Accessible Content ePortal (ACE)


What is the Accessible Content E-Portal (ACE)?

The Accessible Content E-Portal (ACE) supports users with print disabilities at participating Ontario universities and colleges by making library collections accessible through an online platform. ACE contains a variety of library books which have been digitized and made available in accessible formats. Eligible users can also request books to be digitized and added to the collection on demand through our on-demand digitization service.

ACE is more than just a repository of accessible texts, it is an advocacy initiative which seeks to create opportunities to improve accessibility awareness across Ontario universities. Representatives from Ontario university libraries collaborate to identify future directions for this service, and rely on its support in making library collections accessible.

The launch of this service in 2013 was made possible by the Government of Ontario EnAbling Change Program. It is now supported by Scholars Portal, a project of the Ontario Council of University Libraries. Founded in 2002, Scholars Portal provides a shared technology infrastructure and shared collections for all 21 university libraries in the province.

Why was ACE developed?

ACE began as a pilot project in 2013, which provided OCUL members with a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in demonstrating compliance with the AODA Information and Communication Standard #18 which states that “libraries of educational and training institutions … shall provide, procure or acquire by other means an accessible or conversion ready format of print, digital or multimedia resources or materials for a person with a disability, upon request.”

This initiative has enabled participating institutions to meet their AODA obligations by facilitating and coordinating user requests for accessible formats of library holdings. Offering access to a centralized and standardized production centre via Internet Archive Canada, participating schools are now able to access quality digitized materials in five accessible formats.

Eliminating the duplication of labour and offering participants a way to retain digitized material, this repository has empowered its users with the immediacy of access to thousands of accessible texts, fostering the process of serendipitous discovery and learning. By building a shared repository, OCUL has enabled each participant to also access materials which were not requested by their institution, but which are found in the local library holdings. The opportunity to continue making library collections accessible by anticipating requests for these materials demonstrates future-forward interest in sustainability and progress towards removing barriers to access for OCUL member communities.

What are the benefits of participating in ACE?

Benefits for users
  • immediacy of access
  • serendipitous discovery
  • unmediated access
Benefits for institutions
  • cost savings
  • standard production
  • minimizing duplication
  • compliance with AODA
  • building accessibility community
  • collaborative problem solving and user testing

What type of commitment is expected from partners?

The ACE Repository Working Group oversees a variety of developments pertaining to this initiative. Participating institutions elect a representative to attend the regular group conference calls (bimonthly).

It is desirable that this representative has a well-developed expertise in accessibility, however, given the varying structures of OCUL institutions, this might not be possible. The basic requirement is for this representative to have some knowledge of accessibility issues at their institution in order to be able to represent local interests and have an understanding of how ACE can meet their institutional needs.

ACE is always open to including new partners in the program. If interested in joining the ACE project, please contact us.


Who is eligible to access ACE?

Verified students and faculty with print disabilities. We recognize that the process of verification may differ from one institution to the next. Print disability is defined as severe vision loss, a learning disability such as dyslexia or a disability that prevents the physical holding of a book and as defined as “perceptual disability” under the Canadian Copyright Act. Based on these standards, the eligibility of participants is up to the discretion of each institution.

What books can users access?

Any eligible user will be able to view the titles of all books available in the ACE collection. However, users will only be able to access the full text for books that are available in print at their home university’s library.

Should a library decide to purchase a print copy of an item already available in ACE, we can quickly grant access to that library’s users. These requests should be submitted like any other digitization request.

Where can we get access tokens?

You will be provided with a series of access tokens when your university, college or institution first joins the service. Some of these will be marked admin, and should be reserved for any staff members who need access to ACE in order to support users. Admin tokens do not have any special privileges, they are simply used to distinguish staff members from other users when we collect usage data.

The rest of the tokens can be assigned to eligible users as needed. One token should be assigned per user, which will grant them access to ACE for the rest of the academic year (September through August). A new set of tokens will be generated upon request by institution. Please keep a private, local list of which token has been assigned to each user, in case a user loses their token.

If your institution has not been provided with any tokens, or you have run out, please contact us.

Do access tokens expire?

At this point, tokens do not expire. If a user remains at a participating university, they can continue to use their token to grant them access for the following academic year. Tokens can be canceled at any time and is based on communication with the coordinator. It is the responsibility of the coordinator to ensure that only eligible users have access.

Can ACE books be borrowed via interlibrary loan (ILL)?

Currently, ACE books cannot be borrowed via ILL, but we have begun investigating the logistics of this option.

Can users access a book if they provide their own proof of purchase?

ACE does not operate under the “proof of purchase” model used by other services like AERO. Instead, we are working to make university library collections accessible to users. It is the responsibility of the requesting institution to ensure they are only requesting books held within their collection. Users will only be able to access books available in print at their university’s library.


What kind of books are included in the ACE collection?

The ACE collection is continuously growing, and a wide variety of subject areas are already represented. There are no restrictions of the subject matter of books that can be included in the repository, provided a print copy is available at one of our participating university libraries.

Some of our more popular subject areas include:

  • Anthropology
  • Education
  • Fine Arts
  • Geography
  • History
  • Language and Literature
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Military Science
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Religion
  • Science
  • Social Sciences
  • Technology
  • World History

How are books selected for inclusion in the ACE collection?

Books are selected for inclusion by completing the following process. If a user at one of our participating universities needs an accessible copy of a book in their library’s print collection, they can ask their local ACE coordinator to submit a digitization request. The ACE coordinator then becomes the intermediary between the student and ACE services. We do not accept requests directly from students. This process allows us to provide on-demand digitization services throughout the academic year, allowing users to continue their studies with minimal interruption.

Contributions from our Partners

We are also working with our digitization partner, Internet Archive Canada, to incorporate books they have already digitized that are also available at our participating universities, in order to grow our collection.

All digitization for ACE is currently handled by Scholars Portal and the Internet Archive. Investigation about how to incorporate each university’s in-house productions is currently underway. Accessible standards (such as file naming conventions, chunking, quality control, etc.) need to be developed and adhered to before previously digitized files can be incorporated into the collection. We are currently in the process of testing and incorporating contents scanned from local institutions into the ACE portal.

Does ACE indicate which library the original book came from?

Currently, this information is not displayed in the ACE interface. However, the name of the requesting university is incorporated into the XML file that is produced during the digitization process. ACE books can always be traced back to the requesting university if needed.


What accessible formats do you provide?

All books available in ACE are provided in the following accessible formats:

Accessible formats available in ACE
Format Description
Colour PDF Downloads in this format are provided both for individual chapters (where possible) as well as for the entire book.
Black & white PDF Black & white PDFs are provided at a lower resolution than our colour PDFs, generating a file that is smaller in size. This option may work better for any software that has difficulty handling large file sizes.
DAISY DAISY file downloads are provided in a ZIP format.
Plain text file (TXT) Downloads in this format provide a plain, unstructured text file in the standard TXT format.
ePub This format is a lower resolution XML standard for digital publications and documents. ePubs can be read on your desktop or mobile phone using free e-reader software like FBReaderAldiko (for Android) or Adobe Digital Editions. It is also supported by most popular e-book reading devices including the Sony Reader, BeBook, IREX Reader, iPhone, and the Nook from Barnes & Noble’s.

Accessibility staff at each university can help users complete the conversion into a KESI (Kurzweil) file or MP3s upon request.

Are users required to “return” or delete ACE books?

ACE follows an honour system. When logging into ACE, users are required to agree to the Terms of Service, which specify that the user will delete any ACE material when they no longer need it for study or research purposes. We do not use Digital Rights Management (DRM), as this would make files inaccessible.