Visually impaired persons

Under UK copyright law in general, modifying or adapting copyright material in any way without permission from the owner is illegal. However, visually impaired persons benefit from provisions in the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002 which have led to certain exceptions to copyright law to enable visually impaired persons to make single accessible copies of copyright material for the purposes of private study or research.

Additionally, the Copyright Licensing Agency Higher Education Trial Photocopying and Scanning Licence (CLA Licence) contains terms which allow visually impaired persons and some specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, to make or receive multiple accessible copies of copyright material for educational purposes.

What is considered to be a visual impairment?

Anyone with a visual impairment recognised under Section 31F (9) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 may make or receive accessible copies of the whole or part of a copyright work.

The Act defines a visually impaired person as someone:

  • who is blind or partially sighted or
  • whose vision cannot be improved by corrective lenses to an acceptable level for reading or
  • who cannot hold or manipulate a book because of a physical disability, or who cannot focus or move the eyes for reading

Dyslexia, although recognised as a disability in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, is not currently recognised under the definition in the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act as a visual impairment. However, accessible copies (e.g. enlarged photocopies) of material covered by the Copyright Licensing Agency Higher Education Trial Photocopying and Scanning Licence can be made for persons with dyslexia.

  • Copyright Licensing Agency - contains information on the CLA Licence and guidelines for use.
  • Photocopying web page - contains information on making copies of material under the CLA Licence for teaching and Learning and useful links.

Accessible copies for visually impaired students and staff

Copies which have been modified in some way to enable a visually impaired person to benefit from the material are called accessible copies. These may be made by the visually impaired person or by someone else acting on their behalf.

Changes may be made to enable the visually impaired person to access the material, such as enlargement, reduction, colour or text size alterations, conversion to audio or digital formats, etc. Navigational aids may also be included. Only those changes which are necessary to make the material accessible are authorised.

The following conditions apply:

  • The visually impaired person must own or be in lawful possession of the original copyright work. Material which has been borrowed from the Library is considered lawful possession.
  • Accessible copies are for personal use by the visually impaired person only, and may not be passed on to another, except to another visually impaired person.
  • Accessible copies must acknowledge the author, title and publisher of the work.
  • Copies must bear a statement indicating whether the accessible copy has been made under either statutory exceptions to the law or under the terms of the CLA Licence and that further copying or distribution is prohibited. See one of the following options below:
  • Statement for accessible copies made under statutory exceptions
  • Statement for accessible copies made under the CLA Licence

Copying for visually impaired persons under statutory exceptions in UK law

Visually impaired persons may make, or have made for them, copies of part or the whole of a literary or artistic work in any format required to make the material accessible: e.g. Moon or Braille, digital or audio format, large print. Copies may include navigational aids if required.

Copies must be for the purposes of private study or research and the following conditions also apply:

  • A suitable accessible copy should not already be available commercially.
  • Copies may not be sold or transferred to another user (except another visually impaired person who is in lawful possession of the original work).
  • Copies made under statutory exceptions in the law are for personal use only and may not be used by multiple visually impaired persons within an institution.
  • Copies may not be placed on a network.
  • Databases and performances of musical works may not be copied under these provisions.
  • Copies must bear the statement for copies made under statutory exceptions.:

Statement for accessible copies made under statutory exceptions

"This copy has been made from an original copyright work under Section 31A of the Copyright. Designs and Patents Act 1988, and may not be copied further, sold, transferred or otherwise distributed except as permitted by law or with permission from the copyright owner."

Copying for visually impaired persons under the CLA licence

Visually impaired persons may make, or have made for them, copies of the whole or part of a literary or artistic work covered by the CLA Licence in any format required to make the material accessible. A list of material which is not covered by the licence is available on the Copyright Licensing Agency website. If a work is not covered by the CLA Licence, it may be possible to copy it for personal use under the statutory exceptions to the law.

The following conditions apply:

  • The University must own the original work.
  • A suitable accessible format must not be commercially available.
  • Accessible copies may be placed on a network or on CD-Rom for use by visually impaired persons.
  • The number of accessible copies made must not exceed the number of visually impaired persons.
  • Databases and performances of musical works may not be copied under the CLA Licence.
  • Copies must also carry the statement for copying under the CLA Licence for Visually Impaired Persons.

Statement for accessible copies made under the CLA Licence for Visually Impaired Persons

"This copy has been made from an original copyright work under the terms of the CLA Licence for Visually Impaired Persons, and may not be copied further, sold, distributed or otherwise transferred except as permitted by law or with permission from the copyright owner."

Further information

The Library houses the West London Assessment Centre, run by Brunel's Disabilty and Dyslexia Service which contains text reading and scanning equipment and software for use by visually impaired persons.

The Copyright Licensing Agency has produced some information about this provision for CLA Licence holders on their website. More information about provisions for visually impaired persons is also available via the Royal National Institute for the Blind website.

Page last updated: Tuesday 25 October 2011