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School Library Accessibility

The AODA does not yet have an education standard. Two committees are making recommendations about what an education standard should include. In the meantime, educational institutions must follow the rules in the Information and Communications Standards that apply to other organizations. In addition, there are also rules just for educational institutions. For instance, school libraries must make their resources available to students with disabilities. School library accessibility applies to libraries in:

  • Public and private schools
  • Colleges
  • Universities

School Library Accessibility

Library Materials

Under the Information and Communications Standards, school libraries must buy, borrow, or create accessible versions of print materials. They will need to provide accessible versions of digital or multimedia materials by January 1st, 2020. The only exceptions are:

  • Special collections
  • Archived materials
  • Rare materials
  • Donated materials

Stronger Standards for School Libraries are Needed

Under Ontario’s current Information and Communications Standards, students must request accessible-format materials at the time they are needed and wait until the library can create them. Admirably, the Standards mandate that formats and supports must be available in a timely manner. Nonetheless, in an educational context, students may need information much sooner than they can access it. For example, if a university student needs to research in a print book, they must ask the library to produce an accessible version of the pages they need. However, students often do not know in advance what materials they will need until they start their research. Therefore, they must spend days or weeks of research time waiting to access books and articles they can read.

An education standard could improve access to school library resources. A standard could mandate that all academic publishers create accessible-format versions of all the books or journals they publish. When libraries buy books or subscribe to journals, they could have access to all the formats. Alternatively, the standard could mandate that accessibility training for school librarians includes how to choose resources that every student can use. Libraries could then provide accessible formats at the time that students need them. Accessible information should be available on demand for all students.

Library Computer Accessibility

In addition, accessible school libraries should have computers with accessible hardware and software on-site for students to use. Many students with disabilities have personal computers with accessible programs and features. Nonetheless, school library computers are for all students to use, not just non-disabled students. Therefore, some school library computers should have accessible hardware and software.

School library accessibility ensures that all students have the same chance to learn, research, and do well in school.