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How do you work with your library to improve inclusivity?

Discussing the role libraries and reading lists can play in making reading materials more inclusive
BEN WATSON: So we’re obviously raising awareness of electronic resources.
Researching new relationships with different suppliers to– And certainly, raising awareness behind the scenes, as well, is important from a procurement perspective. But, you know, it’s great that someone selects an electronic resource and gives preference to that. But that only works if the resource itself is accessible. So we’re trying to make sure that we can follow through on that promise to academics where they have taken the time to select something that’s born digital. But we want that to be followed through, and actually delivered in the product itself from the supplier. So there’s an awareness-raising element to this at the, kind of, behind-the-scenes level.
Other things that we would like academics to do when they’re creating reading lists is to prioritise those lists. So it’s really important they tell us– “What is the most important reading?” So if there’s a number of items for that particular session or seminar, we need to know what the core reading is– the stuff the student has to turn up to the seminar or lecture having read. That’s important for a number of reasons. Particularly for the student to work out if they want to buy that book, if it’s that important. Certainly to know which one they need to turn up having read, which can have all kinds of impacts around student anxiety.
The library then know which ones to buy more of. But possibly– as well as– if something was required in an alternative format that the disability unit had to source from elsewhere, they would be able to prioritise those key resources.
In this short video, Ben Watson talks about the role librarians can play in making reading materials and library content more inclusive and accessible. This is not just about signposting learners to the right text but also raising awareness about the benefits of accessible digital materials.
Many academics create reading lists for their courses and as Ben mentioned, prioritising, the essential reads and offering accessible digital versions can help a diverse range of students, especially those using assistive technologies. Recent work by Ben and librarians at other universities to audit ebooks for accessibility has highlighted the issues that not all electronic resources offer equal accessibility.
To quote Jisc accessibility and inclusion “If a product creates barriers for disabled students it will create extra costs in supporting students. There should be an accountability for these. However, the best starting point is a constructive conversation to identify where the problem lies and how it might be solved. Is the problem with…
  • the publisher’s source file? Check the publisher’s website for information on the accessibility features of their digital resources.
  • the aggregator’s delivery mechanism? Check the aggregator’s website for information on the accessibility features of their platform or any accessibility requirements they impose on contributing publishers.
  • your own institution, running old software on operating systems that should have been updated years ago?”
There is also the issue of choosing a reading device or application that works with the portal, aggregator and ebook or etext format. For a personal choice try this checklist on a blog updated on May 2018, “Tablet or e-reader? These 12 questions will help you decide”
You may also be interested in other related resources which can be accessed from the ‘See also’ section at the bottom of this page.
Consider how to make reading lists a helpful tool for all, rather than a hindrance for some?

© This work is created by the University of Southampton and licensed under CC-BY 4.0 International Licence. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.
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