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New AODA Requirement for School Libraries

A new AODA requirement for school libraries came into force on January 1st, 2020. Under the Information and Communications Standards, Ontario school libraries must make all digital or multimedia resources accessible upon request. Moreover, they must do so by making these resources available either in accessible formats or in conversion-ready formats.

New AODA Requirement for School Libraries

School libraries are libraries within school settings, such as:

  • Public and private schools
  • Colleges
  • Universities

School libraries have been required to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions of print resources since 2015. Now, the same rule applies to all digital or multimedia materials. When a student requests an accessible version of a digital or multimedia resource, libraries must provide that resource in a format that is either accessible or conversion-ready. Furthermore, the library must work with the student to find out what formats will be useful.

Libraries can meet this requirement most easily when some of their resources are already accessible. For instance, libraries can subscribe to or partner with online resources that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. They can also partner with other libraries to share accessible resources through inter-library loans. However, some library resources may not already be accessible. As a result, libraries will still need to provide accessible copies of those resources upon request.

What are accessible formats?

An accessible format is a format that the student can use right away, without any more conversion. For example, accessible formats of digital information include:

  • Online on accessible websites
  • Accessible file types, such as Word or HTML
  • Digital audio

What are conversion-ready formats?

A conversion-ready format is an electronic file type that can quickly be converted into the format a student needs. For instance, a student may need a resource in Braille. However, the library may not be able to offer this format. Nonetheless, the library can create a Microsoft Word or HTML copy of the resource. The student may then be able to read the file in Braille using a Braille display or embosser.

What if a Library cannot convert a resource?

The only exceptions to this requirement are:

  • Special collections
  • Resources that are:
    • Archived
    • Rare
    • Donated

Otherwise, if a library cannot convert a resource even into a conversion-ready format, they must explain why they cannot do so. In addition, the library must provide a summary of the resource they cannot convert.

These guidelines will support librarians and other staff as they follow the new AODA requirement for school libraries.