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Reading Lists: a Practical Guide





Students with a print impairment often require their reading in an alternative format. If you have a student with a print impairment taking your module, you will need to ensure that we know which readings they need so that we can provide them with an accessible copy.


Jump to: Providing for print impaired students | Structure | Use tags | Reading load | Consider formats | FAQs

1 Providing for print impaired students

The term 'print impaired' refers to people who cannot access printed text, usually due to a visual or physical impairment. Print impaired students are likely to use a screen reader to access texts - some may also use magnification software whilst others will rely completely on e-reading software.

Note: Students who have a print impairment will have a Student Support Plan (SSP), which will also indicate if they require texts provided in alternative format. We recommend you have a conversation with your student about what specific support they need.

You will need to identify the individual items in your reading lists using the tag 'Alternative Format Request (SSP)' which will alert us to the items that need scanning. The tags will only be visible to list editors and library staff; students on your module will not be able to view them.

This is exactly the same as adding any other tags to your list. The Alternative Format Request (SSP) tag mus be added to each item you want to request:

Cropped screenshot of a book chapter record in a Reading List, with the 'Add tags' button outlined Cropped screenshot of a book chapter record in a Reading List, showing the list of tags that can be added, with Alternative Format Request (SSP) highlighted

Once we have created the resource in the required format, the library will contact the student directly to give them access to the resource.

2 Structure your Reading Lists

Structuring your reading lists makes them far easier for students to navigate - this is a consistent response in student feedback about Reading Lists. You can choose whether you want to structure your list based on theme, topic or by week, but however you do it, providing a structured list is extremely helpful to all students, especially those with SpLDs.

Tip: Find out more about structuring your list on our Steps to Get Started page.

3 Make use of tags

The use of the tags indicating Essential, Recommended and Background reading is important, not only to help the library ensure texts are available to students, but for students in helping them to organise and prioritise their reading.

It is also important that the Alternative Format Request (SSP) tag is added to any physical or digital resources that you want the student with the visual impairment to read. Online texts and PDFs will not necessarily work with e-readers, so these texts also need to be tagged for alternative format request to ensure an accessible version is created for print impaired students.

4 Consider reading load

Consider how many texts the student will realistically be able to read and engage with each week when assigning items to be provided in alternative formats.

Note: It takes longer to listen to a text than to read it and use of magnification software will also make working through a text slower. It will also take print impaired students longer to make notes about a text.

As your module progresses, check in with the student that the workload is right for them and adjust as necessary.

5 Consider formats

It is important to consider the format of resources you provide and whether these will be accessible to students with a visual impairment.

  • Images

If a student is using magnification software, providing images will be possible. Graphs, images overlaid with text, equations and images will all work (to varying extents) in an accessible pdf with magnification software. Whilst static images can work with magnification software, interactive images, such as interactive maps, are typically inaccessible to those using magnification software to access them.

If the student is entirely reliant on e-reading software, you will need to provide image descriptions. If there are important visual data or images in the text, you need to provide a description of these, outlining the information it conveys. Whilst in some cases images can be edited out, a text with many embedded equations, graphs or images is typically unsuitable for processing by an e-reader.

  • Historical documents

Including facsimiles of historical documents can be a great way of introducing students to original sources but are problematic for print impaired students. Facsimiles of historic documents will not work with e-reading software because they are either processed as an image or the font cannot be recognised. Even where a font is recognised, or a transcription of the document is available, without modernisation of spelling, documents are unlikely to be processed properly by screen reading software. For example, Chaucerian spelling would not be recognised and the software would be unable to read the document. Try to use texts with modernised spelling when providing these resources for print impaired students.

  • Online resources

Linking to online resources (whether online articles or websites) through the reading list is a more accessible option than posting the links directly into other sections of the VLE. It helps mark out the readings more clearly to students, helping then to prioritise and organise their work by seeing clearly which readings or activities are needed.