3.2.3 Costs and trends in the use and provision of Braille

The development of educational content in any of the formats designed to assist the blind and vision-impaired requires needs assessment at the earliest stages of content development. While cost is a major consideration in resource-limited countries, no studies are available on the relative costs of production and consumption of content in different accessible formats. Each format has different cost implications. For example, Braille printers cost between USD 1,800 (for low volume) and USD 80,000 (for high volume models).85 Even though audio books and DAISY books can be produced at no cost using free software, the distribution of that content may require the student to have access to a laptop or specialized audio player such as a DAISY reader -- bringing a cost to the end user.

The following issues should be considered:

  • What are the national policies and trends in relation to the use of Braille? Schoolchildren in developed countries, like the U.S. and the UK, are now thought to have lower Braille literacy as a result of using high-tech solutions such as screen readers coupled with accessible websites and documents. Their Braille literacy may be lower than among children in developing nations, like Indonesia and Botswana, where there are few alternatives to Braille.86 87 88 88 89
  • For a vision impaired student who has not received instruction in Braille, content in audio format may be preferable.
  • The level of built-in accessibility features varies among the different formats. For example, the DAISY format has been specifically designed with the needs of print-disabled users in mind. And content in HTML or PDF that conforms to the international standard for Web accessibility contains many more accessibility features than an electronic document produced using software such as MS Word or OpenOffice Writer.
  • While many electronic formats can be produced for "free," more time and expertise is typically required to produce content in accessible HTML or PDF than in other electronic text formats.
  • How will the content be distributed, and will the student be able to access it?
  • Whatever the format provided, what is the potential to centralize its production, hence reducing costs?

Whatever the format used, it is imperative that the needs of the students are assessed through consultation with the students and their families or advocates. Several resources for the development, production and distribution of accessible electronic content in educational settings are provided in Section 9.