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Library Unlimited: Diversity in reading lists

Accessible reading lists

Reading lists

As part of the Library Unlimited project we want to help staff consider some of the issues that can make content in reading lists less accessible to students - in particular to disabled students although while blended learning is in place there are issues that can be relevant to all students. 

We will produce a checklist of things to consider before adding content as Essential reading.  This will include factors such as:

  • Adopting a 'digital first' approach
    Generally digital content will be more accessible as it can take advantage of assistive technology such as screen readers or features within publisher's sites to adapt how the content appears and how it can be read..  It will normally also be possible to convert digital resources to alternative formats more easily.
  • Age of text books
    If print booked are needed the age of these can impact how easy it is to get an accessible copy from publishers or suppliers such as RNIB Bookshare.  Older print books are less likely to be available in an accessible format from publishers and will take a considerable amount of time to be made accessible and may even require input from external organisations at an additional cost. 
  • Length of reading lists
    Consideration should be given to how many items are added to reading lists, particularly those labelled as essential.  For some students long reading lists can cause anxiety, especially those who may have more difficulties reading quickly.

Accessibility of content you create

Content you create

It is now essential to ensure that any content that you create yourself which might be added to a reading list, or as a resource in Blackboard is accessible. This means ensuring that anyone can read or access the content no matter what their disability or the tool or device they are using to access it.

Specific things  to consider are 

  • adding headings to Word documents to structure the content correctly
  • adding correct titles to PowerPoint slides and checking the reading order of content,
  • providing alternative text for images, so that those who cannot see the images can grasp their meaning.
  • making captions or transcript text available for a video to make it accessible to someone who cannot hear audio.

There are tools built into all Office 365 products to help check the accessibility of content, and to give you tips and guide you on how to make changes.

Using an accessible template for both Word and PowerPoint can also help.  On the Study Smarter with Technology guide there are example templates you can use.

Tools to help with reading

It will be beneficial to students if you make them aware of the wide range of options there are available to adjust how content is accessed and consumed.  This will benefit not just disabled students but those studying remotely, those who commute or those with limited internet connectivity.

There are three main areas to include:

  • Convert documents to alternative formats
    • For content within Blackboard direct students to  Blackboard Ally
    • For content from Staffordshire University not in Blackboard use SensusAccess. Print impaired students can also use this for copyrighted material
  • Use inbuilt tools in operating system, browser, Office 365 
    Guidance on some lo the best tools available and how to sue them is on the Study Smarter with Technology guide.
  • Specific help with eBooks/database providers
    Many of the suppliers of the Library electronic resources have features inbuilt into their platforms that can help students adjust the settings to make content better meet their needs.  The Library's Accessibility of Library eResources guide has information on resources we subscribe to and links to publishers sites where these are available.