Access to Academic Materials for Post-Secondary Students with Print Disabilities


Post-Secondary Campus Disability Resource Centres and Libraries

This section of the report provides examples of alternate format services offered through disability resource centres and/or campus libraries at post-secondary institutions. We have provided summaries of the services available at a selection of institutions in different regions of the country. It is important to note that we are not citing these institutions and organizations as “model” programs but only as examples of services being offered in Canada.

These reviews summarize the services offered by each resource centre or library, as outlined in the organizations’ Websites. We don’t attempt to measure the degree to which each of these services are actually available or delivered to students with print disabilities – although our survey research provides a good measure of the successes and failures of supports for alternate format production. Rather, the information in this chapter is intended to offer an idea of some of the alternate format capabilities available through post-secondary schools across Canada.

Our research indicates that post-secondary students with print disabilities typically receive materials for their studies through disability service centres on the campuses. These centres in turn produce some alternate format documents in-house, but also rely heavily on other organizations for identification, production and delivery including CNIB, RFB&D, and provincial and national resources.

University of British Columbia

Crane Resource Centre and Library, Vancouver, BC
Website: and

This is the central resource for students at the University of British Columbia who have a print disability. While it is not part of the university’s library, the collection may be accessed through the library’s online catalogue. Material is offered in ‘talking book’, Braille, large print and regular print formats.

In addition to pre-recorded holdings, the Crane centre offers a recording studio for text duplicating, dedicated computers that convert text to synthesised speech, computer stations with voice synthesis and image-enlarging capabilities, a computerised Braille conversion facility, closed-circuit TV magnifiers and other resources.

University of Alberta

Services for Students with Disabilities – Edmonton, AB

The University of Alberta service centre website indicates that texts can be converted into large print, voice output and voice recognition technologies (a full list of which is available on the site URL). Students are instructed to bring in course materials for conversion into alternate formats, and must fill in paperwork indicating the content to be converted and the desired alternate format. The website stresses that “last minute requests can rarely be met.”

University of Guelph

Library Centre for Students with Disabilities – Guelph, ON

The Library Centre for Students with Disabilities (LCSD) works with students who are registered with the university’s Centre for Students with Disabilities (CSD) and who have been referred by their CSD advisor, to locate textbooks required in alternate formats. Students are advised to arrange a meeting with the LCSD co-ordinator at least a month in advance of classes, and to be prepared to present all reading lists for courses, to ensure ample time is given to locate or produce required texts.

The centre can order materials available in alternate formats from off-site suppliers, and has the ability to transcribe texts and other research materials in-house if they’re not available elsewhere. It also provides adaptive software – including Jaws, Zoomtext Extra and Kurzweil 1000 and 3000 – on its computers.

The University of Guelph website advises that a student’s first choice of format will be sought, but that because of staffing and time limitations students may have to use another comparable format until the preferred one is found.

University of Toronto

Libraries – Toronto, ON

The Services for People with Disabilities section of the library’s website indicates that Braille, large print, audio or electronic versions of materials required for course work can be ordered through the W. Ross MacDonald School, for students registered with the university’s accessibility office.

The site also advises students to check the online catalogue of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (which is based in New Jersey), available on the RFB&D website, to see if needed resources can be acquired through that organization. If material is available through RFB&D, students must deal with the organization on their own.

U of T law students are instructed to access the OLLIS database, which contains textbooks, casebooks, class note summaries, handouts and more information for the study of law. The site also informs law students with print disabilities that federal government publications in alternate formats may be found through the National Library of Canada website.

Queen’s University

Library Services for Students with Disabilities – Kingston, ON

The Queen’s service centre website states that “students who have access to computers with synthesized voice, character enlarging software or Braille output devices may request an electronic version of a text. If required, course material will be scanned onto disk using optical character recognition technology. Proof-reading of scanned material is also available.”

Students must provide the books they need to have scanned, as well as other necessary information such as course outlines and reading lists. They must also provide the library with cassette tapes and/or disks. In addition to electronic texts, the library offers the option of having articles, book chapters, research material, workbooks and class handouts read onto tape. This service is facilitated by a group of volunteer readers. The library notes that materials recorded onto tape are recorded on four tracks, and as such can only be played on four-track tape players. A limited number of these machines are available on loan from the Special Readers’ Services.

Student requests for other alternate format texts are forwarded to the W. Ross MacDonald School.

Carleton University

Maxwell MacOdrum Library - Ottawa, ON

Students registered with the university’s Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities may request to have course texts and related materials transcribed into alternate formats, such as audiotape, Braille or large print. All requests for alternate formats through the library are forwarded to the W. Ross MacDonald School, and any titles not readily available will be converted to the requested format. Students must provide a copy of the text or document to send to the W. Ross MacDonald School.

Students are advised to provide lists of needed titles, along with dates when the material will be required, as early as possible for service.

The Paul Menton Centre ( provides a Text-to-Audio service to all students with disabilities, free of charge. Students may bring in all related course materials (textbook chapters, lecture notes, etc) and have them converted to audio format on CD.

St. Mary’s University

Ferguson Library for Print-Handicapped Students – Halifax, NS.

The library offers services to all post-secondary students and staff who have print-based disabilities. It offers texts on audiotape and computer disk, and has a collection of more than 850 titles.

In addition to the alternate format titles available in the library’s own holdings, materials may be borrowed from other institutions in Canada and elsewhere. Materials are available to be borrowed for the duration of a course. Non-students can borrow materials for up to six months.

Books not available in alternate formats through the library or other organizations can be read onto tape by the library’s team of volunteers. A Kurzweil text-scanning machine is also available.

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