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Ebooks @ UWaterloo : Accessibility

About this Page

This page answers questions about ebooks and accessibility.


eBooks and Accessibility FAQ

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.

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. Here's a link to the Adobe site with a full description

Are the accessibility features of all eBook readers the same?

No, they are different and the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) have an overview of the accessibility benefits and obstacles of a selection of eBook readers at

Education Department Clarifies E-Reader Accessibility Rules

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

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

Contact Heather Parker, Coordinator of Library Accessibility Services and AODA Advisor, in the Adaptive Technology Centre (Room 251C), ext. 33012

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

These two sites are recommended for further information


Accessibility information for platforms hosting Ebooks from multiple publishers.

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.

Scholars Portal Ebooks 
No accessibility information available.