Big Ten Librarians Tackling Accessibility

The big ten conference artworkThe Big Ten Alliance of Libraries is working on providing excellent services and have determined that inaccessible library electronic resources are an issue they would like to tackle. What can we learn from this group?  We can see that an organized effort can maximize the use of resources for testing e-resources for accessibility, for one, and we can also find a good source of documentation to share with our own academic libraries related to the accessibility of these resources, many of which are readily used nationally.

Some of the e-resources tested include the following:

  • Alexander Press
  • Cambridge Core
  • Elsevier
  • Gale
  • Proquest
  • Web of Science


You may be interested in reading their findings, if you are employing these specific resources, but many of these have not been tested.

A common task at work is testing the accessibility of online software applications. Library resources are part of the type of products that I review.  I have found that the e-resources that libraries secure are often overlooked as far as accessibility testing.

When the Big Ten libraries’ consortium scrutinized the technology of Alexander Press, they observed the following:

“The media player shows issues when it comes to accessibility, both from the perspective of keyboard navigation and screen reader compatibility. There is an issue with synchronicity between the captions and the transcript that gets in the way of screen readers.”

This is consistent with the results of my work when looking at other online streaming services. A university library may deploy multiple media services, and frequently those tools are not accessible for all.  These resources are not necessarily easy to find, as they may be placed under a variety of research categories.  In my case, I found that there are six media sources under the category Arts and Humanities.

Then I found a term Films, and located a listing of 32 streaming video databases that the university subscribes to.  In my work here, I have only been asked to look at one.  In looking at this one e-resource, I found what are obviously two critical lapses in accessibility:  The Player and the Captioning.

2 Key Components Omitted

As an example, when I looked at the player shown below for the film American Sniper, which is in this streaming catalog, I found that it had no accessible controls for screen readers or for those using the keyboard as their access method. I could not interact from the keyboard with the play button, the pause, the advance, etc.  Plus, the big missing component is the lack of captioning.  You see there is no CC button.  That means all deaf and hard-of hearing students and faculty would not benefit much from the film.


Buried and Forgotten

This is all too common. Unaware of these resources, probably because they are buried within the labyrinth of library resources, x-levels deep, they are a forgotten issue.  Federal law requires that Hollywood caption these films, so it’s not that the captions haven’t been created.  Warner Brothers had the film captioned:

In my opinion educational resources are the prime reason higher education institutions have been continuously shaken by federal civil lawsuits and/or office of civil rights complaints. We should not forget our overworked colleagues in the library.  Rarely do I ever find an academic library in compliance with the ADA or Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Online content is a huge part of providing accessibility for a university these days.

Required Captioning

Closed captioning was designed to aid individuals with hearing impairments. The Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the FCC’s CVAA, and the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) all require captions for multimedia. These laws and guidelines apply across government, education, entertainment, and business to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities.  They certainly apply to library streaming e-resources.

While captions focus on accessibility, they are provided additional benefits for all viewers. For example, captions allow viewers to follow the story when sound can’t be heard, either because of noisy locations, such as the restaurant, bar, or gym, or because of a sound-sensitive environment, such as a hospital. Additionally, instructional video, pod casts, video in social media also require captions. Even more prevalent these days, captions allow viewers to understand videos that show up on social media news feeds, which play the video on silent by default.

In our example film, American Sniper, the Amazon sales page lists the following information:

Promoting Greater Collaboration

Libraries at major universities and even small colleges all have the same mandate to provide accessible e-resources. By working together, and sharing the cost of the analysis of these very important educational sources, and by challenging the providers of these problematic streaming services, higher education institutions will benefit.  We can take the lead from the Big Ten.  Streaming video services are just one of the many e-resources everyone is using.  After multimedia, we have to tackle OPACs (Online Public Access Catalogs), e-books, and interlibrary loan inaccessible PDF files.  Furthermore, online magazines, databases, and journals need to be inspected.

How to Educate Electronic Resources Librarians

I provide faculty and staff classes on the accessibility of a variety of topics, including the following: PDFs, Web Pages, and Internal email communications.  While our libraries create online content in the form of websites, (OPACs), research guides and tutorials, videos, and podcasts, I have never been fortunate enough to have a university library attend one of my trainings.  I believe they would be better approached within their own learning circles.  National library association provide training and information about accessibility readily.

Some Resources for librarians from the ALA

ALA | Mates, Adaptive Technology for the Internet

The full text of the book in HTML format so that it might be accessible to more readers. … Making Electronic Resources Accessible to All –The Online Version.

Accessibility Issues | Tools, Publications & Resources

Here is information relating to accessibility issues of e-books and digital content … This website provides resources for libraries and librarians as they struggle to provide an equitable online library experience.

Accessibility and Libraries: An American Libraries Live Webcast …

Sep 26, 2017 CHICAGO—Technology highly influences accessibility—many patrons … and speech input, to access and use library materials and e-resources.

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