Thursday, February 18, 2016

The1996 Chafee Amendment: Reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities

An open book on brown leaves
Earlier this week I heard Dr. Paul Harpur, Senior Lecturer at The University of Queensland T.C. Beirne School of Law discuss the topic of "Disability, Access, and Libraries in the Digital Age" at Syracuse University. Harpur has  what he referred to as an "access to print disability" and was able to related his personal experiences to the topic as well as talk about the law.  He noted that many people may have access to print disabilities for different reasons.  We all will immediately think of those who have visual impairments; however, he noted that people with limited motor skills might also be unable to use a printed worked.

During his talk, Harpur used phrases such as book famine and digital apartheid, which really convey the severity of the problem.  He spent a good portion of his talk on who to sue when texts are not available for those with access to print disabilities. The two choices  in higher education are the publisher and the university.  While suing is not the first option, when it is the only recourse, Harpur noted that a resolution can take years.  Those years can set the student back in terms of graduating, employment, and salary.  For a faculty member, it could stall the person's research and scholarship.

Harpur also talked about the difference between the various types of ebooks and what people really need. For example:
  • While a digitized work will be readable by screen reading software, it may be hard to navigate. Can the person move from section to section easily?
  • An ebook may work well with a screen reader, but what about with enhancements like videos?  Are they usable by someone with visual disabilities?
  • Is all of the same information from the print version available in the digital version, and in a way that is accessible to all (e.g., tables, graphs, pictures)?
  • Can a person cite from the digital version so that the citations make sense to someone looking at the print version?
Finally, Harpur wove in information about U.S. Copyright Law and the Chafee Amendment, which creates a way for works to be reproduced for the blind and for others with disabilities. I will adding this section of the law to my copyright class (Copyright for Information Professionals), since this does truly impact the work that librarians and educators do. It is not a section of law that had stood out to me previously, so I'm glad that Dr. Harpur impressed its importance.


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