Toward accessible course content: Challenges and opportunities for libraries and information systems

Katrina Fenlon, Laura C. Wood, J. Stephen Downie, Ruohua Han, Alex O. Kinnaman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The population of students with disabilities in post-secondary institutions is significant and rising. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 11% of students, or more than two million students, in post-secondary education report having a disability. Providing accessible versions of materials for courses is a core service of disability-services offices in schools. Finding, obtaining, or generating accessible course content is a challenging process for disability-services providers at institutions ranging from community colleges to research universities, many of which receive hundreds of individualized requests for content each semester. Although a range of sources and services to assist in this process have emerged, they are insufficient and inefficient because they keep people from working together on a complex, shared problem. In the summer of 2015, we conducted a qualitative study of the challenges facing disability services providers in U.S. post-secondary institutions, in order to design and implement information systems that would enable large-scale sharing of locally improved, accessible course content with qualified students in the U.S. This paper reports on the subset of our findings that addresses challenges to providing, sharing, and reusing accessible digital content. Our findings suggest that there are substantial opportunities for the LIS and library communities to apply our expertise to this gap in information services for an expanding population of students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Accessibility
  • disabilities
  • repositories
  • resource sharing
  • universal design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Library and Information Sciences


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