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Video transcription Davy Kager, Susan van den Akker

Multi-modal reading: Lessons learned from one year of EPUB in the classroom

(gentle upbeat music)

DAVY: Hello and welcome to our presentation titled "Multi-modal reading" where we share with you our findings and our lessons learned from one year of EPUB 3 in the classroom. I am Davy Kager, a Product Manager at Dedicon, responsible for our text products that we have for blind and low vision users including EPUB 3.

SUSAN: And my name is Susan van den Akker. I'm also working for Dedicon in the Netherlands and I'm responsible as Product Manager for the webshop Educatief where our students and pupils can order their schoolbooks.

DAVY: We'll talk briefly about Dedicon before getting to the subject of EPUB 3. As a non-profit organisation, Dedicon believes in a society in which everyone should be able to participate fully. And this is why we make existing text and image products accessible to blind people, and other people with reading disabilities, including low vision, as I said, and people with dyslexia but also CVI and other reading disabilities. Dedicon is the largest producer of alternative reading formats in the Netherlands. And our products include braille, tactile images, large print, but also audio, text products, and hybrid products combining text and audio but also more and more other formats so that we get into producing multi-modal products.

SUSAN: Especially for primary school pupils and students, we have a webshop named Educatief. The webshop Educatief is an online channel to order your school or study books in an alternate reading format. We have more than 35,000 school books in our collection in one or more reading formats. Students who are blind or visually impaired can do a special request for the production of the book in their requested reading form. Most of the time, we are able to deliver our books in 8 to 12 weeks, and that's depending of the desired reading form and the already available materials we have in stock. We are very proud that we have EPUB as new reading form in our collection since the summer of 2020. As we started to produce EPUBs only on request, it's only a small collection yet but this will expand in the coming years.

DAVY: (indistinct) EPUB 3 which we launched last year. The target audience for the new product right now is partially sighted people attending secondary or higher education. Blind students may also use EPUB but we need to further optimise it for them in 2021. For example, the reading system that we are using that Susan will talk about more soon was recently made more accessible for screen reader users. We also want to bring didactic adaptations for primary school pupils to EPUB 3 and mathematics are not yet accessible for blind people, so partially sighted users have the most benefits for now but we are still working very hard. On this, we produced over 75 books in 2020 and of course more will follow this year. Then what are the key advantages of EPUB compared to our other products? EPUB has a number of advantages. It contains accessible text where you have headings, and tables, and other semantic mark-up. So that it is fully accessible to anyone, and you always know what you are reading and how the structure is laid out. Our EPUBs also feature the images from the printed book so if you have sight, you can see the actual images. If not, they are also made accessible through image descriptions for the most functional images, not decorative images. And when necessary, we also refer to tactile images. Drawings that can be ordered separately in the webwinkel Educatief. The display of the book's text can be personalised in many different ways. Susan will show this and talk more about this as well when we discuss the EPUB reader. And for partially sighted users, EPUB contains visual mathematics. As I said, blind users still need to wait for an accessible format. We are working on that right now. But if you are partially sighted, you get not only images but also mathematics and as I said, you can adapt the text in the way that you want and that is most easily readable for you. Last but not least, the reading system provides many advantages and also Susan will share those with you. But first, we want to talk a little bit about the reading system selection. Why we need the reading system in the first place and how that works.

