Hand-Out

4th Annual Accessing Higher Ground: Assistive Technology in Higher Education Conference

Nov. 14-16, 2001

 

 

 
Accessibility of Online Resources
in Higher Education. Problems and Strategies
for Change

 

By Axel Schmetzke, Ph.D., Library, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point;

Tel.: 715-346-4658, aschmetz@uwsp.edu

 

 

 

"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."


Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

 

 

 

I. The Mandate for Accessible Web Resources under ADA

 

 

Title II (American with Disabilities Act of 1990)

 

"No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity ..."


Services provided must be

 


DOJ Opinion Letter (Sept. 9, 1996)

 

"Covered entities under the ADA are required to provide effective communication, regardless of whether they generally communicate through print media, audio media, or computerized media such as the Internet. Covered entities that use the Internet for communications regarding their programs, goods, or services must be prepared to offer those communications through accessible means as well."
 
Deval L. Patrick Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division (Ruling #204).

http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/foia/tal712.txt

 

OCR ruling in CCC case (1998):

"If guidelines to ensure access are made available to colleges now, such information on how to structure distance learning programs and campus WebPages will not only ensure that colleges meet their legal obligations but will also enable colleges to save significant expense over the later cost of "retrofitting" these programs after substantial investment has been made in inaccessible structures."

Stefan Rosenzweig, Regional Director, U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights,
Region IX  in letter to
Chancellor Nussbaum, California Community Colleges, Jan. 22, 1998. http://www.janejarrow.com/public_library/ocr_lof/nussbaum.html

 
 
II. Scope of Online Resources That Are an Integral Part of Today’s Education

 

Not just web pages, but also

 

 

 
III. Accessibility Research Findings

 

 

1. Web page accessibility at U.S. colleges and universities (1998-2001)

 

 

  • General Campus: 22%, 29%*, 39%*, 43%, 48%, 50%, 52%
  • Libraries: 30%*, 31%, 38%, 40%, 40%, 43%, 43%, 59%
  • Academic Units/Programs 
    • General: 25%, 38%, 32*
    • Schools of Library and Information Science: 23%
    • Special Education programs: 27%
    • Colleges of Communication/Schools of Journalism: 21%
  • Distance Education 
    • university sites: 23%, 24%, 28%*
    • leadership organizations: 18%
  • Others
    • Programs serving people w/ disabilities: 45%, 49%*
    • Disability Research Sites: 43%
 

Each percentage figure represents the findings in a particular set of web pages included in the studies by Blake (2000), DO-IT (2000), Flowers, Bray and Algozzine (1999), Guthrie (1999), Lilly and van Fleet (1999), Schmetzke (2001a, 2001b,2001c, 2001d, 2000, 1999), Rowland and Smith (1999a, 1999b), National Center for the Dissemination of Disability  Research (1998), Walden, Rowland and Bohman (2000), Yu (2001).

 


2. Accessibility of Online Indexes and Databases*

 

Index/Database

Evaluation Results*

Very accessible

Mostly minor problems; mildly reduced accessibility

Accessibility significantly reduced

Major problems; severely reduced accessibility

Absolutely inaccessible

Ebscohost

  

Bowman; Horwath

Riley

  

 

Proquest Research Lib. 

  

  

Bowman

  

 

LEXIS-NEXIS Acad. U.

 

Bowman

 

 

 

OCLC FirstSearch

 

Byerley & Chambers

Riley

 

 

InfoTrac Web (Gale)

 

Byerley & Chambers

Riley

 

 

OVID

McCord et al. 

 

 

 

 

Silverplatter (PsychInfo)

 

Sherman-Kalla

 

 

 

ISI Web of Science (SSCI)

Sherman-Kalla

 

 

 

 

WilsonWeb

 

Sherman-Kalla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CANCERLIT

 

McCord et al. 

 

 

 

Electric Library Plus

 

 

Horwath

 

 

Hazardous Sub. 
Data Bank

 

McCord et al.

 

 

 

MSDS--Cornell U.

 

McCord et al.

 

 

 

MSDS--U. of Vermont

 

McCord et al.

 

 

 

MEDLINEplus (NIH)

 

McCord et al.

 

 

 

PubMed

 

 

McCord et al.

 

 

TOXLINE

 

McCord et al.

 

 

 

 

*Based on yet unpublished studies (Sept. 2001).

 

**The categories are mine, and so is the placement of studies within this categorization scheme. Not all authors of these studies may not agree with my judgment (i.e. my interpretation of their findings in terms of these descriptive categories).

