Access to physical estate
This is more than a ramp to the library. It might also involve access to disabled toilets and disabled parking nearby. Where library services and resources are available online, the barriers created by older buildings with inaccessible designs can be reduced.
However, it is important that disabled learners can still get access to the skills of an information professional. It may be necessary to organise one-to-one meetings in alternative locations to provide an equivalent service.
Access to physical resources
It is important to minimise barriers to accessing physical resources such as books, the photocopier and scanner.
For wheelchair users ensure that shelving is within reach or that the photocopier buttons can be accessed from a sitting position. For visually impaired users, consider how easy it is to use a scanner or copier. These considerations need to be taken into account when procuring equipment for the library.
Access to digital resources
Library managers may have little direct influence on the accessibility of the website since this may be an organisation wide service provision. Questions to ask include:
- What accessibility features are built into the website/virtual learning environment design?
- Where can learners find this information?
- Has the website been tested with assistive technologies?
The library website normally contains information on services for disabled students. It is vital to produce these pages with the audience in mind. For example, text heavy guidance on services for dyslexic students is unhelpful. Downloadable pdf guides for visually impaired students are unhelpful if they do not reflow when magnified or if they are incompatible with screenreaders.
When you procure library catalogues, accessibility of the system should be a key feature on the checklist. Although library staff have no direct control over this, it is important to know the benefits and barriers to inform disabled learners. This information should be requested from the supplier.
Our e-book research shows variability in online resource platform accessibility. It is vital that learners know what features exist, however if this information is not obvious from the interface, contact the supplier and request a plain English accessibility guide.
If a supplier does not provide this, you should negotiate a lower licence fee since you will need to budget for someone to test for accessibility. It is unreasonable that a disabled learner should have to investigate the accessibility benefits, barriers and workarounds in a system before they can rely on using it independently.