RLI 281
rESEarcH LiBrariES aND iNDiviDuaLS witH PriNt DiSaBiLitiES
20
DECEMBER 2012 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Although advances in information technology have lowered the hardware and software costs for
the overall reformatting process, this service still requires non-trivial equipment, training, and ongoing
staffing costs. Staff time to edit reformatted documents can vary greatly depending on the source material
and the level of quality control desired. Advances in book scanning technology show great promise
in improving page scanning and OCR processing throughput. The UC Berkeley Library, for example,
has recently acquired an Atiz scanner designed to quickly scan bound books without damaging the
spine. The library estimates that such high-quality scanning, even without extensive staff editing and
processing, will produce two errors per page or less. However, the high capital-equipment costs of
purchasing such high-performance book-scanning equipment may be out of reach for some libraries.
Licensed Electronic Resources
Licensed electronic resources, such as e-journals, e-books, databases, online reference sources, and digital
media collections, pose a different set of accessibility challenges, due to the diversity of digital content
formats and delivery methods. Although accessibility standards exist for many digital content formats,
content publishers do not always utilize them to maximum advantage.
Consider the case of electronic books. The current e-book technology landscape is rapidly evolving
with many combinations of file formats, devices, and platforms. E-books are published in a variety of
formats, some open and some propriety, with varying levels of support for accessibility. EPUB 3 is an
example of an emerging standard that was developed from the ground up with accessibility for print-
disabled users in mind. Open standards for digital content that incorporates accessibility features from
the start are the clear path forward to making digital content broadly accessible.
In many cases, the library provides patrons with proxy access to licensed electronic resources that are
hosted and delivered on a content provider’s website. In this model, it may be logistically difficult, and in
some cases technically infeasible, for the library to provide an alternative accessible copy or version of the
resource if the resource itself was not properly encoded for accessibility from the start.
Under these circumstances, it is critical that libraries independently exercise their power as buying
agents to improve the state of electronic resource accessibility. Libraries should require publishers
and vendors to comply with legal requirements for accessibility (e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act,
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments, state and provincial laws) and implement industry
best practices for accessibility (e.g., World Wide Web Consortium [W3C] Web Accessibility Initiative
guidelines) in their products and services. The inclusion of model language in publisher and vendor
contracts specifically addressing accessibility requirements could have a significant impact if broadly
adopted (see Appendix A for model language).
There are success stories in the marketplace to replicate. In early 2010, under a new system-wide
technology accessibility initiative in the California State University (CSU) system, the CSU campuses
rejected a bid from Blackboard Learning—then the most widely used learning management system
among CSU campuses—citing lack of accessibility. In his February 2012 testimony before the Senate
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Mark Turner, Director of CSU’s Center for
Accessible Media, stated that this experience was a “wake-up call” for the company, and that “subsequent
to that RFP process, Blackboard® undertook a major accessibility review and remediation process for
their product, culminating in an award by the National Federation of the Blind for its robust support for
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