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Optimizing Library Services – Embracing Accessibility in Academic Publishing

by | Nov 30, 2022 | 0 comments

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By Mr. Nick Newcomer  (Vice President of Sales & Marketing, IGI Global) 

Column Editors:  Ms. Genevieve Robinson  (Director of Content Solutions, IGI Global)  and Ms. Cheyenne Heckermann  (Marketer, IGI Global) 

Against the Grain v34#5

Column Editors’ Note:  Recognizing the continued need for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility, Mr. Nick Newcomer, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at IGI Global, writes about his perspective and experiences as an individual with a sight impairment in the scholarly publishing industry.  As a company, IGI Global seeks to improve and maintain high standards with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Library Accessibility Alliance (LAA) to continually improve our platform to ensure it is easily accessible to all users.  Additionally, IGI Global has launched their Accessibility and Assistive Technologies e-Book Collection, which includes research on Developmental Disorders, Learning Disabilities, Instructional Strategies, and more valuable resources to support creation of a more accessible society. — GR & CH

Many universities and publishers are publicly supporting diversity initiatives but making real-world and digital spaces accessible to everyone is an important — and too often overlooked — aspect of supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

One of the biggest challenges facing companies and institutions in supporting inclusive digital spaces is website interface design.  From a programming standpoint, to take functionalities for a wide range of capabilities into consideration is difficult but is something that needs to be monitored regularly since it impacts many people’s day to day experiences.

Growing up without the modern offerings resulting from the internet revolution was much different than it is today, but these create their own challenges.  As a child, I was diagnosed with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia or simply put, underdeveloped optic nerves.  My disability is not as severe as many others, but it does significantly impact my vision to the point where even with corrective lenses, I am unable to obtain a driver’s license and require large text assistive technology when reading.  This presents day-to-day challenges when such assistance isn’t available.  With that, I am impassioned to ensure that IGI Global pursues all options to enact assistive elements into our products and services that meet everyone’s needs.

With this intimate knowledge of how accessibility is inherently part of inclusion, I led the initiative and worked with our Vice President of Technology, Justin North, to investigate and address issues within our InfoSci Platform and Online Bookstore.  We also worked with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and a librarian associated with the Library Accessibility Alliance (LAA) to identify some less obvious shortcomings, and rapidly and aggressively create solutions to these issues.

Unifying standards, such as WCAG, play an important role in guiding this ongoing process.  IGI Global is committed to the continual growth of our accessibility features to meet the WCAG international standard to ensure a high level of inclusivity for everyone interacting with our website.

As an individual with a disability, I hold a personal understanding of the importance of accessibility and all the aspects of business that it impacts.  This includes full website functionality and navigation for customers, researchers who are working with us, and our staff.

IGI Global has worked with a diverse group of research experts around the world for over 30 years, and continually strives to provide the highest quality research content and user experience.  This progression towards inclusivity of all people regardless of ability, nationality, age, gender, etc. for our researchers and those utilizing our content is a natural part of our company’s eternal striving to innovate and support the entire academic community.

One way that we have shown our support is through the promotion of the efforts of our researchers who have dedicated their work to furthering the body of knowledge on accessibility in our Accessibility and Assistive Technologies e-Book Collection.  This collection supports researchers, libraries, and institutions in their efforts to increase accessibility across society.

Some of IGI Global’s growth in making our website more accessible is thanks to Hana Levay, a Collection Assessment Librarian at the University of Washington, USA, and a testing committee member of the Library Accessibility Alliance (LAA), an organization that helps test for accessibility based on WCAG compliance.  Regarding her experience with testing for quality accessibility and website accessibility, Ms. Levay says:

