20 Association of Research Libraries Research Library Issues 302 2021 2. The Basics: Plan Ahead and Avoid After-the-Fact Remediations Digital accessibility means providing an equal user experience for people with disabilities, and it never happens by accident. It is important to plan ahead for digital accessibility and include accessibility requirements in planning for building or acquiring any new digital technologies or content. Planning for digital accessibility is like planning for accessibility in building a new house. When you build the house from scratch and you have included accessibility in the design specs, the accessibility costs are minimal. However, if you have built a house in an inaccessible manner, or if you purchased an existing inaccessible house, the costs of making that house accessible can become enormous. You may need to re-grade, to add ramps, to make the doorframes wider, and you may need to move the plumbing because there isn’t enough space in the bathroom for the turnaround radius. Similarly, when you build a technology from scratch with accessibility as a key design goal, the costs are minimal.2 Yet if you build a technology in an inaccessible way, and then want to retrofit it after-the- fact, the amount of code required, and the costs, increase exponentially.3 To be clear, accessibility by itself is not expensive. Choosing to add accessibility later on, as a retrofit, is when the costs of accessibility increase. But that increased cost is due to poor design decisions, not inherent to accessibility itself. It is important to plan for accessibility in a website design or redesign, for digitizing existing paper materials, for acquiring a license for digital library materials, or for materials specifically for a university course. At this point, many research libraries have processes in place, staff who are familiar with accessibility, and policies to encourage or force digital accessibility. That’s the good news. In many research libraries, the infrastructure of human expertise for digital accessibility already exists. The bad news is that the massive shift to virtual operations, and the increase in demand for professional accessibility services due to the pandemic, hit research libraries just as hard as other organizations. No one had planned for a shift to strictly virtual operations. In many ways,
Previous Page Next Page