Collections and Library Services

Using E-books


Accessibility and Legal Obligations

The concept of an e-reader has been traced back to 1930, to Bob Brown's description of his idea for a portable device that could be plugged into an electrical outlet, and that would allow him to access and consume lengthy novels.

Who exactly created the first e-book is a matter of some debate, though Michael S. Hart (founder of Project Gutenberg) was the first person to make a text downloadable from the Internet. 

For further reading on the interesting history of this medium, visit the U.S Government Publishing Office's "History of eBooks from 1930’s “Readies” to Today’s GPO eBook Services".

For as long as the concept for e-books have existed, so, too, have ideas about their accessibility. For more information on this topic, please visit the "Accessibility and Legal Obligations" section of this guide.

At the heart of accessibility is the idea that all people must be offered equal opportunity for, and access to, education and educational materials, regardless of ability or disability. More than just an idea though, equal access and reasonable accommodation in all publicly-funded educational situations is the law. It became so as a result of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Below are some excellent resources which will help you understand the law itself, and also how to comply with it. To put it succinctly, though, students are entitled to reasonable accommodation for their disabilities, and this includes access to e-books (or any digital materials). If you have questions about accessibility at UVA, please contact the Student Disability Access Center.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in a public educational setting.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, "... establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained procured, or used by the Federal Government. Section 508 requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public." 

The Center on Technology and Disability (CTD), funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), is "designed to increase the capacity of families and providers to advocate for, acquire, and implement effective assistive and instructional technology (AT/IT) practices, devices, and services."

To learn more about accessibility laws and guidelines, please contact the UVA Student Disability Access Center.

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