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Study Skills

Copyright for Lecturers, Instructors and Teaching Staff: Supporting students

Question marksSupporting students with disabilities

When teaching you may find that you need to offer extra support to students with disabilities. The University of Cambridge aims to offer an inclusive teaching environment and access to materials needed for study is a major part of this remit. However, there may initially seem to be a conflict between what copyright allows and what students with disabilities need to achieve equal access to materials.

This page outlines copyright exceptions for students with disabilities and departments across the University which can be contacted for support and information.

Copyright exceptions for students with disabilities

One of the fundamental aspects of copyright gives the copyright holder control over how copies of their work are made available to others. This is why the number and amount of copies that can be made by any one person is strictly controlled. This control often conflicts with the needs of students with disabilities who may need to make certain adjustments to be able to access materials such as making a copy of a work suitable for use with screenreading software. As with other circumstances there are some exceptions which can be used to ensure students are not disadvantaged when it comes to accessing materials.

Known as Exceptions for Disability, these guidelines aim to ensure that students with disabilities are able to enjoy copyright material to the same extent as a student with no impairment. They state that:

  • a student with disabilities or someone acting on their behalf (such as a carer) can make a copy of a work for personal use by that student only without requiring formal copyright clearance.  
  • an authorised body (such as a library) can make an accessible copy of work on behalf of a student with disabilities. 

It is important to remember that these exceptions are not to be used as an excuse to infringe copyright and that there are conditions to their use. Any copies made must come from a work to which the individual/authorised body has lawful access such as a copy purchased for the library. Making accessible copies also comes with a lot of reporting and record keeping needs.

The best course of action if you think an accessible copy is needed for a student is to contact one of the specialist teams listed on this page as they can give you the support you need.

Need more help?

Speech bubble iconIf you are in any doubt at all about what you are permitted to use, or would like further information, please contact the Copyright Helpdesk.

Help for supporting students with disabilities

There are several sources of help and support around the University of Cambridge which can help staff to support students

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