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Reading Lists: a Practical Guide



Illustration icon depicting the graphic indicating brightness adjustmentAccessibility


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. The number of readings required will vary according to the individual student’s needs so if you're not sure you'll need to check with the student.

  Use the 'Alternative Format Request (SSP)' tag to let us know what items are needed

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 and no students on your module will be able to view them. Any questions about this process should be sent to

This is exactly the same as adding any other tags to your list. For each item you want to request:

  1. click on the pencil symbol and then on 'Add tags'
  2. select 'Alternative Format Request (SSP)'
  3. select 'save' 

Cropped screenshot showing the book Introduction to Manuscript studies being added to a reading list, illustrating how to add the Alternative Format request tag to an item


8 things to consider when setting reading

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.

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.

2 Consider how reading load will differ for print impaired students

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. 

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.

3 Historical documents are problematic for screen reading software

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. 

4 Carefully consider your use of 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 would 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.

5 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. There is a template to structure your list by week, but you can also create your own, if you wish to structure your list differently - you can find out more about structuring your lists in our Steps to get started section.

6 Make use of the tags in your reading list

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 is also useful for students in helping them to organise and prioritise their reading.

It is also important to make use of the Alternative Format Request (SSP) tag if you need to provide for a print impaired student. This needs to be added to any physical or digital resources that you want the student 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.

For more information about how to use tags in your reading list, see our Steps to get started section.  

7 Link to online resources through your reading list

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

For subscription resources, such as journal articles, the library can provide shibboleth sign in links - so students signed into the VLE can be directed straight to the resource without being required to sign in again or having to navigate through a journal website. This makes it much easier for students to access these resources.

8 Remember to provide any handouts or other documents in an accessible format

There are also resources available to help ensure that any other documents you need students to use ( for example, a module handbook or a worksheet) but which are not included on the reading list are also accessible. The university accessibility site offers guidance on creating accessible documents, as well as advice on how to make your teaching more accessible over all.

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