Disability, Access, and Libraries in the Digital Age

Posted: 10 Mar 2016

See all articles by Paul Harpur

Paul Harpur

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: February 16, 2016


Reading is an essential component of university course work and research. People with print disabilities, such as blindness, low vision, mobility impairments and dyslexia, depending where they live in the world, can access between 7% and less than 1% of the world’s 130 million titles. Standard paper books require scanning and alteration so that persons with print disabilities can access them. This is an expensive and time consuming process for the 17 million print disabled in the US. Unlike books printed on paper, E-Books start digital and have the capacity to solve the book famine. As the numbers of commercially available E-books grows through the thousands and into the tens of millions, the dream of universal access could be a reality. Why then are university students with print disabilities in the US still struggling to access all their readings on an equal basis as the wider student cohort?

There are a number of regulatory and practical reasons that the book famine still burdens the educational experiences of students with print disabilities. This presentation will analyse how the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is being used by students with print disabilities to fight for their right to access. Through analysing a number of cases where universities have settled discrimination suits with students, this presentation will help highlight how far universities obligations go in ensuring their students have equal access to digital spaces, including E-Libraries, E-Books and E-Readers. This presentation will also highlight some inexpensive and practical steps that university librarians can take to encourage publishers to embrace inclusive design and how to maximise the possibility that their library will create a digital environment that is accessible to all students.

Suggested Citation

Harpur, Paul David, Disability, Access, and Libraries in the Digital Age (February 16, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2744358

Paul David Harpur (Contact Author)

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

Brisbane, Queensland 4072

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