Web Accessibility

  • Fulton, C. (2011). Web accessibility, libraries, and the law. Information Techoolgy and Libraries, 20(1), 34-43.
  • Gruder, C. S. (2012). Making the right decisions about assistive techology in your library. Library Technology Reports, 48(7), 14-21.

Gruder mentions the college student who relies on the the academic library to provide access to the learning tools she needs to succeed academically. Fulton describes the scenario in which a visually impaired student is unable to adequately complete a quiz worth twenty percent of their grade. Accessibility, referring to support of users with differing accommodation needs, is something the library should especially be concerned with. Given that the library’s purpose is to facilitate information access for all patrons, accessibility of software, hardware and information systems is of utmost concern.

When making choices about what, how much, and when to buy, Gruder suggests not getting carried away over the shiny things. Most people are familiar with voice recognition software, OCR scanners, or text-to-voice options on popular software, such as Adobe. However, there are many other options. Know your users and make sure that whatever tools and technologies are purchased will serve them well and meet their needs. This includes taking learning abilities and prior technological experience into account. This would be especially prudent for public and public access libraries, as their patrons are such a diverse group. Also of importance is know restrictions on licensing for specific programs.

In some cases, libraries or other learning centers may have separate rooms, such as campus disability support centers. Marketing tools and technologies to users is also important. If no one knows the resources are available, they’re unable to take advantage of them. Also, training staff to be able to work with systems, troubleshoot, and otherwise support users.

Fulton mentions steps that can be taken to address basic web accessibility issues, such as proper heading data, alternative image descriptions, and captioning images and audio files. For example, when creating LibGuides at my place of employment, creating an alternative description for images, links, and embedded content is something that we’re mindful of. As Fulton mentions, individuals in  need of accommodations are consumers and patrons too. They deserve to get every as much out of the services they pay for as anyone else.

About A. M.

As a research librarian and PhD student, my research interests include gender studies, African American studies, and health information behaviors. I am also a family genealogist in the process of uncovering the people and places behind my ancestry. I enjoy digging up new facts, reading, and writing in my free time. My opinions and thoughts are my own.

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