RLI 281
rESEarcH LiBrariES aND iNDiviDuaLS witH PriNt DiSaBiLitiES
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DECEMBER 2012 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
content is rendered in an accessible format like EPUB 3, it may be wrapped in digital rights management
(DRM) software that prevents a device with screen-reader software from getting to the content. Similarly,
even if the device and the content are accessible, if it is on a platform that is not, the book will not be
accessible.
Libraries that are considering e-book device lending as a service are strongly encouraged to examine
the current state of accessibility support in the e-book device marketplace and opt for lending devices that
have accessibility features built-in.
User Services
Most research libraries have a designated liaison librarian who can provide or coordinate library
assistance for users with disabilities in partnership with disability services offices,46 which typically
handle curricular needs or materials serving as textbooks and are required for all students enrolled in
courses. For some undergraduate courses, these materials may be sufficient for the course. Print-disabled
students generally turn to the libraries for assistance with other needed materials, although disability
services may play an intermediary or facilitator role.
Everyone who works at a library service desk, including temporary staff and part-time students,
needs to be aware of how best to direct users with print disabilities for assistance. Since these positions
can have regular turnover in many libraries, accessibility service awareness needs to be a standard part
of staff training. Similarly, it is important to have user-focused policies and procedures that are readily
available and kept up to date.
Not all those who may benefit from adaptive technology tools have access to these tools, in part due to
economic factors or infrastructure requirements. Research libraries can, and many ARL member libraries
do, provide access to adaptive technology tools as a library service within the physical library space. The
prevalence of adaptive technology centers varies from one campus to the next. Many universities offer
students access to adaptive technology equipment and support in a computer lab that is managed by
the disability services office or the campus IT department. However, even with campus-wide support
services, libraries can always add value by locating adaptive technology in the physical library space,
since libraries are typically open much later than other buildings on campus. In such spaces, staff should
be well trained in the use of this equipment and software.
The librarian liaison can consult with a student regarding what materials would be helpful and
how best to make these resources accessible in light of his/her specific disability. Some libraries have
designated staff to handle these requests, while others use departments that do all library scanning or
technical support to provide these services. Students do not customarily give themselves much lead
time on assignments, so having a policy and procedure in place to provide students with a reasonable
expectation of the speed of handling these requests is critical.
Experience teaches us that some users would prefer to be able to do it themselves rather than have
to ask for some additional service, and independence is a value research libraries routinely foster. For
example, at UC Berkeley, the library provides 26 scanners throughout the system. Starting in fall 2012,
students with print disabilities receive campus ID cards pre-loaded with funds for scanning. (Non-
disabled students are charged for scanning.) These 26 scanners convert hard-copy print into electronic
documents, in several digital format options, which the student can download onto a personal thumb
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