Home » Top 5 Articles » Top 5 Articles on Accessibility, April – June, 2018


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Top 5 Articles on Accessibility, April – June, 2018

Compiled and annotated by Lindley Homol, Stephanie Weiss, and Denyse Rodrigues

Happy spring/early summer! It is the time of year many of us work on projects that take a bit more time and thought than typically available during the fall and winter terms. To inspire your work, we offer you a selection of articles on the accessibility of library tutorials, library websites, learning environments, and accessibility conversion processes for library collections.


Clossen, A., & Proces, P. (2017). Rating the accessibility of library tutorials from leading research universities. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 17(4), 803–823. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/672185

The authors selected a random sample of public-facing library tutorial materials from 71 public universities with the Carnegie Classification “Highest Research Activity” or R1. They describe the state of accessibility of these materials and identify common pitfalls in library-related accessible design. The team classified the materials into two categories – videos and web-based tutorials (continuous play vs. click-through) – and assessed them using a rubric focused on usability from the perspective of a disabled person. The team manually evaluated videos for five elements – type, captions, screen-audio coordination, link context, and length. With the help of two tools, AInspector and Functional Accessibility Evaluator, they evaluated web-based tutorials for six elements – headings, alternative text for images, skip-to-content links, tables, text chunking, and findability. Although guides such as Springhare’s LibGuides and similar in-house creations were excluded, the authors suggest that such reviews would be welcome additions to the literature.


Of the 71 institutions, only 12 had five or more web-based tutorials leaving 60 for evaluation. However, 29 institutions had at least five videos leaving 145 for review.  The team found that serious issues persist when it comes to accessibility of online library tutorials, even at public R1s that might be more likely to have funding to address them. The authors offer credible reasons for these shortcomings but stress the importance of continued accessibility efforts since more than 25 institutions have been targeted in compliance letters and others have been taken to court.


Moorefield-Lang, H., Copeland, C. A., & Haynes, A. (2016). Accessing abilities: Creating innovative accessible online learning environments and putting quality into practice. Education for Information, 32(1), 27-33. https://doi.org/10.3233/EFI-150966

This article focused on the development of workshops and resources to support faculty in improving the accessibility of their online courses. In collaboration with the Center for Teaching Excellence, the authors worked to the Quality Matters standards adopted by their university. They provided their faculty members with workshops on making documents accessible, producing video transcripts and captioning, and using screen capturing software. The authors clearly describe their institution’s quality review process and conclude with ongoing questions to consider in improving the accessibility of online courses.


The authors provide a list of ten best practices based on their experience of applying the Quality Matters standards. They also invite readers to visit their YouTube channel where they can view the videos based on their workshops, and which employ the principles discussed in the article.


Mears, W., & Clough, H. (2015). Online library accessibility support: A case study within the Open University Library. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 30(1), 73-85. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680513.2015.1025735

The authors present a case study of the accessibility conversion process the library developed to support an online history course that required significant independent research and use of library resources. In 2011, the University introduced guidelines for handling non-University-created content that shifted the library’s focus from accessibility conversion on demand to proactive identification and conversion. Special procedures needed to be developed for the handling of e-books and primary source databases, and assignments were adapted to ensure that students had choices of accessible study material and activities. Due to this change, the library was able to streamline accessibility-related communication and conversion processes and has become more intentional about purchasing accessible e-book collections.


Accessibility-checking of databases and other vendor-provided content is necessary to ensure that library resources are accessible to all students. Priority should be given to testing for accessibility during database trials and ensuring that only those that are accessible are licensed as library resources. Due to licensing restrictions and variations, a library’s accessibility conversion procedures may differ by format type, and e-books and primary source database collections may pose a particular challenge.


Ng, C. (2017). A practical guide to improving web accessibility. Weave: Journal of Library User Experience, 1(7). http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/weave.12535642.0001.701

The author offers direction for making library websites and online content accessible. The focus of the article is on specific suggestions and best practices for web accessibility that can benefit content creators who may not have full control over their library’s web ecosystem. The author acknowledges that many vendor-supplied content management systems offer little control to the content creator in terms of the display or presentation, but provides actionable tips for making writing style, formatting, links and media content accessible, as well as offering several suggestions of tools that can help librarians evaluate their website’s accessibility.


Unlike other articles that talk about the benefits of accessibility conceptually, this paper provides an excellent series of straightforward suggestions for improving the accessibility of library content. The tips and best practices are presented in a clear way that makes the topic of web accessibility approachable for librarians who might not have much experience with web design or accessibility standards. Although librarians might not always have full control over vendor-created content systems, they can do their part to make the content they add to those systems accessible to their patrons, as well as advocate for improvements from vendors.


Oud, J. (2016). Accessibility of Vendor-Created Database Tutorials for People with Disabilities. Information Technology & Libraries, 35(4), 7–18. https://doi.org/10.6017/ital.v35i4.9469

To evaluate the accessibility of vendor-created tutorials, the author drew from the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and collaborated with her university’s Accessible Learning Centre to create a checklist measuring usability and functionality. Most of the tutorials found were screencasts/videos but a few were recorded webinars or interactive multimedia. Testing was conducted with some of the most widely-used assistive technologies: Kurzweil, Zoomtext, NVDA (with Firefox) and JAWS (with IE). Additionally, the author evaluated captions and the facility of using only a keyboard for navigation. Eight accessibility issues were identified: lack of alternate accessible versions, lack of or insufficient captions, tutorial not findable or playable (with screenreader or keyboard-only navigation), no visual cues to focus attention, non-descriptive narration, fuzzy visuals, fussy audio or background music, and caption-only tutorials (no narration).


Tutorials from the same vendor generally were created with the same approach and therefore had the same results. Such consistency is important for accessibility. While none of the 460 tutorials tested earned perfect marks, screencasts and videos were the most accessible. Tutorials from the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and Ebsco topped the list. IEEE and Elsevier’s Science Direct also scored well. Both a list of vendors tested (25) and the evaluation checklist are helpfully provided as appendices.

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