This school year, I am attempting to expedite the process of making digital books for my student. I want her to be able to access them independently on her iPad Pro visually, auditorily, or using her refreshable braille display (RBD) without learning a different way to navigate the book regardless of the app she uses to open it.
Last year, I made all her books using the Book Creator app. They were all fully accessible visually, auditorily, and with a screen reader and RDB when read using the Read To Me feature of the app itself. However, when the book was exported as an ePub file and accessed using the Books app, it was only visually accessible and accessible with VoiceOver auditorily. The text of the book would not show up in braille on an RBD even though it was read aloud with VoiceOver. VoiceOver would read the text and image descriptions aloud. When a PDF of the book was accessed using Books, it could be navigated visually with gestures, as well as using VoiceOver gestures or iOS RBD commands. However, the commands were not very intuitive to turn the page and have the text appear on the braille display. I even tried making the same book using iBooks author on my MacBook Air. The book was fully accessible with VoiceOver and the text appeared in braille on the RBD. However, I didn’t care for how the student would have to navigate the book, primarily using the VoiceOver gesture “flick up with one finger” or “flick down with one finger” when the Page Chooser was selected. When using an RBD, this became confusing because the student was using iOS braille display commands to navigate to the next or previous page by scrolling left or right one page or scrolling up or down one page. When using the Books app with a PDF of the book, she was not able to access the image descriptions. She had to learn to navigate to the next page using the command to move to the previous item using rotor setting Space + Dot 3 and the previous page using the command move to the next item using rotor setting Space + Dot 6. She then had to move back using Space + Dot 1 to view the text on the RBD. This was both confusing and time consuming.
After much trial and error on my own and then with my student, we determine it was best to initially access the book using her video magnifier and then in braille, as the braille was taped over the print. When she wanted to read the print, she just flipped the braille up to view the small print with magnification. To access a digital copy, she could independently do it using the Book Creator app itself by having it Read To Me or using VoiceDream Reader. The student and I agreed that it was easier to use the VoiceDream Reader app to have the book read aloud to her or read the text using her RBD. Even though image descriptions were not accessible, this is what worked best for my student.
Attached is the digital book Little Puppy is Lost. It is available in an Epub and PDF format.
If you have a solution or suggestion on how these digital books could be accessed visually, auditorily with Voiceover, as well as read using an RDB, please share what apps you prefer to read them in with your early readers.