Repository Services for Accessible Course Content - IMLS Grant

Project Name: 
Repository Services for Accessible Course Content 

A collaborative planning project, involving participants from Brandeis University, HathiTrust Digital Library, Northern Arizona University, Tufts University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Virginia, and with major cooperation from AHEAD (Association on Higher Education And Disabilities).

Institutions of higher education face growing demand for ADA accommodations. As the number of students with disabilities increases, so does the urgency to support students' academic success. Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) include everything from textbooks to films to graphics--anything faculty assign for class preparation. Obtaining and/or creating accessible copies of instructional materials for classes can be an enormous undertaking: time consuming, labor intensive, and costly. Can we make it easier? faster? cheaper?

New: White Paper Released

Libraries: Take AIM! Accessible Instructional Materials and Higher Education by Laura C. Wood, Jamie Axelrod, J. Stephen Downie, Michael Furlough, John Unsworth, and David Wedaman. March 2017 Download the PDF or Download the MS Word Version

Initial Project Description: 

This planning project, led by Tufts University, will bring together experts from disability services with librarians, IT professionals, advocates, and legal counsel, to develop work plans for shared infrastructure within which universities can support their students with disabilities. Disability accommodations frequently include altering course content to make it accessible. Repository services are needed to enable schools to deposit their own accessible digital files, use files from other institutions, and reduce the number of searches required for content discovery. Using focus groups, working groups, a stakeholder colloquy, and an advisory board for guidance, the project will result in a white paper summarizing findings, a work plan for creating repository services, and a paper to submit for publication. The intention is to create specifications and a business model that will complement existing platforms and services.


The project is made possible with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The IMLS grant is through the National Leadership Grant for Libraries program, in their National Digital Platform category. View the project proposal (PDF).



May 1, 20015 through April 30, 2017

Focus Groups:

The steering committee conducted focus groups at the national conference of AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disabilities) in July, 2015, seeking to understand the challenges facing disabilities services offices as they provide alternative formats for instructional materials. Questions probed workflows, challenges, and opportunities for improvement, looking for common areas of difficulty at a variety of institution types. 

Published results:

K Fenlon et al “Toward Accessible Course Content: Challenges and Opportunities for Libraries and Information Systems” in the 2016 Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology (2016, Wiley). Also available via the Tufts Digital Library,

Libraries: Take AIM! Accessible Instructional Materials and Higher Education by Laura C. Wood, Jamie Axelrod, J. Stephen Downie, Michael Furlough, John Unsworth, and David Wedaman. March 2017 Download the PDF or Download the MS Word Version

Next Steps:

Several institutions are joining together to pursue this goal of a national repository service for higher education. In the coming months we are seeking funding to turn the planning into a pilot service. The institutions are:

  • George Mason University
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Tufts University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin

Remote Research Support Hours

9:00am - 5:00pm