Urban Public Libraries Do Not Yet Meet Benchmarks for Web Accessibility by Individuals with Disabilities
Keywords:urban public libraries, persons with disabilities, web accessibility, online evaluation
AbstractA Review of:
Maatta Smith, S. L. (2014). Web Accessibility Assessment of Urban Public Library Websites. Public Library Quarterly, 33(3), 187-204. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2014.937207
Objective – To determine the extent to which urban public libraries in the United States of America provide web sites which are readily accessible to individuals with disabilities with reference to the Urban Library Council’s EDGE initiative (specifically Benchmark 11, “Technology Inclusiveness”).
Design – Web site evaluation.
Setting – Urban public libraries in the United States of America.
Subjects – The 127 library systems, which were both members of the Urban Libraries Council at the time of the study and located in the United States of America.
Methods – Using the “everyday life information seeking” conceptual framework, an assessment of each of the web sites of the purposive sample of public library systems was performed by an online evaluation tool as well as visually and physically to determine web accessibility and, by extension, technology inclusiveness.
Main Results – The results of the online accessibility evaluation tool revealed that not one of the sites surveyed was free of errors or alerts. Contrast errors (related to color combinations), missing alternative text (providing text alternatives for visual elements), and missing form labels (thereby preventing screen readers from performing searches and navigating to results) were the most common problems. Results of visual and physical scans revealed that many sites lacked specific links and/or resources for persons with disabilities, as well as noting that the resources available used oblique language and required many clicks to access. In addition, the vast majority neglected to feature links to national resources such as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
Conclusions – The web sites of urban public libraries are not yet completely accessible for persons with disabilities. At the very least they need coding fixes and ongoing maintenance to address the kinds of issues found by the online web evaluation tool used. In addition, resources for disabled persons should be prominently and clearly linked and promoted. Further research is called for, both in non-urban library systems and in testing a wider range of access technologies. Improvement efforts should acknowledge that web design that improves access for persons with disabilities serves the broader community as well.
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