Accessible Music Textbooks

An accessible music textbook can take many forms. It might be printed in large type, embossed as Braille, or delivered electronically. An electronic version would presumably read the text aloud normally, but it might render examples by simply playing them as audio, reading them in a text-based notation langauge like ABC, or opening them in a program that allows you to browse the score note by note using keyboard control. if this program were an actual notation editor, then it could also be used to allow a student to complete exercises within the textbook thus allowing this same mechanism to be used for workbooks, tests, and so forth.

In order to support all the different access methods just described, a textbook would have to be created in a format that allowed for all of these possibilities. While it might seem that this would place a heavy burden upon publishers, there is a sense in which they might welcome thismopportunity, and not just because of the small number of extra sales that might result to blind musicians.

Currently, creating a textbook even just in ordinary print form is rather more laborious than it could be. Musical examples need to be created separately from the main text, and somehow one needs to manage the association between each example in the text and the source score that created it. Tools to help automate this process – such as the MuseScore Example Manager for LibreOffice – are only just now becomng available. It is entirely possible that these tools could make the process of creating a textbook easier than it is now, and also support all of these alternate access methods. If so, then authors and publishers would be eager to take advantage of these facilities.

Our goal is to develop a set of guidelines for a textbook format that can provide all of these advantages, and then also foster development of the necessary supporting tools.

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