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Accessing Resources

Cambridge libraries: accessibility & disability

A guide to library accessibility services for students

About eresource platforms

Cambridge libraries provide access to electronic books, journals and databases (most require university login) via a huge number of third party publishers and content providers. Platforms are selected primarily for the content they host, although if a choice of suppliers is available then platform design and accessibility are taken into consideration.

Some electronic resources - especially ebooks - are protected with Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies. These technologies restrict how the resources can be used, and can be incompatible with assistive technology. Cambridge University Libraries has a policy of purchasing DRM-free ebooks where available (PDF), but there are many titles which are only sold with DRM. If you cannot use an ebook purchased by the libraries due to a disability, we can try to obtain an accessible alternative for your own personal use via the Alternate Formats Service.

What is DRM?

Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes are access control technologies that restrict usage of copyrighted material, such as ebooks.

Ebook platforms often use DRM to restrict copying, printing and downloading. For example, VLeBooks limits the length of time that an ebook can be used offline and the number of pages that can be copied or printed.

Not all ebook platforms use DRM. DRM-free platforms (such as Cambridge Core, Taylor & Francis Online) impose no technical restrictions on the use of their content. However, users are obliged to observe copyright law as well as any licensing terms governing the use of a platform.

We recognise that DRM-free ebooks are more accessible for all of our users and we try to purchase these whenever they are available from suppliers.

Built-in accessibility tools

Ebook Central (opens in new window) and VLeBooks (opens in new window) are two platforms which host of a lot of the ebooks you will find on reading lists and in iDiscover.

Both platforms host DRM-protected ebooks, but they offer their own built-in accessibility tools which you can use with these in 'Read Online' mode. Ebook Central has an 'Accessibility mode' which you can switch on to allow your screenreader to read out ebooks or to display books in the OpenDyslexic font. VLeBooks has its own built-in 'Read Aloud' tool as well as options for changing background colours and zooming in. Why not give them a try?

Further information about Ebook Central Accessibility Mode.

Further information about VLeBooks and accessibility.

eresource platform accessibility statements

Accessibility icon showing human figure with arms outstretched inside a circlePlatform providers are encouraged and expected to publish information describing the accessibility of their platforms to users with disabilities via a platform accessibility statement. 

We have started to add links to accessibility statements for ebook and ejournal platforms listed in the Databases A-Z and the ebooks LibGuide. You can also use SearchBOX finder to search or browse eresource and publisher platforms' accessibility statements.

What are we doing about inaccessible third party platforms?

We have recently started auditing our most-used eresource platforms. We are also looking at ways to share this information with other universities, and benefit from similar testing carried out elsewhere. The information gained from this process will help users to know what to expect from platforms and library staff to develop hints and tips. It will also be fed back to providers to raise awareness of any problems and enable them to improve the accessibility of their sites.

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