Over the years, I have had several awesome teachers and professors who have helped me learn how to write essays and research papers for my classes quickly and efficiently. Because of them, I have earned consistently high scores on all of my writing assignments and papers in all of my classes, including my college classes, and frequently get asked for writing advice from my friends and other students in my classes. As part of my Writing Success series, here is how I find research sources in accessible formats and search for academic texts as a student with a print disability.
Searching WorldCat for large print and braille
WorldCat is a free global research platform that itemizes the collections of thousands of different institutions and allows users to search for titles in libraries near them. Using the Format search filter, users can search for items in a variety of accessible formats, including:
- Large print book
- Braille book
WorldCat lets users know where to find a title near them and shares information about reciprocal borrowing agreements as well. I recommend creating a free WorldCat account to link library information, as in some cases users will be able to view full text for materials online, depending on their institution.
- File Formats For Low Vision and Print Disabilities
- My Favorite Digital Library Resources For Low Vision
Bookshare is an online accessible library for users with print disabilities, and has a large array of academic research sources including textbooks, journals, books, and other educational texts, including historical texts. Bookshare is free for K-12 and college students in the United States, and also provides resources for getting physical copies of Bookshare materials in large print and braille- note that Bookshare does not provide embossed braille, rather it gives users the files they need to emboss it on their own.
Requesting braille or large print transcription
There are several organizations that provide braille embossing services. Students can request accessible copies of materials through their college’s Disability Services or assistive technology offices, which is how I receive digital copies of my textbooks in large print. When I was in high school, I could request large print copies of research materials for my classes through my state’s accessible educational materials office, AIM-VA, which serves K-12 students in public schools.
For braille embossing, I’ve encountered a few different nonprofit organizations that will emboss braille for people outside of their service area at a low cost, though I don’t have any direct experience using any of them- I recommend running a web search for “braille embossing services” to learn more about different options.
- How To Request Accessible Textbooks In College
- What To Know About College Assistive Technology Specialists
- All About AIM-VA
Louis Database of Accessible Materials
The Louis database is maintained by American Printinghouse for the Blind and provides information on accessible educational materials produced in the US and Canada, including large print, braille, digital, and audio formats. This can make it easier to request accessible materials at the local level (as the accessible files already exist), and users can also reach out to APH librarians for more information.
AccessText Network isn’t for students/researchers to use directly, but still provides users with textbooks in accessible formats. Through AccessText Network, assistive technology specialists and service providers can get digital copies of textbooks in accessible formats directly from another institution or from the publisher, which helps to prevent repetitive uploads and speed up the process in giving students access to the textbooks they need for their classes. The most common format for textbooks shared on AccessText is an unlocked PDF, and over 90% of requests are fulfilled in three days or less- this was really helpful when I transferred into a different class and had to quickly track down a textbook.
Hathi Trust is another large online library/database for research sources, and has several options for browsing content in an accessible format for users at participating colleges/institutions. One service is the free Accessible Text Request Service, which can provide users with documented print disabilities access to full-text content from any title in Hathi Trust in a digital accessible format. Users will need to make this request through their institution’s contact- at my college, this is the assistive technology office.
- HathiTrust Digital Library | Millions of books online
- Accessibility | HathiTrust Digital Library
- College Libraries and Low Vision
Looking for science information that has been published in a federal government database? Science.gov has options for searching across multiple organizations such as NASA, NIH, EPA, ERIC, and many more. Information included in this database is typically shared in HTML or PDF formats, and does not require users to log into a specific institution, meaning that anyone can access information on this website.
- Science.gov: USA.gov for Science – Government Science Portal
- How To Run Effective Web Searches
- US Government Programs For Blind/Low Vision Residents
More tips on how I find research sources in accessible formats
- Already found a research source and want to make it accessible? Check out How I Read Research Sources With Assistive Technology
- There are a few different websites that will convert academic articles into HTML and other formats for easier reading, like arXiv Vanity
- Want to read more posts in the Writing Success series? Visit Writing Success Archives | Veronica With Four Eyes or view the Reading/Writing category at Reading And Writing Archives | Veronica With Four Eyes