Web Accessibility in Research Libraries

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Captioning and Copyright Law—Tensions and Work-arounds in the Current Legal Landscape

Video captioning for the deaf or hard of hearing has become more common since the turn of the century. The copyright owners of some of this video programming are taking increasing responsibility for captioning the videos, due in part to regulations from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as enforcement through private lawsuits.

However, captioning occurs primarily in the broadcast, cable, and satellite programming settings, and is much less frequent for Internet programming. This leaves many third parties wishing to fill the void by adding captioning to programming provided over the Internet, but what are the legal limits and conflicts of this practice?

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Disability and the Internet, a special issue of First Monday

The September 2015 issue of First Monday, an open access, peer-reviewed journal focusing on the Internet, highlights the growing awareness of web accessibility. The nine papers in this special issue build upon the work of the issue’s editors, Katie Ellis and Mike Kent, in their 2011 book, Disability and New Media. In the issue’s introduction, Ellis and Kent write:

In only four years there have been great strides in this area and disability media studies is no longer a peripheral area of concern. This special issue of First Monday brings together scholars in disability media and related fields to look at the contemporary Internet and the challenges and opportunities it presents for people with disabilities…Online accessibility for people with disabilities is an issue that cuts across a number of fields including education, mobile telephony, television studies, and human rights.

 Visit First Monday to read the special issue: Disability and the Internet.

Accessibility Librarian Competencies

In the last few months, a number of accessibility specialist job postings have been forwarded my way by colleagues. Reviewing these postings was quite interesting as they highlighted a number of important competencies which were repeated from one job advertisement to another. Reflecting on my own experience as someone who has worked in this field at Scholars Portal, Ontario Council of University Libraries, I thought that a blog post dedicated to the topic of what it takes to be an “Accessibility Librarian” would help research librarians develop a better sense of where libraries are headed in the establishment of accessibility librarian positions.

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The Value of Comparing Oranges to Oranges

Evaluating digital resources can mean looking at usage statistics and licenses, assessing the value of package deals in relation to how frequently library users access this content. However, libraries are beginning to add one more important criteria to this evaluation process—accessibility. This can mean looking at platforms and evaluating discoverability of content as well as the accessibility of the PDFs—can a screen reader navigate to a desired title and successfully read the downloaded file? These evaluations can be conducted with the use of open-source screen-reader simulator tools such as FANGS or HTML CodeSniffer, among others, which don’t require advanced technical knowledge to use. While some research libraries in the United States and Canada have started to evaluate their own resources by employing in-house expertise or hiring external contractors, many are turning to new tools to aid in their procurement decisions.

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Cloud-based Accessibility in Libraries (and Everywhere Else!)

A new initiative, the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) is designed to offer libraries a better way to serve all patrons equally, including those with disabilities and unique technology preferences.

The diversity of people with disabilities (including all of the different types, degrees, and combinations of disabilities) raises the cost to secure all of the technologies needed to address those disabilities beyond the means of most libraries. Even if the technologies were available and affordable, most library staff cannot be expected to be assistive technology experts able to set-up, explain, and select assistive technology solutions to patrons with disabilities.

The GPII is designed to address these cost and expertise problems. GPII lets users explore and select the accessibility features they need, and create a cloud-based personal profile, which can be accessed on any device they want to use, making their preferred interface features the default setting on a public computer terminal or a bank machine. GPII users will arrive at the library with a way to call up their profiles on public terminals, reducing the need for staff assistance.

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