Making a Case for SensusAccess
The SensusAccess Service at a Glance
SensusAccess is a self-service solution intended for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others with a need to convert material into accessible formats and alternate media. Based on web and e-mail and combining a wide range of assistive and mainstream conversion technologies with an easy-to-use user interface, the service is entirely automated. With SensusAccess users can convert most popular document types into the following formats:
- MP3 audio files. MP3 files are highly portable, can play on a vast number of devices but may be difficult to navigate.
- Structured audio books in both DAIYS and EPUB/Media Overlay format. Structured audio books include synchronised text and audio as well as all the features needed to navigate the documents.
- E-books (Digital Large Print). E-books are reflow-able, making it possible to scale up the text, substitute fonts, and make changes to the foreground colours, background colours, line spacing, scrolling direction, and more.
- Digital Braille Books. The resulting digital Braille books are ready to be embossed on a Braille embosser, displayed on a Braille display, or loaded on a Braille notetaker.
In addition, users can use the SensusAccess service to convert otherwise inaccessible or tricky formats into more accessible formats. These accessibility features include conversion of image files and image-only PDF-documents into Word, RTF and text files, conversion of image-only PDF-documents into tagged (i.e. accessible) PDF-documents, and conversion of PowerPoint presentations into web projects, tagged PDF-documents, or RTF outline files.
The Case in Higher Education
Independence and self-sufficiency. As an accessible self-service solution, individuals with a need for accessible and alternate formats are not relying on others to convert their documents into mere suitable formats for them. Consequently, SensusAccess can be used to promote and support independence and self-sufficiency of individuals with disabilities in mainstream environments such as mainstream education and subsequently on the labour market. While empowering students, the service will likely reduce spending on traditional document conversion.
Availability. As an entirely automated service available on the web, SensusAccess is available whenever and wherever users need to convert documents. Conversions can be requested on campus, off campus, when visiting a foreign university, during the weekend, in the middle of the night, or whenever else the need arises.
Privacy. As no-one besides the requesting user is involved in the conversion, the privacy of the user can be preserved.
Multiple formats. Using traditional means of conversions, users with disabilities are frequently provided with only a single alternate format. However, depending on the actual situation of the student, this may not always be the most suitable format. With SensusAccess, users can convert documents into the format that works best for them in any given situation (e.g., when commuting, doing workouts, doing repetitions, engaged in in-depth studying, etc.).
Language support. SensusAccess has support for a substantial number of languages in its audio and Braille conversions, including support for all the main European languages, some of the smaller European languages, American English, Latin American Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, and more. Some target formats even support multilingual contents.
Cost. The target formats produced by SensusAccess can be read on existing hardware (e.g., computers, tablet, and smartphones) using free applications and apps, thereby removing the need for costly reading solutions. Braille readers will, however, need a Braille device (e.g., Braille embosser, Braille display, or Braille notetaker) to render the digital Braille document produced by the service.
Platform. SensusAccess is provided as a service. Consequently, neither institutions nor users need to install software to access the service. Furthermore, SensusAccess is available across platforms irrespective of operating system, browser, or hardware.
Continued support. Included in the annual subscription fee to SensusAccess is the right for academic institutions to extend services to their alumni without additional cost. This way, SensusAccess can be used as a long-term alternate media strategy by individuals and as a means of retaining ties to alumni with disabilities by academic institutions.
Accessibility support in online education. As an automated, web-based service, SensusAccess can be used as a means to provide accessibility support in conjunction with online courses, blended learning, and other online activities.
Integration with Learning Management Systems/Virtual Learning Environments. As an add on, SensusAccess can be used as a resource directly in the LMS/VLE. The SensusAccess LTI plug-ins are available for Blackboard Learn, Canvas, Sakai, Moodle, and Desire2Learn. Several other interfaces are available to facilitate integration of the service with other systems, including integration with email-enabled photocopiers/scanners, digital library systems, learning portals, and more
As an inclusion technology, use of SensusAccess is not restricted to users with disabilities. Rather, in an effort to remove the stigma often associated with assistive technology, subscribing institutions are offered the rights to extend access to the service to everyone associated with an institution, including mainstream users, without affecting the cost. Typical SensusAccess users include the following groups:
Primary users. The primary users of the SensusAccess services are individuals with disabilities, including individuals with blindness, individuals with low vision, individuals with dyslexia, cognitive disabilities, learning disorders, motor deficiencies, and concussions.
Professionals. This group includes alternate media producers, staff members, librarians, and others at academic institutions who produce material on behalf of the primary users.
At-risk students. This group includes students with poor reading skills who either do not qualify or do not want to qualify into the official disability/dyslexia programmes.
Mainstream students and faculty. This group includes students with poor language skills (e.g., foreign students), foreign language-students (reading support, support in pronunciation), students exploring different learning styles (mixed modalities), faculty members with a need to convert legacy PDF-documents, and more.