Accessibility buddies – a copyright checklist from John Kelly, subject specialist in technology and the law.

Where’s my help gone?

Changes to the Disabled Student Allowance – DSA – mean that the non medical help support (for example library assistance) previously paid for by the DSA will no longer be available unless the university supplies the service. For some disabled learners this could represent a significant extra difficulty so universities have been considering what options might be available.

The University of Kent has been exploring the idea of student volunteers – an “Accessibility Buddy” scheme where a volunteer gets some training in creating alternative formats and can then be paired with print disabled students who might need some support. The scheme coordinator – Ben Watson – was delighted to find 25 volunteers responding to the call but wanted some guidance on what the legal position was for these non disabled students scanning and converting books into other formats.

Fortunately, Jisc’s customer services team includes two specialists in technology and the law and one of these – John Kelly – agreed to put together a brief guide for accessibility buddies.

Here it is:


Where a disabled persons is lawfully entitled to make copies of works for personal use then a person acting on their behalf is able to lawfully make these copies for them.

The law – Section 31A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Copyright law entitles disabled persons to make copies of works for personal use without getting the permission of the rights holder. This includes scanning a textbook and converting it into an electronic format.

Accessible copies can be made where a disabled person has lawful possession or lawful use of a copy of the whole or part of a work, and the person’s disability prevents them from enjoying the work to the same degree as a person who does not have that disability.

The conditions

The conditions are that:

  • the copy must be made by the disabled person or by a person acting on their behalf
  • the copy must be for the disabled person’s personal use only
  • the same kind of accessible copy of the work is not commercially available on reasonable terms
  • the accessible copy once made can only be shared with someone else who would have been entitled to make the copy in the first place.

If a Buddy makes an accessible copy under this section on behalf of a disabled person and charges the disabled person for it, the sum charged must not exceed the cost of making and supplying the copy.


So as long as the disabled person would be entitled to make the copies themselves then it is lawful for a Buddy to do the copying on their behalf.

The copies made for the disabled person can only be shared with and used by someone with a disability that requires it.

If the Buddy wants copies for themselves then they must only make their own copies with permission usually in the form of a licence from the rights holder.

Checklist for Accessibility Buddies

  1. Is the disabled person entitled to make the copies under the laws of copyright?
  2. Is the copy for their personal use only?
  3. Has it been checked that there is no commercial accessible copy of the work available?
  4. The accessible copy can only be shared with and used by someone with a disability that requires it.

Are you thinking of a similar Buddy scheme? Or do you already use one? We’d love to hear any experiences or tips from you in the comments if you do.

Big thanks to John Kelly and Ben Watson for permission to share this resource.

Alistair McNaught Feb 2016

2 thoughts on “Accessibility buddies – a copyright checklist from John Kelly, subject specialist in technology and the law.

  1. Mary

    Thanks for that post. Good to know where you stand – including the charging aspect and “reasonable terms”.
    Did the volunteers get some sort of recognition / training that could go on their CVs?

    1. Jisc accessibility and inclusion Post author

      Yes – but I’m not sure how formal the training was. Definitely good for CVs though.


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