Guidelines for Assisting People with Disabilities

There are provisions in the Copyright Act that allow material to be reproduced in accessible formats to assist staff and students with disabilities.

The provisions apply to any person with a disability as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.  This includes people with print or vision impairment, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, mental illnesses, deaf or hearing impaired , or physical disabilities.  Both permanent and temporary disabilities are covered.

There are two separate provisions that apply when reproducing copyright material in accessible formats for staff and students with disabilities.  A provision covering institutions assisting people with a disability and a fair dealing provision for use by either a person with a disability or on behalf of a person with a disability.  Educational institutions such as the University are included in the definition of institutions assisting people with a disability meaning that we can rely on either provision to assist staff and students with a disability

The two provisions are very similar and are intended to ensure that people with disabilities have the same access to copyright material as people without disabilities. The provisions apply to:

  • staff and students with a disability that causes them difficulty in reading, viewing, hearing or comprehending copyright material,
  • all types of copyright material – literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works and films or sound recordings.

Other benefits include:

  • Copyright material can be converted in whatever accessible format is required by the staff member or student.
  • Once converted the accessible copy can be made available to the staff member or student online for example via the LMS, email or the cloud (e.g. Dropbox).
  • Accessible copies can be used by staff or students with disabilities for whatever purpose they need.  It is not just limited to research or study; personal use is covered as well.
  • Copies of material in accessible format can be kept and reused by other staff or students with disabilities.  Copies can also be shared with other institutions assisting people with disabilities.
  • Allowing a third party to convert the material to an accessible format on either the institution’s or individual’s behalf.  For example, it is permitted to encourage an external copy to caption a lecture recording for a student who is deaf or hearing impaired.

If the copyright material is protected by a technological protection measure (TPM) that prevents the material from being copied, then you can break the TPM to convert the work to an accessible format.

Material that is converted to accessible formats under these provisions should be correctly cited and include a copyright notice.  Access should also be restricted to staff or students with a disability. If you wish to make the accessible copy available to other users, please contact the Copyright Office for advice.

There is one key difference between the fair dealing provision and the institutional provision.  If an institution is making material available, they must first check to see if the material is commercially available in the required accessible format. If the copy is being made available under the fair dealing provision, then it may still be possible to make an accessible copy even if a copy in the required format is commercially available so long as the use of the material is fair.  In determining whether the use is fair, the person making the copy should consider:

  • The purpose of making the copy – given that the copy is being made to assist a person with a disability this would be concerned fair.
  • The nature of the material – is the material published and in print and readily available or is it unpublished or out of print and not easily available.
  • The effect of making the copy on the potential market or value of the work – making a copy for an individual with a disability in an accessibility format would have limited impact on the potential market or value of the work as there is only a limited market for accessible formats.
  • The amount and substantiality of the part – where only part of a work is copied, how much is copied and how important is that part to the overall work.  This does not mean that copying the whole work would not be considered fair.

For further advice please contact the Copyright Office or Student Equity and Disability Support.