More Questions than Answers
We’ve been studying accessibility and usability for three months now, and the more we study, the more I understand how important accessibility and usability are as well as how challenging it is to assess or implement in a truly useful manner.
Overall, I feel like I have a better handle on what types of questions to ask about technology. I know more about assistive technologies. I know what some common pitfalls are. I feel more empowered to ask questions about technology–specific questions that I wouldn’t have known to ask before.
However, I don’t feel like I’m an expert in knowing how to fix usability and accessibility problems. I can find problems, but I don’t know how adept I am at creating or even suggesting solutions yet.
As we dig deeply into the redesign phase of our class project, I’ve started to better understand some of the unique challenges of designing a library website: an abundance of links, a tendency to become text-heavy, jargon, the two search box problem (or multiple search box problem). These issues are a lot easier to identify, but much harder to fix (especially the multiple search box problem, or anything involving ARIA).
Test ALL the Library Websites
Recently, I’ve started to wonder more and more about the accessibility of different library websites. While I haven’t had time to do deep analyses of any other library websites, I’ve started running different library sites through the WAVE Web Accessibility Tool to see how they hold up under the first pass of accessibility evaluation. As expected, it varies. Several of these libraries have recently redesigned websites, and they still have errors.
One of our readings this week, “Educating Students to Serve Information Seekers with Disabilities,” surveyed different LIS programs about whether or not they include information about ADA and accessibility in their graduate programs. For me, this is the third time I’ve been exposed to accessibility. I previously have studied it in smaller amounts in my intro course and in Internet Fundamentals and Design.
Even with this class, am I prepared to make a library website accessible and usable? I’m not sure. What about librarians in rural communities or libraries without a web design team? How prepared are they to make websites that serve all their patrons? Do they have the resources and time to learn about and keep up with developments in accessibility? (Note: I’ve found one library website with 0 errors, Muir Library in Winnebago, MN, and it is a tiny rural library.) Again, it’s a case of lots of questions with few answers.
Walling, L. L. (2004). Educating students to serve information seekers with disabilities. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 45(2), 137-148.