UW Library Accessibility Plan Report
The University of Waterloo Library has had a long-standing commitment to persons with disabilities. For
example, University press releases from October 1980 note that the Library
acquired both a Kurzweil Reading machine and a Brailler. The Kurzweil Reading
Machine, which electronically scanned printed text and read it aloud in a
synthetic voice, represented a significant advance in the development of technology
for the blind and persons with visual impairments.
The machine was donated to the Kitchener district
of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) by Mrs. Elizabeth
Burton of Guelph, who had a strong interest in helping students with low vision. For
maximum access to the machine by community users and students alike, the
Kurzweil was housed in the Dana Porter Library. A staff member trained in its
use provided instruction to users.
On the recommendation of the CNIB, the
Library purchased a Brailler to be used in conjunction with the Kurzweil.
Twelve years later, in 1992, the Library
opened the Accessibility Centre (in 2000, the name was changed to the ‘Adaptive
Technology Centre’) to give persons with disabilities better access to
resources and services. The Centre evolved out of a special collaboration
between the Library and the Office for Persons with Disabilities. Principal
funding came from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.
The area was equipped with Kurzweil Reader
(an updated version of the 1980 machine), a micro-computer with voice-output
capabilities, a closed-circuit TV magnifier, four-track tape recorders, and
other adaptive technology.
The Library’s commitment to providing the
highest quality service to all students at the University of Waterloo was
articulated in the following policy, established in 1992:
"The University of Waterloo Library endeavours to provide equitable access
to library facilities and materials to all members of its community. In acknowledging
the need for alternatives by some individuals to standard library services,
and in modifying both the physical structure and policies within the library
system, the library is working towards providing independent access by everyone
to the library's resources.
Accessibility Initiatives & Planning the Accessibility Plan
By 2003, the Library had a significant number
of accessible features and services in place. Some of the highlights include:
Policies, Programs and Services:
- A formal collaboration has been established between the Office
for Persons with Disabilities and the Library.
- There is a designated staff member, the Co-ordinator, Library
Services for Persons with Disabilities, who assists eligible users with
research, borrows alternate format materials, and assists with the
equipment in the Adaptive Technology Centre. As well, staff
are available to assist with general inquiries and requests.
- An Inter-Library Loan system enables the Library to borrow
alternate format materials, such as Braille and audio books, from the W.
Ross Macdonald School Resource Services Library and Recoding for the Blind
- Sponsored by the Office for Persons with Disabilities, the
Research, Information and Transcription Team (or RITT), a team of
work-study students, is available at scheduled times in the Adaptive
Technology Centre to assist users and transcribe the resources they need.
- Eligible users may borrow books for a term at a time.
- Staff will retrieve material from the book stacks upon request.
They will also send circulating library materials to patrons on campus via
- Interlibrary borrowing from the TriUniversity Group of
Libraries (TUG) benefits all users, including those who would find it
difficult to visit the Wilfrid Laurier University Library, or the Library
at the University of Guelph.
Physical Environment and Facilities
- In 1992, the UW Gazette (2 December 1992) noted “the Library system
already features a number of facilities for patrons who are disabled, including
access ramps for wheelchairs, elevators with handrails that are wheelchair
accessible, and wheelchair accessible washrooms.”
- Since then, the doors to the entrance, the 3rd floor
washrooms of the Dana Porter Library, and the Adaptive Technology Centre
have all been automated.
- The Adaptive Technology Centre, while physically located in the Dana Porter
Library, is available to all eligible patrons. Situated in one corner of the
Main Floor, it is a separate, quiet area for study and relaxation. It includes
ergonomic features such as electronically adjustable workstations, and ‘touch’
lamps, and is a ‘fragrance-free’ area. The Centre is open whenever the Library
- The Davis Centre Library’s Public-Use computer area includes an
electronically adjustable workstation.
- The Dana Porter Reference and Abstract collections, as well as
the Periodical stacks, have large-print range indicators.
Access to Technology
- The Adaptive Technology Centre is equipped with text-to-speech,
voice-recognition, magnification and screen-reading software and equipment
such as Closed-Circuit TV magnifier and computers with large-screen monitors.
- Four-track tape recorders are available for loan.
- All the Public-Use workstations in all three library locations
allow users to access the Microsoft accessibility features.
- Headphones are available on specific workstations; as well,
headphone jacks are available on all public workstations for users who
bring their own headphones.
- A TTY (teletypewriter) is available for loan in the Dana Porter
- The UW Library Web Operational Management Group has established
guidelines for creating accessible web pages.
- In 2002, the Library’s Home Page was re-designed to include a
‘Text-Only’ page, with an invisible link in the top left corner that can
be instantly identified by screen-reading technology.
- In 2003, the navigation bar for the Library’s website was
redesigned to be xHTML 1.0 transitional standard
compliant. It also includes a ‘skip navigation’ feature.
- The Instructional guides and
bibliographies (Library Guides series) are mounted on the Web in HTML
format, which can easily be read by screen-readers or transcribed into
Braille without further manipulation.
- The Library has initiated an
‘Electronic Reserve’ service and mounts items in both HTML and PDF where
- TRELLIS, the TUG Libraries’ online public catalogue, has a
text-only, telnet version.
- In order to prepare the Accessibility
Plan, the Library decided to work within its existing organizational structure
rather than to create a new and separate accessibility committee.
- During the summer of 2003, at the request
of the Library Budgets and Planning Committee and the Library Managers, the
Co-ordinator for Library Services for Persons with Disabilities made presentations
to the University, Map and Design Library; User Services Managers; Information
Services Management Committee; Information Resources Management Committee;
Information Commons Committees for Davis and Porter; Library Systems Department
and the Web Operational Management Group. This activity served the twin purposes
of increasing staff awareness and generating information for the Accessibility
- On June 4, 2003, staff and student
ambassadors from the Office for Persons with Disabilities gave a presentation
on ‘Disabilities Issues’ to all staff from the Dana Porter, Davis Centre,
and University Map and Design Libraries.
November 12, 2003
Last Updated: May 26, 2005