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International Day for People with a Disability banner. Text reads 'Let's work toward a more inclusive, accessible and sustainable world for people with disability.

December 3, 2021

Our work to create an inclusive and accessible library

This International Day for People with Disability, we spoke with Deakin Library staff about the various ways we support and advocate for people with disabilities to engage with the library. But first, let’s hear from a community member who has used our services during their studies!

The importance of systems accessibility and supportive allies 

‘I am blind and use a screen reader program to use the internet and to read electronic material. For the first month or so as a student I did the bare minimum, sticking to prescribed material which I found by clicking through from the course reading list but I soon found that I was not going to achieve much better than a pass if I didn’t learn to search the library properly. I reached out to the Liaison Librarians for Health. The result was that the incredible Rachel West spent an hour with me on Zoom which I can honestly say had a huge impact on the results that I was able to achieve, simply because I now knew how to research for my assignments in much less time.  

In my experience two of the most important factors that impact on successful outcomes for students with disability are systems accessibility and supportive allies. While not all the systems and platforms we use at Deakin are fully accessible it’s an honour to pay tribute on this International Day of Persons with Disability to the incredible supportive library staff who help create a more equitable environment.  

After the initial induction to library search I had to contact the library again for help with sources that were not screen reader accessible, and together with the Print Disability Service they made them accessible for me. All things equal, it was now up to me to put my head down and do the work just like everyone else. What a nice problem to have!’  

– Francois Jacobs, Sessional Academic and student 

Building our understanding of inclusion 

The Deakin Library plays a unique role as  changemakers in big and small ways every day; through our advocacy we can reinforce the dignity and rights of everyone who uses (or are considering using) the Library. We listen and talk with students with disabilities in person, via Live Chat, phone, and behind the scenes. 

The Library Advisory Services team (the frontline team) came together last year to delve deeply into the cultural history of disability and the models of disability that have emerged over time. You may find this timeline interesting as a reference.  

I utilized my postgraduate studies in the area (I am studying a Masters in Disability and Inclusion at Deakin) to raise the uncomfortable topic of unconscious bias and participatory expectations that diminish the personhood of people with disabilities. This was contextualized with examples of discrimination and social exclusion from my own family members with disability.  

We then had a wonderful discussion about; what inclusion means, who are changemakers and what they do, with Dr. Joanne Watson (Course Director Graduate Certificate Disability and Inclusion and Senior Lecturer) and Francois Jacobs (Sessional Academic and student). We also heard from the Disability Resource Centre on their services, enabling streamlined two-way referral and sharing of ideas.  

Removing physical and attitudinal barriers for people with disability was put front and centre in the minds of Library Advisory staff. Come and have a chat with us about what we can do for you! 

– Bridget Hoban, Library Advisor 

Cartoon graphic of students sitting at a library desk.

We work to help all students access our library spaces, resources and services.

Adapting resources for student needs 

The Print Disability team works in partnership with the Disability Resource Centre (DRC) to support students in accessing resources in the formats they need. The DRC do an initial interview with the student in which they identify the student’s needs/requirements. If the student requires unit guides or readings to be made available in a specific format, the DRC share these requirements with our Print Disability team. From there our team liaises with various parties which may include unit chairs, publishers, Vision Australia, the Deakin Printery, or companies that specialise in converting files into accessible resources (optical character recognition, etc.).  

– Bex Carruthers, Electronic Readings and Serials Coordinator 

Improving website accessibility  

We aim to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA – the recognised global standard for web accessibility. Whether it is:   

following WCAG 2.1 makes digital content more accessible to everyone 

Day-to-day we test and review new and existing content and platforms. We also embed accessibility testing into our projects to make accessible solutions from the start. Making our digital presence more accessible is a constant work in progress. For example, over the past two years, we’ve made real in-roads into our Library website’s accessibility:

Graphic representation of progress in a website accessibility score. Left side shows a yellow circle showing 68.9 out of 100, right side shows a green circle showing 89.8 out of 100.

Recently we started a project to tackle digital accessibility further. We’re conducting an accessibility audit across around 20 library platforms. This will give us a better understanding of how our various platforms perform against each other. It will also highlight opportunities to improve accessibility across our digital ecosystem. 

– Danielle Johnson, Manager Digital Experience 

And that’s not all 

Deakin Library is also committed to accessibility in our physical spaces, and we offer assistive technologies in our campus locations to support your studies. We are also exploring the opportunity to provide sensory rooms in all campuses – so make sure you follow us for updates! You can visit our Students with a disability page to learn more about support services and accessibility options we provide.  


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