This post was actually inspired quite early on in the #blogeverydayofjune challenge by @geomancer's gratitude post, in which she lists her eyesight as something she's very thankful for. This immediately touched a cord in me, as I also feel very fortunate to have my - heavily corrected by optometrists - eyesight.

I started wearing glasses as a teenager. Most of the time it's easy for me to take this vision correction for granted, but now and then I wonder what life would have been like for me in another century. Or, being a bit of a sci fi nerd, I sometimes wonder how I would cope in a post-apocalyptic world without OPSM! *lol*

The reality, of course, is that I'm very lucky to have the kind of easily correctable eyesight that I do. And many people aren't so lucky.

For several years, I've had a strong interest in accessibility issues, especially those that affect the vision impaired and/or print disabled. Print disabilities include blindness, vision impairment, mental impairment, physical inability to hold a book or use a computer, poor literacy skills, learning difficulties, or any issues that create difficulties in reading or comprehending written materials.

As disseminators, and sometimes producers, of information (and leisure) materials, I believe that every library should be considering accessibility issues as part of their everyday business. There's no excuse for failing to consider accessibility in website design (using appropriate file formats, providing text and audio alternatives, etc.), collection development, equipment purchasing and building design.


- In the 2003 Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers one in five people in Australia (3,958,300 or 20.0%) had a reported disability. (1)

- The total of 3,304,639 Australians with a print disability represents almost 17.5% of the population (17.39%). This total figure is recognised as a conservative estimate. (2)

- About 18% of adult Australians experience a print disability which means they will have difficulty accessing standard printed information. The reasons for print disability vary but may include: vision impairment or blindness; physical dexterity problems such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, arthritis or paralysis; learning disability, such as dyslexia; brain injury or cognitive impairment; English as a second language; literacy difficulties; early dementia. (3) 

- Almost 575,000 Australians over 40 had vision loss in 2009, representing 5.8% of the population in that age group. Of these people around 66,500 were blind. It is projected that the number of people with vision loss aged 40 or over will rise to almost 801,000 by 2020, and those who are blind will rise to 102,750. (4)

- Most websites (81%) fail to satisfy the most basic Web Accessibility Initiative category. In addition, the results of the evaluations undertaken by disabled users show that they have characteristics that make it very difficult, if not impossible, for people with certain impairments, especially those who are blind, to make use of the services provided. (5)

- Blind people have access to approximately three in every thousand printed publications, falling well short of the equity achieved by sighted people in the community. (6)

- 'Where's My Book?' published for Right to Read Week 2006, shows that only 12 per cent of maths and 8 per cent of science GCSE textbooks in England, are available in braille or large print. Not one of the dictionaries or atlases most widely used by 14 to 16-year-olds is available in a format that a blind or partially sighted child could read. (7)

Have I convinced you?

If they're not already, these affected people *will* be part of your library community / client group. Let's make sure we include them in the information society now and in the future.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics: Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2003
  2. Market Equity: Secondary research to determine the size of the national print disabled audience, for RPH Australia, 2002
  3. Vision Australia: Print Accessibility, 2010
  4. Access Economics: Clear Focus: The Economic Impact of Vision Loss in Australia in 2009, for Vision 2020 Australia, 2010
  5. Disability Rights Commission: The Web: Access and inclusion for disabled people, 2004
  6. Blind Citizens Australia: Library Services Policy, 2006
  7. RNIB: Where's my book? campaign, 2006