Frequently Asked Questions About Accessibility

What is accessibility?

“Accessibility addresses discriminatory aspects related to equivalent user experience for people with disabilities.” The The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) offers a helpful article on accessibility, usability, and inclusion which, “explains the distinctions and overlaps between accessibility, usability, and inclusive design; encourages increased coordination across research and practice in these disciplines; and points out the importance of maintaining the focus of accessibility on people with disabilities”

The Library Accessibility Alliance (LAA) has also created a toolkit intended to be a living document to provide libraries with resources related to library accessibility. The toolkit includes sections for general library accessibility, library physical space accessibility, library e-resource accessibility, accessible library instructional design, terminology, tools, and legal considerations. 

What is digital accessibility?  

“Digital accessibility is the ability of a website, mobile application or electronic document to be easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users, including those users who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities.” The University of Chicago Center for Digital Accessibility offers helpful frequently asked questions on this topic, as does Harvard University

What is the W3C?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops international standards for the Web: HTML, CSS, and many more.

What is the WAI?

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops standards and support materials to help you understand and implement accessibility.

What accessibility resources typically exist at the university level? 

Most colleges and universities employ an ADA Coordinator and an accessibility statement for the institution at large. Information technology departments often have written standards which serve both as a starting point and as expectations for digital accessibility at your library.

How do I make a case for accessibility at my library or institution? 

In the webinar, “Wading in the WCAG Waters: First Steps Toward Facilitating Accessibility Change at your Institution,” Michele Bromley, the IT Accessibility Coordinator for the Office of Information Technology at Portland State University (PSU), provides an excellent introduction to this topic. Abstract: “The necessity for working toward more inclusive, accessible digital spaces on our college campuses is becoming increasingly urgent. Legal considerations notwithstanding, there are ethical and practical imperatives for ensuring that digital resources and environments are as accessible and usable as possible for all users. But where do we begin? How can individuals act as catalysts for institutional change when that change requires community, investment, policy, and resource development? This presentation will outline first steps toward real accessibility change and provide an introduction to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that can bring that reality closer.”

Where can I find example library or institutional accessibility statements? 

The toolkit’s digital accessibility policies and statements page includes links to policies, statements and guides at the university, library, and digital repository level, as well as to guidance on what to include in a statement. 

What tools exist to help test the accessibility of my website, electronic resources, etc.? 

Resources exist for both automated and manual testing. The toolkit’s testing for digital accessibility page includes descriptions and links to automated testing through third party browser extensions, browsers’ built-in accessibility tools and color testing, as well as tools for manual testing.  

How can I test my institution’s website for accessibility? 

“When developing or redesigning a website or web application, evaluate accessibility early and throughout the development process to identify accessibility problems early, when it is easier to address them.” The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has a helpful evaluating web accessibility overview to help you get started, and the W3C accessibility standards overview introduces guidelines and other standards related to web accessibility. 

Is there a list of test results from other institutions’ accessibility tests?  

The toolkit includes a page for links to resources for vendor testing documentation.

How can I stay up to date with issues as they relate to accessibility in libraries? 

The toolkit’s training and accessibility networks page includes resources for training, list serves, conferences, and general information to help you connect and stay informed.

Where can I find literature relating to digital accessibility?

We’ve created lists of reference & instruction support literature and basics of accessibility literature.

Where can I find standardized accessibility license language? 

The Big Ten Academic Alliance ( BTAA) has created standardized accessibility license language. In 2019 the Orbis Cascade Alliance included accessibility in their access and platform expectations in the request for proposals from Ebook vendors.

What questions should I ask vendors regarding the accessibility of their product? 

The testing for digital accessibility page includes sample questions to ask vendors. 

What is a VPAT?

“The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is a document which evaluates how accessible a particular product is according to the Section 508 Standards. It is a self-disclosing document produced by the vendor which details each aspect of the Section 508 requirements and how the product supports each criteria.” NC State’s IT Accessibility Handbook offers a helpful article on the topic, with a section on “the truth about VPATs.”

Why ask for a VPAT?

Some vendors may not be familiar with VPATs. This is an opportunity to clarify the importance of accessibility to your institution. You can ask the vendor questions about future accessibility goals, but let them know that without a VPAT indicating WCAG 2.0 or higher compliance, your institution may not be able to use their product.

Asking for a VPAT or an Accessibility Statement is just the beginning, just because they have either of these doesn’t mean the product is accessible. How to Read a VPAT

What are some VPAT Red Flags?

  • A lot of “NA’s” or all “Supports”
  • One VPAT for multiple products, each product should have it’s own report.
  • The VPAT is more than a year old or has not been updated since the most recent product update.
  • Lacking an evaluation methods used section, the Section 508 refresh added this section to the VPAT.
  • Communications with vendors: Unwillingness to lay out a timeline in addressing accessibility concerns.

As it turns out, at this time we cannot commit to any specific work related to accessibility. However, our product team is aware of this and it is something that is on our radar.  – actual response from an unnamed vendor 

Where can I find more information on accessibility best practices?

What questions or feedback do you have? 

Let us know using our DUX Accessibility Toolkit feedback form