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Accessibility and ebooks

This section of the guide will provide answers to frequently asked questions about the accessibility of ebooks and their platforms.

What is assistive/adaptive technology?

Assistive or Adaptive Technology commonly refers to "...products, devices or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities...", according to the definition proposed in the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (U.S.).

How are ebooks read by students with disabilities?

If ebooks are accessible they can be read as audio, Braille or large print. They can be read using a dedicated ebook reader, a multi-functional device such as the iPad, or by using software on a computer or mobile device. Students may use text to voice software such as JAWS, WINDOW EYES and KURZWEIL.

Are all ebooks accessible?

No. Many books are in PDF format and PDF documents may be images. For PDF documents to be accessible they must be tagged and when they use styles (title, headings etc.) they are navigable by a screen reader. DAISY and HTML formats are accessible.

You can check properties to see if a document is tagged.

Are the accessibility features of all ebook readers the same?

No, they are different. The RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) provides an overview ebook readers, and their accessibility benefits and obstacles, in their online guide: eBook reader reviews.  

The US Department of Education offers guidelines to assist colleges in determining whether ebook readers and other technologies are accessible to all students, in their guide (the guide is in the form of an FAQ). Tablet devices, such as the iPad, offer more options for blind or low vision users.

eBook platform accessibility

ProQuest Ebook Central

Patrons using a screen reader may turn on accessibility mode themselves. For patrons who don’t use a screen reader but have accessibility needs, accessibility mode can be requested for their account at More information is available on the ProQuest Ebook Central Accessibility Guide


The EBSCO help page describes their accessibility features.

Are there other resources on ebooks and E-Reader Accessibility?

These two sites are recommended for further information

What can I do if an ebook I would like to read is not accessible?

Contact Library Accessibility Services, or visit the Library Accessibility Services page to learn more about the services available to you.