Why this role is important
If you are a library and learning resources professional, the policies you influence determine accessibility. For example:
- Is accessibility a key criterion when procuring e-book platforms or library systems?
- Is there appropriate hardware/software to meet the needs of print-impaired or other learners?
- Is the support for disabled learners communicated effectively via appropriate accessible media channels?
- Your knowledge of content and media can influence reading lists and help teaching staff to provide a more flexible and accessible range of supporting resources
- You can obtain digital versions of textbooks directly from publishers for print-impaired learners
- You can anticipate the needs of disabled people and help them to become independent learners and self-motivated researchers
- Your awareness of open educational resources can help improve the range and scope of resources available, helping to meet the different needs of learners
What you can do
Familiarise yourself with the particular access requirements of learners with different disabilities. Our guide to 'Meeting the requirements of learners with special educational needs' has a useful overview of all the main access needs. Some people find simulations are a helpful way of developing awareness and there are good online simulations of vision and hearing difficulties.
Reflect and anticipate
Once you understand the barriers faced by disabled learners it is easier to anticipate them and find ways of minimising them. Typical areas to reflect on might include:
- What accessibility features are built into your corporate systems such as the library management system and e-book platforms
- What assistive technology hardware is available to learners in the library?
- Which assistive technologies/productivity software is available to all learners via library PCs?
- What information is available on these technologies and tools and how is it communicated to learners?
- What percent of your print-impaired learners know you can request textbooks in digital format from publishers for them?
One way of reflecting as a team on your current practice is to try out our accessible practice tool which asks you questions and then makes recommendations for improving the accessibility of your library and practices.
Priorities will vary for every organisation depending on current practice. We suggest:
- Exploring our chapter on the accessible library
- Updating your provision to match reasonable learner expectation, for example, text-to-speech with high-quality voices. You can significantly enhance the provision of assistive technology/productivity tools using free and open source software
- Don't pay for inaccessible products that disabled learners can’t use. Adapt procurement policies to embed accessibility
- Join with others such as the RNIB Bookshare service to make your efforts on alternative textbooks more effective. Disability focused groups include Creating Libraries Accessible to Users with Disabilities (CLAUD) or the Open Rose group.
Working with others
To effectively embed accessibility in your systems you will need to develop good working relationships with IT/network managers, curriculum/quality managers and disability support staff. Ensure they know what you are trying to achieve as their support will be important in ensuring accessibility is seamlessly embedded in library practices.
Get feedback and ideas
Find out from disabled learners how well you are meeting their needs. Ask them for ideas and suggestions as this could save you money.