Alternative formats Policy & strategy

Accessible textbooks – jigsaw piece 2/3

It’s good to share, it’s easy to share, it’s legal to share

For many years libraries and disability support teams have had the frustration of wasted time and effort in scanning books that others had already scanned… but that licences prevented them from sharing.

Now that copyright laws have changed (see previous blog post) it is legal for intermediate copies of accessible textbooks to be shared with other authorised bodies such as universities and colleges.

However, being legal is one thing. Being efficient is quite another.

Cue the Load2Learn service

Load2Learn started life as a schools-focused project providing core textbooks in accessible format for key stages 3 and 4. However, as soon as the copyright changes became apparent it became clear to a number of us in the sector that Load2Learn was perfectly placed to take the role of a national repository of accessible textbooks.

A few trailblazing higher education institutions (HEIs) got involved early on, for example uploading electronic Braille files to the service, but most institutions didn’t engage because the HE offering was very limited.

That is changing rapidly for two reasons:
1) Jisc has worked closely with Load2Learn and a number of HE library staff – notably Leeds Beckett, Kent and York St John – to help the service better understand the different landscape of higher and further education. Load2Learn’s positive responses have enabled us to actively promote the service to the sector. If every HEI with adapted accessible formats shared them on Load2Learn there would be be a significant body of accessible texts available for instant download to authorise learners.
2) Publishers have built positive relationships with Load2Learn and many are now seeing this as a vehicle for improving their own efficiency. If their files are securely available on Load2Learn they reduce the need to service disability requests.

Using Load2Learn creates a virtuous circle.. There is a virtuous circle. The more HEIs use Load2Learn the more publishers are encouraged to deposit their titles. The more HE titles are available the more HEIs will join.

Already 96 Higher Education and 107 Further Education institutions have joined Load2Learn. 68 publishers are engaged (133 imprints) and 32 are directly uploading content to the site.

This is a really important part of the jigsaw. Until now, many dyslexic students were never offered alternative formats because the process of creating them from scratch was so time-consuming that under resourced libraries and disability teams had to focus on higher priority disabilities such as blind students. If Load2Learn becomes the “go to service” HEIs can start offering real alternatives to books for all their print impaired learners.

However, Load2Learn can only handle intermediate copies of entire textbooks.

What happens when you only want a chapter?

That’s the subject of our next blog post, and the third part of the jigsaw puzzle!

Alistair McNaught

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