This research aims to find ways of making access to copyrighted books for the
visually impaired as much a matter of choice as possible by moving the provision of
access away from models based on charity and of building the provision of access
into the mainstream.
The work of third sector organisations providing access and attempts by the visually
impaired community itself to enhance access are described. Realities effecting
support workers in universities who have to help visually impaired students
investigated. Legal disputes relating to copyright and anti-discrimination law are
discussed. Developments in the ebooks market are monitored with a particular
reference to attempts to build accessibility into devices like the Kindle and Apple
The research also looks at how best to secure access to online bookshops, web
pages offering ebooks for download in public libraries and ebook libraries in
academia. The current level of access being achieved in this area is assessed. Next
ongoing attempts to improve access and differing views on the advisability of an
approach based on enforcement of the Worldwide Web Consortium’s accessibility
guidelines or a more flexible approach emphasising user testing are discussed.
Conclusions and recommendations: changes to copyright law and further
development and clarification of anti-discrimination law as it applies to publishers
are necessary. Libraries should adopt a more innovative approach and field some of
the specialist provision currently undertaken by charitable organisations.
Accessibility to relevant websites is probably best provided by a combination of
ongoing relationship building and with web developers and a more flexible
approach than rigid enforcement of accessibility guidelines. Further research is
needed on exactly how libraries could undertake specialist transcription most
efficiently and on how to bring multi-national companies like Adobe, Amazon and
other manufacturers of ebooks reading devices unambiguously into the ambit of
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.