Thursday 9 December 2021

Cambridge University Libraries Accessibility Service: The First Year

 Many thanks to Patrick Dowson and Lindsay Jones for updating Cambridge Library Group on the massive achievements the Accessibility Service has made in its first year of operation. The speakers explained how this new department is available to all in Cambridge with special needs and its aim is to provide equal access to services and resources.

The talk began with a look at assistive technology e.g. JAWS Text-to-Speech software, and alternative ways of reading. The Service uses alternate formats such as those from RNIB Bookshare and individual publishers but there are many challenges obtaining the requisite documents. It was interesting to hear about how problems presented by some fonts, tables and marginalia are resolved, but generally these are very time consuming and need to be checked manually.

Patrick and Lindsay went through the advice and support offered to disabled students such as the creation of a LibGuide specifically for them. The Accessibility Service has also set up its own Wellbeing ebooks collection for staff and students to utilize. Amongst the support offered to staff across the university is how to produce an accessible video for use in various departments.

After an impressive snapshot of Michaelmas Term 2021 our speakers explained the theoretical background, looking at models of disability and how they inform current practice. Members enjoyed some interactive tasks during the evening including one task demonstrating the difficulties of keyboard-only navigation. The progress made by the Service in its first year was outstanding and members were most enlightened by this comprehensive and thorough talk. 

post contributed by Janet Syme