The Birkbeck Story
Melissa Steiner, Assistant Librarian in Disability and Dyslexia Support at Birkbeck University, tells us about her experiences and how the ASPIRE project has helped improve the level of service she can provide to students.
Statements + Level of Service
In the very few instances when an e-book/platform that our library has purchased has a clear accessibility statement, it has vastly improved the level of service I can provide the disabled student requiring the resource. I’m able to tell them with confidence how their assistive software will work with the text, and highlight benefits of the text being in digital format. Without these statements, I am sure I have often overlooked many of these digital features, and indeed have probably ended up scanning from hard copies which causes delays for the student and diminishes their experience with the text.
Furthermore, if we have to spend an inordinate amount of time searching for accessibility information we are more likely to recommend that academics or our acquisitions team choose a different resource as we cannot be sure we’re receiving value for money. In some instances, it has meant pointing disabled students in the direction of repositories with shady relationships to copyright, just so that they can have easy access to a text they can use with their assistive tech. The ASPIRE scores make it easy for us to see which vendors we should be working with, who will give us value for money. It also is a way for us to see at a glance the strengths and weaknesses of a particular resource so that we can explain this to students.
The ASPIRE scores make it easy for us to see which vendors we should be working with, who will give us value for money.
There are many barriers disabled students in Higher Education face, requiring them to navigate a complex system of information in order to have anything like an equal experience with their non-disabled peers. Having easy access to an accessibility statement which allows them to utilise that most basic of resources required for a degree – a textbook – is hugely beneficial for both the librarian wanting to provide a high level of service and for the time-pressured student.