Caribbean regional publishing: value, access and inclusivity

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Nadine D. Buckland examines the value of university presses in the Caribbean and how they can be used to advance the research agenda of the region in the context of access, accessibility and inclusivity

One of only two regional universities in the world, The University of the West Indies is the only Caribbean university to make the Times Higher Education World University Ranking lists. Like any reputable university, it is the parent institution of the scholarly communication arm of most university presses. That is the case of the University of the West Indies Press (UWIP) which serves all five UWI’s landed and open campuses. This year, The University of the West Indies will celebrate 75 years of advancing research and education in the region. The University of the West Indies Press marked its 30th year in October 2022. 

The value of a university press in the Caribbean can be counted in many ways. Several publishing units within the university have been producing books, periodicals, conference proceedings and the like before the establishment of the university press. UWIP has an indelible footprint through a global network spanning over 150 countries, delivering value to faculty and scholars through watchful editorial and production processes recognised by regional and international awards. 

The colophony of the University of the West Indies Press conveys its rich heritage of academic excellence enhanced by its brand and reputation. University presses celebrate the achievements of authors and scholars with launches, book signings and other public relations services that recognise the institution as an employer of choice. Investment in university presses reaps great social, cultural and economic benefits on a national level, promoting development and wellbeing. More importantly, university presses provide access to high-quality peer-reviewed content, balancing regional focus and the global imperative in formats that advance the inclusive mandate.


Recently, I got a request for the right to use a 1949 book cover for a digital collection. It was a publication of The UWI, but not of UWI press. Our content dates back to 1992. Content previously published by the university is catalogued with its library by campus/country. By this, I mean that each landed campus has a central library and shared digital library UWIlinC. Research communities perceive that all content produced by the University of the West Indies is in one place, as it should be, but it’s not. Here lies an exciting opportunity to fund a project in the making, as many university presses invest in direct-to-consumer strategies.

The issue of external access is as essential as providing internal access to faculty, students and researchers. What do I mean? External access is the provision of access to a diverse and rich collection of research and content to a global audience of researchers, funders and publishers. Historically, various entities within the university have provided aggregators, such as EBSCO, JSTOR, Project Muse, Science Open and others, access through their aggregation services. But is there a more unified and accessible way to provide this content from the Caribbean? It should be through the University of the West Indies Press, a global platform from the Caribbean to the world.


If you search the web for accessibility in the Caribbean, you are likely to see links about providing wheelchair access to various places. This may be the starting point for implementing accessibility features in physical spaces. Notwithstanding this imperative, the primary strategy should be accessibility in education. The old proverb says: ‘If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’ This quote is appropriate here. But the best way to support children and adults with disability is through education.  

UNICEF, in partnership with BookFusion, has developed accessible digital textbooks aimed at developing educational content using Universal Design principles that will allow students that are visually or hearing impaired and those with intellectual developmental or learning disabilities to read and learn. The initial initiative successfully produced two prototypes.  These have been expanded to eight primary-level books and with the capacity to expand from primary to secondary books converted. Eventually, visually impaired students can now read any eBook in EPUB from those publishers. Additional accessibility functionality will be released in 2023, allowing publishers like UWI Press to offer accessible eBook content across its sixteen academic disciplines.

 The University of the West Indies is also the home of the Centre for Disability Studies. The mission of the Centre for Disability Studies is “to transform and empower disabled individuals throughout the Caribbean through the use of applied research, education and training and public advocacy”, and its vision is “to make UWI the premier research, academic and policy formulating institution for the disabled in the Caribbean and to assist in incorporating members of this community in a broader productive network in the region.”

This mission then leads to the question of accessible content. The UWI Press has over five hundred books and journal articles available to educational institutions, with PDF/ePub compatibility for most screen reading products with accessibility features.  Here lies an excellent opportunity for collaboration to advance access to an underserved market and scale to higher education.


The Caribbean is known for its fragmented society based on its colonial past. The construct of race, class and identity is revealed in many ways. Yet the call for inclusivity demands relearning, dismantling and re-engaging through research, diverse scholarly output, social engagement and open dialogue. Creating awareness, advocating for and supporting capacity-building opportunities for inclusive education systems for all is the first step towards inclusivity in education. For all, cuts across social and cultural lines, disability types, languages, and engagement should start from early childhood education. The University of the West Indies Press provides an inclusive, accessible, uniting force through its educational resources. 

Nadine D. Buckland is the former General Manager of the University of the West Indies Press, past Treasurer of the Association of University Presses and currently the Honorary Treasurer of the Association of Learned Professional Society Publishers. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the University of the West Indies Press.