“Libraries work to ensure access to information including for users with various disabilities.  We strive to provide accessible information sources.  For third party electronic resources, it can be tricky because libraries don’t control those interfaces and cannot make accessibility improvements without cooperation from those content providers.  I’ve been testing our third-party resources for accessibility and reaching out to those companies whose platforms did not pass my tests.  It’s always wonderful when a representative responds to my inquiry and reaches out for more information and comes back with a timeline and plan for accessibility improvements after we’ve had a chance to talk about the issues.  Specifically, I was pleased by IGI Global’s response to my inquiry.  I had a lengthy discussion with several members of their team who were very interested to learn about my findings.  Not much later, I was especially pleased to receive a follow-up email detailing the take-aways from the meeting and how they plan to remediate their website for accessibility in the near future.  I believe this is an excellent example of how libraries and publishers can work together to improve accessibility for everyone.”

As with Ms. Levay, we welcome suggestions from those who identify additional areas of improvement for our website or other processes.  Our current accessibility implementations include:

• Screen reader compatible web pages with properly labeled elements.

• Text alternatives for non-text content so it can be changed into large print, braille, speech, symbols, or simpler language.

• User interface can be navigated using only a keyboard — no keyboard traps.

• Consistent navigation on all web pages.

• Meaningful section heading are used to organize content in a logical manner.

• Logical focus order of elements on each web page.

• No web pages contain any flashing, or design elements that are known to cause seizures or physical reactions.

• Text has high contrast, with a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1.

• Responsive design, with text that can be resized without loss of content or functionality.

While IGI Global has made significant efforts to expand the accessibility of our products and services, we also recognize that this will continue to be an ongoing journey as we learn and discover more in this field.  To ensure that everyone can easily review the latest version of our VPAT, it can be downloaded at any time on our Accessibility Commitment Webpage.

Recommended Readings

Akgül, Yakup, editor.  App and Website Accessibility Developments and Compliance Strategies.  IGI Global, 2022.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-7848-3

Álvarez Robles, Teresita de Jesús,et al., editors.  User-Centered Software Development for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Emerging Research and Opportunities.  IGI Global, 2020.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-8539-8

Balharová, Kamila,et al.  Dyslexia and Accessibility in the Modern Era: Emerging Research and Opportunities.  IGI Global, 2021.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-4267-5

Berg, Gary A. and Linda Venis, editors.  Accessibility and Diversity in the 21st Century University.  IGI Global, 2020.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-2783-2

Dhamdhere, Sangeeta and Frederic Andres, editors.  Assistive Technologies for Differently Abled Students.  IGI Global, 2022.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-4736-6

Eusébio, Celeste,et al., editors.  ICT Tools and Applications for Accessible Tourism.  IGI Global, 2021.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-6428-8

Ikuta, Shigeru, editor.  Handmade Teaching Materials for Students With Disabilities.  IGI Global, 2019.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-6240-5

Kats, Yefim and Fabrizio Stasolla, editors.  Education and Technology Support for Children and Young Adults With ASD and Learning Disabilities.  IGI Global, 2021.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-7053-1

Martin, Jennifer M., editor.  Mental Health Policy, Practice, and Service Accessibility in Contemporary Society.  IGI Global, 2019.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-7402-6

Ndlovu, Sibonokuhle and Phefumula Nyoni, editors.  Social, Educational, and Cultural Perspectives of Disabilities in the Global South.  IGI Global, 2021.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-4867-7

Stasolla, Fabrizio, editor.  Assistive Technologies for Assessment and Recovery of Neurological Impairments.  IGI Global, 2022.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-7430-0

Stevenson, Carolyn N., editor.  Enhancing Higher Education Accessibility Through Open Education and Prior Learning.  IGI Global, 2021.  https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-7571-0

Column Editors’ End Note: If you are interested in learning how you can support your faculty in Accessibility, visit our “Publishing with IGI Global” page to share opportunities for publishing books, journals, chapters, and articles.  Additionally, you can support your faculty with IGI Global’s Accessibility and Assistive Technologies e-Book Collection.  For questions or assistance on IGI Global e-Collections or IGI Global’s Open Access Agreements & Transformative Options, contact eresources@igi-global.com.  

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