7 percent.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, most colleges and universities must make course material equally accessible to students with disabilities.
Patty Barrett, a disabilities technologist at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich., agrees that alternative texts benefit students with a wide range of disabilities. This fall, Barrett ordered electronic copies of "Ethical Conflicts in Psychology" for five psychology majors completing a senior-level "capstone" course.
Students with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, who have dyslexia or who are blind or visually impaired, but who haven't learned Braille, can also benefit, she said.
- C. Munsey