Will open access to research close gaps for persons with disabilities?

The federal government’s push for open access to research aims to eliminate barriers, yet concerns exist about access for persons with disabilities. A lack of accessible formats could hinder their ability to fully engage and participate in the scientific community.

The federal Office of Science and Technology Policy has issued guidance on making federally supported research and publications available to all without embargo or cost. This announcement about open access has the potential to remove information barriers that have long held back social and scientific progress. However, issues regarding access to information for persons with disabilities must be considered as this policy takes shape. For example, a researcher who has a visual disability is disadvantaged when the data and peer-reviewed publications are not available in an accessible format.
Scientific information is not limited to downloading journals and databases. Accessing research data can mean using online software, interactive websites or maps, and attending webinars or conferences. When researchers, policymakers, advocates, etc who have disabilities are not able to access information fully, their research knowledge, participation, and inclusion are limited.