Thing 6: Accessibility

How to make online content accessible is not something I know a lot about but increasingly comes up in my interactions with library users. Services to support our students and staff with disabilities are split across a few different areas of the university, so knowing more about web accessibility can help me anticipate and avoid putting barriers in users’ paths, as well as assist with navigating the different kinds of support available where needed or requested. After learning about accessibility from the Web Accessibility Initiative, I used WAVE, the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, to check on two different web resources I have created or maintain for our users.

Evaluating a blog post on library resources

March is women’s history month, and I am currently writing a series of posts about how to use library resources to study women’s history. My first post was on using e-book databases. In the post I describe a number of databases and illustrate my points with screen caps of search screens in order to support particular points about finding e-books books women’s history.

The WAVE tool marked thirty-five errors of contrast: on looking closer, I discover that this refers to the fact that the screen background is white and all hyperlinked and menu text is gold. This provides a very low contrast between the background and this text. All users need an adequate level of contrast between foreground and background; low levels of contrast are particularly difficult for users with low vision.

Although I used five screencaps to illustrate the post, I only include alternative text for one of them, which means that a user accessing the post with a screen reader or in situations where images were unavailable or could not be seen would only get a description of that one image. The guidelines for alt text is that it be ‘clear, succinct, and accurate’.

Headings provide users of assistive technology with a way to navigate a page, since this helps the technology pick up on the structure and outline of a particular page. A look at the outline of my documents shows that an assistive technology users would see no headings or sections in the main body of the post.

A final thing to note is that commenting is only enabled by reCAPTCHA, which may be a barrier to commenters with reduced vision.

History subject guide

Like a lot of higher education libraries, my institution provides subject-specific information (subject guides) about subjects we support and services we offer. My second use of the WAVE tool was to look at the subject guide for history, which I updated over the summer, through this lens.

Most images on this page have alternative text, though not the banner at the top or the image link to our chatline service, Just Ask.

Navigation links seem to be clearly identified.

The WAVE tool identified thirteen areas of very low contrast, most prominently the ’email me’ and ‘make an appointment’ buttons (white text on a light blue background) on the main page of the guide.

Concluding thoughts

It may seem trite and hollow to say this, but one thing I learned was how much more I have to learn when it comes to digital accessibility. This is definitely an area I want to learn more about Before writing this post, I did not know that headings could be valuable for users with screen readers and I will make sure to incorporate them regularly in my future blogging. I also did not know the meaning and usefulness of alternative text for images, which is also something I will make sure to incorporate in future posts I write. Lastly, I will speak to my colleagues about the colour contrast on the subject guide buttons to see if this can be changed.

One thought on “Thing 6: Accessibility

  1. Fantastic! Great to see this Thing leading to actionable changes in practice. 🙂

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