Chapter 14.1: Academic support - Library services

14.1.1. Essential practices

  • Ensure the following are available:
    • Accessible website
    • Accessible route to the library
    • Accessible gate at the entrance
    • Accessible circulation counters
    • Accessible washrooms
    • Elevators with Braille and voiceover multilingual messaging system that provide access to all levels open to users
    • Accessible tables and computer stations
    • Accessible study rooms. Note that “Priority access” alone does not necessarily mean sufficient accessibility.
    • Rollators or trolleys for loan to students and staff who need mobility aids to move books around the library
  • The accompanying person is allowed to enter the library with the students with disabilities.
    • Assistants / “accompanying relatives” / “proxy patron” / “academic support workers” of registered staff and students with disabilities can be authorized to borrow or renew library items for them at the circulation counter of the library.
    • However, they cannot request books or use the library account self-service facilities.
    • These companions are not necessarily the caregivers of staff and students with disabilities. Avoid universally calling them “caregivers”.
  • Guided orienteering tours can be arranged to familiarize new staff and students with disabilities with the library environment and accessibility services.
  • Fetching service for library books and other items on the library open shelves is available for staff and students with disabilities.
  • The loan times on library materials such as books can be extended because some students and staff with disabilities might need extra time for reading because of their disabilities.
  • Rental services of assistive technology for library use and personal study should be provided.
  • Customized information technology and library literacy workshops (e.g., library catalogue search method) for university members with disabilities may be organized if needed.
    • The traditional “mouse-and-cursor” mode of manipulating computer might be inaccessible to people with visual impairment.
    • Manipulation by keyboard along with screen readers might be relatively more accessible to them. It might also take relatively more time to navigate.
    • These characteristics should be noted in the workshops and the teaching method and materials should be revised accordingly.
  • Enquiry contact should be given for enquiries or suggestions regarding the accessibility of the library website or the library use. Users with disabilities can always approach the circulation counter and staff for assistance.

14.1.2. Alternative text formats conversion services

  • Some students with visual impairment and students with print disabilities (i.e. students who cannot read, see or manipulate print on paper) may require teaching and learning materials such as textbooks in alternative formats, such as Braille, audiobooks, captioned videos or screen-reader-compatible electronic formats.
  • The library obtains or produces alternative formats for library materials as well as teaching and learning materials.
  • The library will contact the publishers and try obtaining the accessible and electronic copy or the specified alternative formats from the publishers directly. The library will also contact other universities to look for the availability of the required formats and copies. Note that the communication process may take a significant amount of time.
  • The library manages an intra-university centralized database of all the e-textbooks and digitalized materials with converted formats throughout the years for registered students with disabilities to access. It saves time and effort it takes for format conversion.
    • For example, the library converted a printed book into Braille for a student with visual impairment last year. Another student with visual impairment needs the same book this year, and this student could directly access to the Braille version created last year originally for another student.
    • The library may also manage a cross-institution and centralized database of accessible electronic materials (e.g. screen reader-accessible and Braille versions) among the universities for students and staff with disabilities of participating universities who need them to borrow. It saves time and effort it takes for format conversion.
  • The library can prepare a list of existing texts with available alternative formats. Course instructors should consider the availability of e-books or audio books from publishers when adopting a textbook wherever possible.
  • The library works with the examination registry in the production of the Braille version of centralized examination papers.
    • As the format conversion takes significant amount of time, to help ensure students receive the required alternative formats on time to keep up with the class, course instructors should provide the course outline with the required references and submit examination papers as early as possible.
  • The alternative formats of the teaching and learning materials can only be used by the students with disabilities who have made the request for study purpose. The students cannot share with, sell to or make extra copies for others under any situations.

14.1.3. Assistive Technology Room

  • Assistive technology software and hardware are provided in the “Assistive Technology Room” in the library to provide more accessible and flexible space for registered users with disabilities for self-learning.
    • The name of the room should focus on expressing the main function of the room, which is the provision of various assistive technological aids for self-learning instead of emphasizing the disability identity of the intended users. The recommended name can be “Assistive Technology Room”.
  • The Assistive Technology Room should be able to accommodate more than one user at the same time to facilitate group work and discussion involving students and staff with and without disabilities, and/or their assistants.
  • The location and design of the room might influence the resulting inclusiveness of the Assistive Technology Room and the users.
    • It is recommended that there would be appropriate facilities to allow students with disabilities to work alongside with their peers. This may facilitate students’ mutual understanding of their commonalities and uniqueness.
    • For example, glassy walls with venetian blinds might balance the need of privacy and the inclusiveness.
  • The opening hours of the Assistive Technology Room should match the service hour of the elevators of the library to ensure access.
  • The Assistive Technology Room can be booked through the venue booking portal of the library.
    • Registered students could tap their Student ID Card on the sensor on the door of the Assistive Technology for access and/or solicit assistance at the circulation counter.
    • Upon obtaining informed consent from the students with disabilities, the relevant accessibility needs are recorded in the Student ID Card for room booking purpose.
  • It is suggested to invite students and staff with disabilities to advise the appropriate types of assistive technological aids before actual purchasing because they are expert users. Essential examples of assistive technological aids for self-learning found in the Assistive technology room:
    • Computer document holders
    • Height-adjustable desks and chairs
    • Writing slopes for reading and writing
    • Braille display devices
    • Video magnifiers or Closed Circuit TV (CCTVs) – Allow users with visual impairment to vary magnification levels
    • Noise-cancelling headphones – Help reduce the impact of sensory overload and facilitate the use of screen reader

14.1.4. Existing practices of local universities

14.1.5. Examples of practices of overseas universities

14.1.6. References