Web accessibility is technically challenging, but very satisfying because making our online content universally accessible to our entire academic community is integral to our professional ethics.
During our extensive accessibility remediation, I’ve corrected many errors that repeat on nearly every page because they were embedded into the website’s templates. However, I also found there were still a substantial number of errors in the content feeding into these templates. This made me curious if other university libraries were having similar content accessibility issues?
Methodology: I focused on LibGuides, a common content creation platform for academic libraries. I used our university’s automated accessibility testing platform to evaluate 1000 pages from each of the Big 10 Conference university libraries. From the results, I focused on two common, but easy to correct types of accessibility issues— having alternative text available for all images and creating links with meaningful text (as opposed to “click here”).
Findings: I found that half the university libraries had significant content issues (more than 15 percent of all pages with errors) in one or both of these categories. Interestingly, Minnesota’s 36% error rate was actually worse than Indiana at 97% because Indiana’s errors resulted from a single university logo without alt text that would be easy to correct. Minnesota’s errors were in the content of multiple librarian-created research guides.
Using this study as a starting point, I presented about content accessibilty for librarians at the national ACRL and state ALAO library conferences. In addition, I created an open educational resource on accessibility. The first version was for librarians. Liba11y.org was created as a resource people could take home from my presentation to their staff as ways to improve their LibGuide content. A second version, which I’m currently editing, is for students taking web development courses. I’ve been piloting its use in my IMS222 class starting in Fall 2021.
2021 LibA11y Update
According to site analytics, use of this site nearly doubled in 2021. More than 825 users from 45 states and 52 nations have read more than 1,900 pages on the site since its creation in spring 2019.
Related Scholarly Output
- Yarnetsky, J. (2019, October). The Last Mile for Web Accessibility: Help Making Our Content Universally Accessible. ALAO 2019 Conference. Nationwide Hotel and Conference Center, Columbus, Ohio: Academic Library Association of Ohio.
- Yarnetsky, J. (2019, April). Make your online content accessible to all (not just those who can see your library website). ACRL 2019 Conference. Cleveland, Ohio: Association of College and Research Libraries.
- Yarnetsky, J. (2021). WebA11y: An intro to web accessibility (IMS 222). [Open Educational Resource] Editing in progress.
- Yarnetsky, J. (2019). LibA11y: A guide for making our library content accessible. [Open Educational Resource] Miami University Libraries.