University of Aveiro – Aveiro, Portugal

The service was created by academic staff and in partnership between the university’s Campus Library and Pedagogical Office. The aim of the service is to provide resources and services to develop and support inclusive teaching and learning and securing access to information and scientific knowledge for persons with sight and motor difficulties. The service also takes seriously the role of promoting inclusion and good practices of accessibility. The service targets specifically persons with disabilities which is the target equity group identified by university’s policies.

The service has offered activities such as lectures, workshops, seminars for students, faculty and non-teaching staff while also improving digital accessibility. In addition to these activities, the service also implements measures to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices aimed at their equity group members by offering recommendations and guidelines. 

The service implements innovative practices as well. For example, they contributed to the creation of digital software (repository) which allows users to access converted documents in accessible format. The software was created in partnership with nine other nationwide institutions and all users with sight and motor difficulties can access it via authentication. 

Service activities proved to have the most impact are welcome sessions and programs for students (presentation of library spaces and providing support for using them), providing support in accessing academic and scientific information, as well as promoting good practices through webinars for the entire academic community. 

By recognizing the needs of university stakeholders, including incoming enrolled students, the establishment of the service was motivated by the aim of developing an inclusive academic path for students with disabilities and providing support to university employees who are visually impaired but also to teachers working with visually impaired students. The success of the service came as a result of several good practices: 1.) having full support from the university in maintaining and improving the service 2.) having a motivated team with specific training obtained 3.) continuous upgrade and knowledge and technology being used 4.) good working conditions for working with students with disabilities (a specific room equipped with support adaptive technologies) 5.) having close relationships with groups and the institution implementing good practices of inclusion
The service is governed by the university’s policy.
The organizational structure is based on dividing staff according to the type of service being provided: production and availability of material in accessible format, personalized support in searching and locating academic material and the provision of Assistive Technology (AT) and institutional promotion of digital accessibility. The service is governed by the university’s policy but in a more general manner, as diversity inclusion and/or equality are not explicitly mentioned in the frameworks of strategies, policies and work plans of the university. However, the service’s planning and developing material does operate within these ideas. Decisions related to activities and programs concerning the promotion of inclusion and accessibility are made internally with the approval of the Director and the head of the Library Division. The activities promoted in partnership with the Pedagogical Office are decided jointly. The service contributes to local networks in the field of work which has so far enabled immediate support when needed.
The biggest challenge in establishing a successful service was the lack of having staff with more specific training in inclusion and accessibility. This was a challenge at the beginning of the service as it was difficult to respond to the needs of service users. Although service staff now have more training, this is still the main obstacle in ensuring its long-term sustainability. The service is funded by the Library of the University of Aveiro. The service staff grades the stability of funding as satisfactory but with possible risks in the future. Currently, three volunteers are involved in the service.
The service developed a formal evaluation that is based on two quantitative methods of measuring its impact and quality: 1.) Monitoring the number of documents converted into accessible format and uploaded to the repository and the numbers of activities and its users (hosing sessions and webinars, for example) 2.) Statistical data, collected via surveys, including satisfaction questionnaires The yearly evaluation report is sent to the Library Directors who in turn forward it to the University’s Chancellor.

University of Aveiro Libraries - Support Service for Users with Disabilities

Aveiro, Portugal