Library-Run Accessibility Services: A Case Study from the University of Tasmania

Academic institutions in Australia are currently experiencing an increased rate of participation from students who identify or have been diagnosed with a disability, mental health condition or physical health condition. While these types of students may not need assistance from their institutions, this can change over time. Students may also be diagnosed with one or more of these conditions during the course of their studies, changing their needs as well.

While all tertiary institutions in Australia and New Zealand provide accessibility services to students, the services that libraries provide do not always receive the same level of promotion. Without promotion, students may not even know about the services available that can assist them with their studies. The University of Tasmania (UTAS) library has, for several years, been working to provide transcription services. Working in conjunction with academic staff, accessibility services and other teams, we aim to ensure that students who are registered with us receive support and resources during the course of their degree. These include services like accessibility friendly textbooks, video captions, lecture recordings, access to read aloud software and more. Each student has their own personalised support services, which continues throughout their course until they graduate.

Transcription staff also regularly maintain contact with academic staff during the semester, allowing staff to build meaningful relationships and assess if students needs have changed over time. They liaise with publishers and authors to source textbooks. They also engage with other professional staff to assist students, such as educational technologists, IT staff and student services.

This presentation aims to provide an overview of how transcription services at the University of Tasmania operates, as well as explore why providing services like this in all academic institutions is so important in helping all students succeed in their studies. Further, it will argue that services built to provide accessibility need to operate from both an equitable and equal mindset, in order to succeed in its objectives. Because each student is different, so are their needs and their levels of support, even for students with the same disability or condition.

Finally, it aims to show that transcription services and similar library-run programs are important. They allow all students to succeed in their studies, no matter the challenges they may face. They also allow those who are often forgotten or marginalised to belong somewhere, to feel like they are supported and appreciated.

Alison Crawford

Transcription Officer/Library Officer, University of Tasmania

Author Bio

Alison [she/they] is a Library Officer with the University of Tasmania and also works as part of the UTAS Transcription team. This work allows students with disabilities, physical and mental health conditions and other challenges to be able to complete their studies with accommodations. Tasmanian born, she has lived on both the mainland and Tasmania and is currently completing a Graduate Diploma in Library services through Curtin University.