All Numbers and Notes: Creating Accessible Math and Music Materials for Students Who Are Blind


Wednesday, November 1


2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.


Michele Bromley


Providing fully accessible course materials to students who are blind can be complicated and intimidating for both new and seasoned DS professionals. Many DS professionals have little experience with alternative formats, let alone alternative formats for blind students. Often, provision of screen reader accessible course materials and all of its accompanying complexities are relegated to the category of “crossing that bridge when it’s relevant.” Unfortunately, by the time a student with significant alternative formats needs registers for services, it may be too late to begin the learning and preparation necessary to provide adequate services.

Basic alternative formats services, wherein a student receives publisher-provided (or scanned) portable document files that have been run through optical character recognition, are not sufficient for students who are blind. In order to ensure that DS professionals are providing fully accessible materials, they need to ensure that alternative formats for textbooks, PowerPoints, assignments, online readings, scanned readings, handouts, etc. include the following:

  • descriptions of all images, graphs, diagrams, etc.
  • clear reading order
  • accessible data tables
  • clear heading structure
  • accessible, navigable links
  • references to any supplemental materials (tactile graphics, accessible music files, etc.)

These provisions become even more complex when a student who is blind requires fully accessible materials in either a STEM or music course. While all of the previously listed considerations still applies, new considerations must be taken into account. Accessible equations, complex tactiles developed both in advance and in a live classroom setting, musical scores and accompanying transcription, etc. There are vendors that can provide these services, but the required turnaround time for third party conversion is often not feasible considering the time frame of an academic term. While DS professionals are typically aware of textbook information and an accompanying course reading schedule in advance, supplemental course materials like PowerPoints, assignments, online readings, scanned readings, handouts, etc. are often created and distributed over the course of the term.

This presentation will break down the requirements and logistics for fully accessible alternative formats production on standard, STEM, and music course materials. While targeted and specific, this information is imperative for DS professionals working with alternative formats, as they do not need these skills…until that unexpected moment when they need them desperately.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand requirements and logistics for creating fully accessible alternative formats for blind students.
  • Learn the basics of in-house versus vendor alternative formats production for accessible STEM and music materials.

Presenter Bio(s)

Michele Bromley, M.A.
Michele Bromley is the Adaptive Technology Specialist and Alternative Formats Coordinator for the Disability Resource Center at Portland State University (PSU). She has worked in disability services since 2009 and at PSU since 2014. Michele serves as a member of PSU’s Accessibility Committee and EIT Accessibility Subcommittee. She is also serving her second term as Communications Officer on the Oregon Association of Higher Education and Disability (ORAHEAD) Board of Directors. Michele has facilitated numerous adaptive technology and digital accessibility trainings at PSU and presented on captioning, alternative format production, accessible web design, and adaptive technology at several regional ORAHEAD conferences. Michele has also presented nationally at the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) conference, the Postsecondary Disability Training Institute (PTI), and Accessing Higher Ground, AHEAD’s Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference.