23 Association of Research Libraries Research Library Issues 302 2021 procurement processes can be used as a lever for ensuring digital accessibility. When digital materials are procured, or when a license is being negotiated for access to an outside digital library, it is important to only procure accessible materials, include accessibility requirements in the procurement contract, and use that purchasing power to pressure vendors on accessibility. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple university officials responsible for digital accessibility reported that their procurement controls were being bypassed using “emergency” or “fast-track” procurement authority, and much inaccessible software and digital content was procured.13 One accessibility director noted, “we are going to be reaping the rotten effects of those contracts signed without accessibility, for years to come.”14 4. Formats for Accessible Content Research libraries tend to be known for the quality and extensiveness of their collections. While public libraries may lend out devices (such as e-readers), typically, the focus of a research library is on the content, the resources, the collections that they can provide, whether it is for research purposes or for classroom use. It is therefore important to have an understanding of the three core formats for ensuring the accessibility of digital content: HTML, EPUB, and PDF, and their corresponding accessibility guidelines: WCAG, Accessible EPUB3, and PDF U/A. HTML format is best known as the markup language used for web pages. The corresponding guidelines for accessible web pages are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG is the international standard for creating accessible web-based content. WCAG started as the Trace Center Unified Web Accessibility Guidelines in the mid-1990s, and WCAG version 1.0 was issued by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative in 1999. WCAG 2.0 was issued in 2008 and WCAG 2.1, the current standard, was issued in 2018.15 In later sections, I will talk about the next steps for the WCAG.
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