On 24th February 2017, Sherif (formerly JIBS) hosted an event at CILIP, London. The theme was “Accessibility and eContent: is it fit for purpose for the 21st century?” It was a good opportunity to meet with other information professionals and to share experience and knowledge of accessibility issues. The event had four speakers and was attended by over 60 delegates.
Alistair McNaught from Jisc, in his talk Rough diamond or fool’s gold? E-content as an accessibility solution” spoke about the challenges librarians face in obtaining accessible content from publishers. We all have an anticipatory duty to provide access to materials in accessible formats, and the more information librarians can provide about the challenges faced by their patrons, the easier it will be for publishers to identify and correct the issues as quickly as possible. So it is important to identify what do we do well, identify weaknesses, suggest workarounds and advocate the “good things” about e-book accessibility. He also mentioned his blog about accessibility issues https://accessibility.jiscinvolve.org/wp/ which I found it very informative and useful.
Geraldine Huzar, Learning and Teaching Librarian at The Open University, in her talk ‘’The Open University and accessible learning’’ stressed the importance of introducing accessibility tips for students, informing them about the good and bad aspects of each database on an A-Z list, as well as testing the accessibility of individual e-books, journal articles and videos and giving feedback to publishers on their platforms.
Kate Vasili, Copyright Officer and Licence co-ordinator, and Ruth Houghton, Subject Liaison Librarian at Middlesex University, gave a presentation entitled ‘Supporting Students at Middlesex University: filling the accessibility gaps’. They spoke about the range of provision Middlesex University has in place, including assistive technology.
Gopal Dutta, Secondary Education Subject Librarian, Manchester Metropolitan University, talked about the benefits of the eBook Accessibility Audit 2016. The results of this audit have been shared around the library community, and there was definitely a positive message that e-book publishers and librarians need to work together. There have already been statements of support from both communities. He also suggested that the e-book accessibility audit can be used when talking and negotiating with publishers. He emphasised that collaboration is the key to resolve issues around accessibility. It is not about confrontation but rather about working together to address issues.
By looking at the audit report we can see how the two main publisher platform used by the RAU Library fared. Dawsonera scored 47% and ebrary by Proquest 58%, though to be fair Dawsonera was audited by 39 institutions (some of whom scored it 60%+) whereas ebrary Proquest was audited by just one. Given that these are both aggregator platforms that have to deal with multiple publishers, the figures are quite encouraging and should lead to further improvements.
All sessions were valuable and it was a really positive day. It was great to hear about accessibility issues and that collaboration can help to resolve problems, improve accessibility and empower differently abled students.