Introducing RNIB Bookshare: electronic resources for widening accessibility

Introducing RNIB Bookshare: electronic resources for widening accessibility

The University has been a member of Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Bookshare scheme for many years, including in its previous incarnation as Load2Learn.  The support of the RNIB is invaluable in providing students and staff with many of the accessible formats they need. Once a students tells us they have a print or visual disability, their Faculty Librarian will set up an online meeting with them to discuss their individual needs.

Setting all these things up can take some time, and so it really helps for you to make contact with us as early as possible, ideally as soon as you confirm your place with us. The sooner we know what units are being studied the sooner we can obtain resources. If the particular title needed cannot be purchased as an e-book, we then check RNIB’s list of publisher partners. If the publisher is working with RNIB, we can request the book through the Bookshare website.  

Copyright restrictions mean we can only request electronic copies of titles we hold ourselves but these don’t restrict students from using their membership to make direct requests.  Anyone requesting an electronic version directly should be aware that publishers often send only a plain PDF file, while the Library would usually add navigation to the document before passing it on to students.  That said, some publishers provide their books in multiple formats, including DAISY, HTML, MP3 and EPUB, which offers students a fantastic choice. Bookshare even provide free software to play these formats, available to download from their website, as well as test apps and extensions for many common devices.

Many titles have already been requested for previous students both here and at other participating universities, so sometimes the results are instant! At other times, the process of converting printed books into an accessible digital form takes some time, so it really helps if you let us know if you believe you have difficulty reading print as a result of a visual disability or cognitive differences, such as dyslexia, as soon as possible. You can get in touch with ASDAC and your Faculty Librarian as soon as you accept your place on your course. Having the necessary conversations earlier means we can make everything you need available to you when you need them.

So who can use RNIB Bookshare?

This definition is taken from section 31F (2) of the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Disability) Regulations 2014.

“Disabled person” means a person who has a physical or mental impairment which prevents the person from enjoying a copyright work to the same degree as a person who does not have that impairment, and “disability” is to be construed accordingly.

Any individual who falls under the above definition may be eligible to access downloaded items from UK education collection.  This definition is broader in scope than the previous legislation and includes, but is not limited to:

  • Blind and partially sighted: persons who are blind or have a visual impairment that cannot be improved by corrective lenses.
  • Learning disability: persons who are unable to effectively read print due to dyslexia or other cognitive learning disabilities such as Autism or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
  • Physical disability: those who are unable, through physical disability, to hold or manipulate a book, or who are unable to focus or move their eyes to the extent that would normally be acceptable for reading.

Non-qualifying disabilities

English as an additional language and low literacy levels are not on their own classed as print disabilities.

What to do if you believe you have a qualifying disbability

If you think you have a qualifying disability and want to learn more about our alternative formats service or are currently registered with us and need your username and password to make individual requests via Bookshare, please reach out to us at or contact your Faculty Libarian directly through your subject page.  Please don’t provide sensitive personal information at this stage.

Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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