WAAL 2008: Web Site and Online Database Accessibility...

Posted by Lisa Strand on Thursday, April 17, 2008 in WLA Blog Archive
Web Site and Online Database Accessibility at Academic Libraries: A Critical Overview of the Recent Research and Policy Developments
Axel Schmetzke

Axel started by showing us a short video about using a screen reader to read online documents and surf the web.

"For people with print/sensory disabilities, the digitization of information offer unprecedented opportunities..." but we need to do it right. The accessibility of online stuff depends on its design.

Common barriers to web page accessibility:
  • images and maps without ALT
  • tables used for layout
  • scrolling/blinking elements
  • no meaningful link text
  • poor contrast between text and background
  • no "skip navigation" link
WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and Section 508 (federal requirements) are the standard "rules" for making online stuff accessible. 508 is becoming more widely used because vendors are motivated to meet federal requirements and many states (including WI) are adopting 508 as their standard.

Reasons for an accessible online environment:
  • Ethics -- it's the right thing to do
  • Economics -- it makes sense from a business point of view
  • Selfishness -- we may need it ourselves
  • Law -- we gotta do it
Title II (ADA):
Services must be provided that are...
...as effective as those provided to other patrons
...the same -- unless different services are necessary to obtain equal results
...provided in the most integrated setting appropriate (no separate but equal)

Existence of a policy has a postive impact on accessiblity -- if your school or library has a policy requiring or recommending web accessibility, accessibility happens.

Study of SLIS and library web sites found that total site overhauls tended to reduce accessibility
SLIS sites tend to be less accessible than library sites generally.

As libraries, we should proactively think about accessibility as we build our online environment.
UWSP Collection Development policy includes accessibility for all, including people with disabilities -- need to, at least, consider accessibility: has the product been tested by users, documenting the reasons for selecting an inaccessible product...

Library Hi Tech special issue (2002)
database accessibility improved from 1999-2002, but usability remains a problem

Vendor survey
  • They're much more aware of accessibility issues
  • They're mostly working on it
  • Sales reps get training on how to respond
  • They're not marketing accessibility
  • They don't register accessible products with GSA Buy Accessible Data Center
  • They don't conduct usability studies with people with disabilities
Survey tools:
SurveyMonkey not currently accessible -- but may be better now.
Accommodations often don't work so well for surveys about private concerns

Things to remember:
  • Think about accessibility when buying products, when hiring web people, when designing websites
  • Provide feedback to vendors after purchasing decisions
  • Collaborate with assistive technologies person on campus
  • Insist on 508-compliant survey tools
  • Join discussion forums like AXSLIB
Axel's Survey Site:
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