Assistive technology and accessible copies

When I talk about intermediate and accessible copies, I am usually talking about books and journal articles that have been copied into a format that is accessible to our library users. These usually take the form of tagged PDFs, Word documents, and occasionally ePub or DAISY files. These might have been created in-house, sourced from the publisher or an intermediary such as Load2Learn, or the publisher’s version may be accessible (the latter option is by far the most desirable as we have usually paid for this content).

There is a plethora of ways that these  accessible versions can be read or accessed, often using more than one software program, and sometimes when a user reports problems, we do not know if the issue is with the accessible copy or with the software or tool that they are using to access it. It can be tricky to troubleshoot these issues, especially with unfamiliar software.

One initiative  that may help is the Wyvern Training Portal. Wyvern are a company who provide assistive technology solutions to students and institutions. They’ve developed this free portal of help videos and guides as a way to add value to their offering, and it’s free to use.

Other universities have created bespoke help portals, such as this one from the University of Aberdeen, which embeds assistive software guidance with that for more mainstream tools.

Don’t just think about accessible copies for your learners. Consider:

  • what form do they come in?
  • how can they be read?
  • do we have a licence for these tools, or is there a free version?
  • do we have the knowledge or support to enable use of these tools?

Software is an important component of the educational establishment’s offering to students with additional needs, and with the upcoming changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowances, it will become more important still.

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