 

3. Accessibility of Online Reference Resources

 Index/Database

Evaluation Results*

Very accessible

Mostly minor problems; mildly reduced accessibility

Accessibility significantly reduced

Major problems; severely reduced accessibility

Absolutely inaccessible

Encyclopedia Britannica Online

XXX

 

 

  

 

Oxford English Dictionary Online. 

  

  

XXX

  

 

* based on a yet unpublished study by Horwath (Sept. 2001)

**The categories are mine, and so is the placement of studies within this categorization scheme. The author of this study may not agree with my judgment (i.e. my interpretation of her findings in terms of these descriptive categories).

 

4. Accessibility of academic e-journal services: Search screen pages

Bobby-detected priority-1 accessibility errors found in introductory, basic and search result pages, by error type (Bryna Coonin, August 2001, yet unpublished)

E-journal provider

No alt. text for image-map hot spot

No alt. text for image

Frame w/o title

BioOne (SPARC)

1

3

1

Catchword

0

0

3

Emerald

0

3

0

HighWire

0

2

2

IDEAL

0

3

0

JSTOR

1

3

0

Kluwer Online

0

0

0

Project MUSE

1

3

0

Science Direct

0

4

0

SpringerLink

0

1

3

Wiley Interscience

2

3

0

 


5. Accessibility of academic e-journal services: document format

 

E-journal provider

HTML

Text PDF

Image PDF

Other

BioOne (SPARC)

X

X

 

 

Catchword

 

X

 

RealPage

Emerald

X

X

 

 

HighWire

X

X

 

 

IDEAL

 

X

 

 

JSTOR

 

 

X

 

Kluwer Online

 

X

 

 

Project MUSE

X

X

 

 

Science Direct

X

X

 

 

SpringerLink

X

X

 

 

Wiley Interscience

X

X

 

 

 

 (Bryna Coonin, August 2001, yet unpublished)

 

6. Electronic Reserve

·               Most e-reserve systems utilize Adobe's PDF files.

·               Most of these PDF files are created through optical scanning.

·               The resulting image-based files are not accessible to screen readers.

·               Adobe's provides a plug-in that converts text-based PDF files into screen-
  reader accessible files. This plug-in does not work for image-based files.

·               Conversion of PDF files into screen-readable format is not without
   problems
. This also applies to the latest Adobe version (5.0)

o              "Files created in earlier versions of Adobe Acrobat may not be readily convertible to accessible formats."*

o              "Other features of the new PDF restrict the ability to copy files even if they are converted."*

o              "The reliable conversion of formatting and other nuances (tables for example) is not certain." *

·               Solutions are hard to come by.

·               Docutek, the currently dominant vendor in the e-reserve sector, has so far
  not undertaken substantial efforts to make  its product accessible

 

Steve Mendelsohn, disability policy expert, attorney, and an individual who is blind; cited in a contribution to AXLIB-L, Aug. 29, 2001.)

 

V. Strategies for Change (selection)

 

Training

·         Integrate components of accessible design into Web design courses.

·         Offer in-depth workshops on accessible Web design. 

·         Make external training opportunities available to interested parties.

·         Designate an individual who functions as coordinator and consultant

·         Require all student web designers to become familiar with the concept and principles of universal design

Policy Changes

·        Scrutenize policies at your institution

·        Scrutenize guidelines issued by your profeesional organizations

·        Initiate and support efforts to add inclusive language to policies pertaining to

o       College/university system

o       Campus

o       Library

o       Web

o       Distance Learning

o       Campus computing/IT

o       Professional organizations

 

Exercising our Buying Power

 

 

V. Resources on Accessible Web Design

 

 

1. Selected books, articles and policy documents on web access in the
    campus and library environment

 

 

2. Major organization

 

 

For further resources, such as accessible web design guidelines, tools, articles on accessible design and the law, and a collection of good and poor examples, please visit my Accessible Web Design: Resources page at http://library.uwsp.edu/aschmetz/Accessible/pub_resources.htm.

For further web site accessibility data, including a brief explanation of the methodolgy and the limitations of my studies (with bobby as evaluation tool), please visit my Web Accessibility Survey Homepage at http://library.uwsp.edu/aschmetz/Accessible/websurveys.htm. A more in-depth discussion is included in my articles “Web Accessibility at University Libraries and Library Schools.” Library Hi Tech. 19(1) 2001: 35-49, and "Online Distance Education--'anytime, anywhere' but not for everyone," Information Technology and Disabilities. 7(2) 2001. Accessible at http://www.rit.edu/~easi/itd/itdv07n2/contents.htm.

The URL to my presentation slides is http://library.uwsp.edu/aschmetz/Accessible/ATinHE2001/title.htm. Any questions?  Please feel free to call or  e-mail me: aschmetz@uwsp.edu,
tel.: 715-346-4658.