RLI 281
rESEarcH LiBrariES aND iNDiviDuaLS witH PriNt DiSaBiLitiES
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DECEMBER 2012 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
persons who are blind.”44
Libraries can also request (or require, if need be) that prospective vendors complete a Voluntary
Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) form for their product to document in detail the extent to which
their product complies with Section 508. Although VPAT forms are non-binding, they do provide
a communication tool for libraries and vendors to talk about accessibility issues at a granular level.
Compliance with Section 508 is required, but there is no substitute for reasonably proficient user testing,
preferably by a person with print disabilities who is an typical user of her selected assistive technology.
Several universities have protocols by which their disability services offices evaluate any software whose
acquisition is being contemplated. Even in cases when vended products are not fully compliant, VPATs
can be a useful tool for encouraging vendors to establish accessibility roadmaps for their non-compliant or
partially accessible products.
Library Website Accessibility
Research libraries, indeed all of higher education, rely upon the web to present and make available
extensive amounts of information and instructional e-content. The degree to which websites are accessible
varies greatly from institution to institution. Most research libraries provide access to information
resources online through a library-managed website presence. The typical library website includes
a mix of library resource discovery tools, subject guides, links to licensed electronic resources, and
information about library services. Standards exist to improve the accessibility of web content for people
with disabilities. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops
guidelines and provides resources for web publishers to improve web accessibility. The W3C WAI
website includes a wealth of information on the topic of web accessibility, including specific standards
such as the internationally recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard. Library
administrators are strongly encouraged to assess and create a plan for improving the accessibility of their
library website and supporting web applications.
To gain more clarity on current practice and opportunities to make websites more accessible, the US
Department of Justice issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2010 regarding accessibility
of information and services on the web.45
The DOJ intends to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning website accessibility based
on comments filed in 2012. In several settlements, DOJ has required places of public accommodation to
comply with WCAG 2.0 AA standards.
Electronic-Book Readers
The recent explosive growth in popularity of portable e-book readers in the consumer marketplace has
led many libraries to consider lending e-book devices as a service. E-book readers can vary greatly in
terms of their support of accessibility features. The most accessible devices include screen magnification,
text-to-speech functionality, and navigation features enabling individuals with print disabilities to access
the content natively. The pairing of accessible e-book formats with accessible reading devices is key.
E-book accessibility may involve as many as three different considerations: the accessibility of the
content, the accessibility of the reading platform, and the accessibility of the device. Thus, even if the
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