Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Evaluating the accessibility of online library guides at an academic library

Tammy Stitz, Shelley Blundell


This article describes an exploratory research study assessing the level of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and general accessibility of online information resources at a mid-sized, 4-year, public institution in the state of Ohio. A rubric, available freely online as a living document, was developed based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and web design best practices. From 2015-2016, the authors used the rubric containing 14 criteria (12 criteria from the WCAG 2.0, a criterion from Section 508, and a criterion related to universal web design best practices) to assess a random sample of online library guides (18 guides) at this institution. The authors found that the template developed by the administrator and used by all library guides at the study institution caused 70% of the applicable criteria to fail. The content contributed by individual library guide authors did not pass all of the criteria, but generally performed better than the template. Library guide author contributed content failed an average of seven rubric criteria. Many of the common library guide author errors in this study coincide with those reported by other institutions. Combining the WCAG 2.0 criteria with additional universal web design best practices criteria within the rubric eliminated most of the universal accessibility concerns that remained after applying the WCAG 2.0; a concern that had been identified in previous literature examining WCAG 2.0 applications to online information resources. It was concluded that the rubric was sufficiently comprehensive and that further exploration of its utility was warranted. This includes asking a heterogeneous group of users to assess the usefulness of the rubric by applying it to library guides outside of this study.

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