SUSAN: Yes, thank you, Davy. Why one reader? Think big, start small. It's a popular way of development of new products. This was also our thought when we started the project to bring EPUB to the classroom. We would like to offer this new reading form in a controlled way, and integrate it with our other systems like webshop but also the other systems in our Dedicon environment. Depending on our experience with (indistinct) reading and the popularity of EPUB in the coming time, we will consider to expand also new readers. The selection of an appropriate reader was one of the biggest challenges during our project to bring EPUB to the classroom. Our most important requirements were an accessible reader for our target audience from a supplier who's willing to invest in accessibility in the future. So we needed to be sure that by updates also the accessibility component was in scope, and also on the road map for the development of the reader. Further on, a close system where it's only possible to read books via the specific reader, so that we and the publishers of course, can be sure that books delivered by Dedicon are protected against unauthorised copying and only available for the students that they are meant to be for. The reader should be compatible with different devices as screen readers, and the readers should also support of course, the EPUB 3 format. Of course, time is going fast. The development of readers is also a continued progress. In the period of time, we did our investigation for an appropriate reader, our set of requirements took care of a natural selection and reduced our list with potential players to two. Finally, we have decided to use Bookshelf as reader for our EPUBs. And I will explain this choice in the next few slides and also give little demo. Okay, what are the benefits of Bookshelf for us? Bookshelf is suitable for iOS, Android, Windows app and app browser versions, and you can switch easily between the different devices and your notes, settings, and other personal preferences will be presented. Also, the page of your book where you were working on is stored. So you can start on the same page in which device wherever you want. It's also possible to work offline when your book is locally stored on your device, of course. Bookshelf has a lot of options for the user for personal settings and preferences. It's possible to choose your preferred fonts and text size. There is a reading functionality where it's possible to select your favourite system voice and the also speed is possible to adapt to your preference. You can add bookmarks, notes, and highlight important parts of the book and make flash cards for extra support during the learning. The app is available in Dutch, of course. That's for us, it's very important. And it's a closed system. If the books ordered by Dedicon are only accessible via your personal Bookshelf account, which is linked to your personal webshop account at Dedicon. Bookshelf supports our EPUBs very well and give our students a whole new learning experience with EPUB. Of course, there are also a few things to be aware of. We are dependent of the development road map of an external supplier. And so, sometimes we have to wait a little longer for things we would like to have developed. At this moment, it's not possible yet to put answers in workbooks. It's possible to put your answer in the notes, of course. But it would be much more satisfying when your answers are visible by the particular task and that's one of the things we are working on with our supplier. And hopefully in the near future, is available. Well, then, I think it's time to give you a demo of the Bookshelf environment. (Narrator) Bookshelf is more than just an e-reader. It's a personalised digital learning experience that allows you to do more with learning materials. The Bookshelf library contains all the titles that you have an active licence for. Use the search bar in the header to search for a particular title or search a term across your library to easily find important topics. You can access and complete your reading assignments by click on the purple Assignment icon. To access your content, simply click on the book title. You can easily navigate your e-book with the table of contents to go directly to a specific chapter, header, or subheader. Also, if you know the page you need, you can always enter it in the page entry field. See your progress with the scrubber bar and use it to go back and forth in the text. You can also use the Bookmark feature to return to the selected text later. Bookshelf enables you to print, depending on publisher allowances, change the content layout, listen to your content with our Read Aloud feature, generate citations, and link to specific locations within the book. Click and drag over selected content to reveal your study tools. You can easily add notes to highlighted content. This notes will be added to your notebook, which allows for focused study of selected material within the text. Review these notes and highlights by clicking Review Mode. A progress indicator lets you know your progress in the review session. Continue your study session using the Flashcards tool. If this is your first time creating a flash card for this textbook, you'll be prompted to click on New Deck and to name your deck. When you're ready to review, the Flashcard quizzing tool allows you to study all of the flash cards you've created in the deck. Take your Bookshelf content on the go with our mobile and desktop apps. With these apps, you can download your course material right to your phone or laptop, so you won't need internet access to study. All of the notes, flash cards, and highlights you've created in Bookshelf Online will be available to you in the apps. For more information about Bookshelf, visit http://success.vitalsource.com.

DAVY: This was the demo of VitalSource Bookshelf. As you can see, it has many features combined with our EPUB product. We also of course have some initial feedback from our users. The user base is still small in part due to the impact of the Coronavirus. However, their feedback is still very valuable. It helps us to develop the product further before we reach out to more customers, which is always good. And compared to EPUB, we found in the first place that compared to the other products, we found that EPUB requires a bit more support to get users going. This is because of the new reading system that people have to get used to and also because of the large amount of features. And possibilities in EPUB requires a bit more explanation, documentation, information to get people going. However, we're spending time and effort to do this and it's going well. Then, EPUB as a new product, we found that it is very suitable for people with low vision or CVI. This is because of the combination of text and images. The text can be adapted in any way that you want to make it easy on the eyes to read and also to avoid clutter. In the printed books, you often see that there is a lot of information and a lot of layout that not all people find easy to use. So you get accessible text but also the images from the print books. So if you want to see those, and you can still see those, you have them. And that makes it a great choice for low vision and CVI users. And when you add image descriptions as we did, blind users will also benefit from EPUB. Users request more interactive features, that is probably the highest on the list. Most importantly, to be able to enter and search in -- straight into the book. As Susan also talked about, it is very important especially for workbooks. Another development is to add more personalization. We want the book to be usable by low vision users but also blind users. And one area to improve is primary education. We want to add didactic adaptations for blind users. For example, exercises where you need to draw a lion are adapted by us to be accessible if you cannot see enough to draw lines. And we want to be able to let the user toggle between the regular version and the adapted version that is suitable for blind people. Straight in the book. So again, you have one book and it works for everybody. You can customise it the way you want. Also for blind users, we want to add accessible mathematics using our linear notation. Like with image descriptions, this should be an extra annotation on top of the graphic formulas so it becomes an alternative and again, you can have the version that works best for you. That is our initial feedback. Of course, we have future plans to work on this. With EPUB 3, we strive to build an inclusive multi-modal product and we aim to enrich the current product even further to get there. For example, by including synchronised audio to get a karaoke-style book where you can listen and read at the same time. We also want to add videos, possibly with audio description or maybe even tactile images that we store in the file in the EPUB and that users can print at home using a braille printer or swell paper machine. However, we are dependent on the reading system for this. We can already do more in our content than that works in the reading system that we can deliver to users. Fortunately, Bookshelf is in constant development. So we're definitely getting to the place where we can roll out everything that we're building. Relying on a market-leading accessibility-minded system also has many advantages. As you could see in the demo and that Susan also talked about. So we will continue to work closely with our partners to make EPUB 3 the very best product that we can. And finally, the end of our presentation already. This is a bit different of course, than if we were to do a live webinar. Still, we hope that you learned a lot about EPUB and the way that we are using it with our reading system during this video presentation. If you have any questions, of course, feel free to reach out and get in touch with us. Our email addresses are listed on the slide, and will also be provided by the Tactile Reading Organisation. So, again if you have any questions, feel free to let us know and for now, thank you for watching this presentation.