The choice of materials can make a big difference to a print impaired learner getting access to resources in a timely manner.
Library staff can help subject specialists to:
- Include links to online resources like high-quality websites. These are inherently more flexible for a print impaired user than hardcopy print
- Include relevant multimedia resources in reading lists
- Avoid putting books on reading lists where it is difficult to get an accessible format quickly. This includes books published before the year 2000 or those from unresponsive publishers.
These may exist as online specialist collections or as physical copies of DVDs and CDs. Print impaired learners may find these formats more efficient to learn from and these resources should be promoted to all learners and tutors. Where audiovisual resources are a core part of a course, make sure text based alternatives are available (captions, transcripts or summaries of the key points) to support learners with sensory impairments.
An accessible e-book platform will allow users to:
- Magnify text
- Reflow magnified text so no left/right scrolling is required
- Change background/foreground colours or contrasts
- Use keyboard equivalents for all mouse actions
- Navigate text in a meaningful way (eg by heading levels or key bookmarks)
- Selected and read text with text-to-speech tools
- Read alternative text descriptions for graphics and images
- Use the system with assistive technology tools
- Find guidance for all accessibility features.
Some e-book platforms are compatible with mobile and tablet devices. Depending on the quality of the design this may allow them to use the inbuilt accessibility in the device's operating system - for example using VoiceOver in iOS to read a book. See our research on accessible e-book platforms and guidance on good practice (part five of our 'libraries and alternative research' series).
We have produced additional guidance on procuring accessible e-book platforms.
Many organisations subscribe to online journals, information databases and resource collections. Being in a digital format they should offer more accessibility than hard copy equivalents however poor design or accessibility ignorance can undermine their flexibility. Ask the supplier to provide information on accessibility features and how they are accessed.
Most organisations have textbooks in the library that are not in their e-book collections. Many textbooks don't exist in e-book collections. In these circumstances, it is usually possible to get a book in electronic format directly from the publisher (if it was published after 2000). See our guidance on obtaining textbooks in alternative formats.
One of the most valuable assets in any library is the expertise of the staff and their ability to anticipate the needs of library users.