Electronic Course Reserves: A Case Study on Universal Access to Electronic Information in Academic Libraries

Date Updated


My name is Rick and I am legally blind. I use Braille or a screen reader on a computer to access printed or electronic information. This quarter, one of my sociology courses has a number of required articles on electronic library reserve.

Access Issue

When I opened the electronic documents, my screen reader could not read them. The format was incompatible with my screen reading software, and I was therefore unable to access the library reserve articles.


I explained the access situation to my disabled student services counselor. Disabled student services staff contacted the library and informed them about the problem. The library scanned the printed articles and saved them as text to be read by the text-to-speech computer system.


This case study illustrates the following:

  1. Some electronic information may not be accessible, even with the use of assistive technology (e.g., screen readers).
  2. Campus instructors and library staff need to be aware of the accessibility of electronic information when it is required course material.
  3. Postsecondary students need to anticipate their needs and work with disabled student services and faculty to make sure course materials are accessible before the beginning of the term.