ARL and University of Virginia Issue White Paper on Equitable Access


Funded by the Mellon Foundation, this white paper released by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the University of Virginia addresses the obligations of institutions of higher education (IHEs) to support the information needs of those in their community -- whether student or faculty -- who are operating with functional impairments impacting on their daily activities. These academic institutions are required to provide access to resources that are as close as possible to that provided to individuals without those impairments. 

According to the authors of this white paper, (Brandon Butler of the University of Virginia and Prue Adler and Krista Cox, both of the Assoication of Research Libraries), Disability Services Offices on campus may be hindered in providing access to texts and other information resources by publisher licensing language, despite the institutional and legal requirements to do so. Butler, Adler and Cox write that there is existing authority to create copies of works in order to distribute accessible texts to qualified users. The same authority permits retention of those texts in secure repositories for use by others in future.

As foundation for their argument, the authors note "The key provisions in U.S. copyright law that make this possible are Section 121, also known as the Chafee Amendment, and Section 107, the fair use doctrine. Section 121 is a specific but broad exception permitting authorized entities to make copyrighted works available to the print-disabled in accessible formats without permission from the copyright holder. Section 107 is the general right to use copyrighted works without permission when a set of flexible, equitable factors weigh in favor of the use. A landmark case, Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, has established that fair use authorizes IHEs to create and manage repositories of digital texts in support of accessibility, among other legitimate uses."

For more from this publication, visit the ARL announcement of the released work.