Monday, July 15, 2013

Web accessibility: Annotated bibliography

According to Katie Cunningham, author of the Accessibility Handbook (O’Reilly Media), web accessibility can cover four groups: people with visual, physical, hearing and cognitive impairments. As a woman on the autism spectrum, I am a personal stakeholder in web accessibility.

The subject is additionally timely, given a focus on “Technology in the Library” in American Libraries’ “Professional Developments” column (May 2013). Given these combined factors, web accessibility seemed a natural focus for my Advanced Internet Searching class.

Policy specialist Paul T. Jaeger charges that the Internet is “inherently unfriendly to many different kinds of disabilities” (2). He highlights deliberate disabling of e-Book readers’ text-to-speech as an example of Web products that are seemingly designed to be “openly discriminatory” against people with disabilities (4).

According to Jaeger, “there are ways to develop and implement technologies so that persons with disabilities are included,” but these “known and achievable” solutions are frequently not consulted during Web site design. Legal protections have not kept pace with technological development (3).

Accessibility.” What & Why of Usability. Web. 14 July 2013.
This page advocates “multisensory” and “multi-interactivity” approaches to allow people to access the same information regardless of disability. It includes a summary of rules and regulations that govern accessible web design on federal government sites.
External links offer further resources for developing accessible sites.
Beyond rules and regulations, the page makes a case for the “value” of accessibility: “By making your website accessible, you are ensuring that all of your potential users, including people with disabilities, have a decent user experience and are able to easily access your information. By implementing accessibility best practices, you are also improving the usability of the site for all users.”

Hricko, Mary. Design And Implementation Of Web-Enabled Teaching Tools. Hershey, PA: Information Science Pub, 2002. EBSCOHost eBook Collection. Cuesta College Library. Web. 24 June 2013.
Hricko’s book, accessed through EBSCO Host resources available through Cuesta College Library, seems valuable for its focus upon web-enabled teaching and issues of accessibility in the distance-learning realm. Of particular value is its historical overview of universally accessible Web design as it appears in library literature.

Jaeger, Paul T. Disability and the Internet: Confronting a Digital Divide. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2011. Print.
Jaeger’s book was recommended by columnist Karen Muller in in American Libraries’ “Professional Developments” column (May 2013). “Jaeger provides solidly researched background on the laws that should guide provision of Internet services but also points out where accommodations fail to meet people’s needs -- whether at work, school, or the library. After enumerating the barriers, he describes the evaluations that are needed and the policy reforms we should be seeking and advocating.”

“Obama administration may censor web pages using Americans with Disabilities Act.” Washington Examiner, 9 May, 2013. NewsBank. Cuesta College Library. Web. 9 July 2013.
In an editorial, the Washington Examiner objects to businesses being required to make their Web sites accessible to people with disabilities.
The editorial uses loaded, emotional language, like “censor.” It proclaims the requirement to be costly and burdensome but offers no explanation for how it arrived at this view. Instead of using “people-first” language or attempting to use terms of self-identification used by people with disabilities, it refers throughout to “the disabled,” “the intellectually disabled,” “the blind,” in a way that denies that the people it is talking about are anything other than their disabilities. It mocks readers who may have cognitive disabilities, showcasing references that the writer declares are too difficult for “the mentally challenged.” And finally, the editorial uses a “slippery slope” argument (trial lawyers surfing the web to prey upon non-compliant small nonprofits!) to instill fear. 
Given my personal and professional concern about media portrayals of people with disabilities, this editorial ultimately serves as a “Hit parade” of wrongness.

Pilgrim, Mark. Dive Into Accessibility: 30 days to a more accessible web site. 2004. Web. 1 July 2013.
This web site offers a collection of tips to make Web sites more accessible to people with physical and technological disabilities. Alternatively, the information can be downloaded as HTML or in PDF format. There is a stated bias that readers will believe Web sites should be accessible.
The online reader can access the material arranged in a variety of groupings (by the person who benefits, disability, design principle, web browser or publishing tool). The tips can also be read in the order in which they were originally published. The author’s credentials and expertise are not clearly identified, but an “Accessibility Statement” offers documentation of standards compliance and authoritative references. A direct means of giving feedback is provided on-site by launching the user’s default email program.
The site explains ways in which adaptive technologies interact with web sites. It offers clear and specific suggestions to improve a Web site’s usability.

Towns, Steve. “Breaking the Access Barrier.” Government Technology, Feb. 2001. SIRS Issues Researcher. Cuesta College Library. Web. 9 July 2013.
Steve Towns highlights a growing digital divide between the rapid growth of e-Government applications and people with disabilities. He cites concerns by the American Association of People with Disabilities and the State Information Technology Access Coalition. Towns identifies efforts to track accessibility efforts by state and federal governments, as well as concerns by state officials related to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Towns’ article is thorough and provides comprehensive detail, but was written more than 10 years ago. At the time of the article’s publication (February 2001), state IT policies were, in its words, “the exception rather than the norm.” Given the rapidly-changing, constantly evolving nature of the Internet, my interests may be better served by a more recent article.

West, Jessamyn. Without a Net. Web. 1 July 2013.
On the companion Web site to her book, Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide, West offers curated links to Web sites compiled in the bibliography of her book, including a selection of sites that address web accessibility. A biography offers detailed information about West’s background, including her experience as an educator in the use of technology.

Witsil, Frank. “Access to websites for people with disabilities: a new civil rights frontier.” USA Today, 5 July, 2013. NewsBank. Cuesta College Library. Web. 9 July 2013
This article examines ways that court decisions and new federal regulations may provide people with disabilities with improved access to websites. It points out that the Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, preceded the Internet boom. In the words of Brian G. Muse, law partner with LeClairRyan in Williamsburg, VA, “Websites are the new frontier.” With a publication date of July 5, the article is very current. Its author is web editor for the Detroit Free Press, which makes him well-qualified to write about this subject. The article is written for the general public, but presents sufficient detail to clearly explain its subject.

W3C. “Getting Started with Web Accessibility.” Web Accessibility Initiative. March 2011. Web. 4 July 2013.
W3C is the go-to source, referenced by several other sites I have viewed. The copyright holders are the entities that make up the World Wide Web Consortium (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics and Keio University). The date of last update is identified.
“Getting Started with Web Accessibility” is a curated set of links to other pages published by W3C. Topics for web users include customizing your computer for a better browsing experience and contacting organizations about inaccessible Web sites. “Accessibility Basics” include essential components and making the case for costs and benefits of web accessibility.
Compiled for LIBT 213, Advanced Internet Searching

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