Inclusive digital libraries – eBook accessibility

Accessing accessibility – towards creating inclusive digital library environment by improving eBook accessibility

Siobhan Haime (Library)


Project overview

This project will investigate (disabled) users’ experiences surrounding eBook accessibility at University of Leeds libraries and establish best practices surrounding eBook accessibility support. We aim to develop a better understanding of barriers faced by disabled users when engaging with digital library resources and what changes would have the most positive impact for our users. This project investigates current practices by other academic libraries to guide the development of our own resources, but aims to also collaborate with other internal and external stakeholders to further improve our long-term service offer and enact sustainable change.

This project will conduct a services review around library services relating to accessibility, eBook accessibility services offered by other UK HEIs, and complement this with user data. The former will be done through stakeholder interviews and a literature review. The latter would be through a mixed-methods methodology, using eBook usage and survey data, alongside qualitative ethnography and user experience research. Overall, this ought to provide a nuanced overview of the landscape and current situation which we are working from with regards to eBook accessibility and its surrounding issues of digital equity.


The research approach

This research aims to counteract the barriers which disproportionately affect disabled students. However, it has the potential to positively impact the entire student body; as decreasing barriers for disabled students will typically also benefit their non-disabled peers, as well as other groups of students who may not have the same amount of time or ability to physically be in library spaces as their peers. Accessible e-resources create digital equity for students who face additional challenges and allow for greater flexibility in research and assignments. Digital accessibility is especially important as we are currently experiencing a digital shift in UK academic libraries where print circulation has dropped significantly and eBooks are becoming key learning resources. However, due to the different strategic priorities during the pandemic, there has been little opportunity to investigate digital accessibility, though it will be a key element in improving the stability of the digital library service offer.

This project aims to increase access to e-resources by lowering barriers for (disabled) students who use assistive technology. This goal will be realised through three main aims.

  • First, to develop a better understanding of barriers faced by users.
  • Second, to use this information to develop a resource for users on eBook accessibility. And third, to use the outcomes of this research to guide the future development of library acquisitions policy.

This project all fits with the Knowledge for all library vision and its Forward plan 2022-25, both of which have identified digital equity and inclusion as strategic priorities – to which this project aims to contribute. The projected outcomes aim to guide future planning around digital accessibility and hope to make a positive impact on long term policy – so accessibility will become an embedded aspect of future work and developments.

(Links in case they are relevent; Forward plan: https://library.leeds.ac.uk/downloads/download/195/forward_plan_2022-2025 / Library vision: https://spotlight.leeds.ac.uk/libraries-vision/ )


If you would like to find out more about the project contact Siobhan Haime (M.Haime@leeds.ac.uk)

Each fellowship has a project sponsor that helps the fellows achieve impact across the institution. The sponsor for this fellowship is Megan Kime.

Project start date: 1 September 2022