The library and information field significantly advances digital inclusion through integrating audiovisual and multimedia resources.These resources play a crucial role in fostering inclusivity by addressing accessibility, cultural representation and participatory opportunities, ensuring non-discriminatory access to knowledge in educational and lifelong learning contexts.

Libraries, recognizing the importance of accessibility, offer a wide range of audiovisual and multimedia resources designed to be inclusive. These resources incorporate features such as audio descriptions, subtitles for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (SDH), and sign languages. Audio descriptions, also known as video descriptions, empower individuals with visual impairments to engage with various multimedia resources, from movies to theater, plays, operas or museum exhibitions. By narrating key visual elements, audio descriptions enable a comprehensive understanding and enjoyment of content. SDH, or captions, play a crucial role by providing text overlays that display spoken dialogue, sounds, and other audio displays. This feature ensures that individuals with hearing impairments have equal access to auditory components of multimedia content — additionally, sign languages, employing visual-gestural communication, bridge communication gaps for people with hearing impairments.

These accessibility features are paramount for fostering digital inclusion, providing alternative means for individuals with visual or hearing impairments to access and engage with audiovisual and multimedia content. However, the commitment to digital inclusion principles in libraries extends beyond these features to encompass findability and searchability of accessibility metadata. This ensures that the benefits of audiovisual and multimedia content are accessible to everyone, thereby contributing to a more participatory knowledge and information landscape and fostering a globally equitable society.

Presently, challenges persist with regard to accessibility in library catalogues, as well as library and information technology systems and services. When accessibility metadata is not effectively searchable, it renders the content inaccessible to patrons. In response to the challenges, the IFLA Audiovisual and Multimedia section, in collaboration with neighbouring IFLA sections are developing a cross-sectional network to elevate accessibility standards. Our collective aim is also to promote the use of non-discriminatory controlled vocabularies for individuals with disabilities. This initiative seeks to ensure full and effective equal participation for all, aligning with international directives and national legislations.

For further readings:

EAA: Directive (EU) 2019/882 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on the accessibility requirements for products and services (EAA). (Last accessed 2023-11-14)

UN CRPD: United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (Last accessed 2023-11-14)

W3C: World Wide Web Consortium: Making Audio and Video Accessible. (Last accessed 2023-11-14)

Authors: Anna Bohn, Hélène Brousseau, Monique Threatt – IFLA Audiovisual and Multimedia Section