Accessibility in Academic Research: Alternative Text for Images and Non-text Items

This series focuses on a few main problems with accessibility in academic research, but by no means are they they only ones. My last post covered problems concerning graphs and how we can improve them to be more accessible to color blind individuals. If you’re curious about other accessibility considerations, take a look at Anne Gibson’s Alphabet of Accessibility on the Pastry Box Project; it’s fantastic.

Images, graphs and other non-text items in research

As I mentioned in my previous post, lots of scholarly research relies of graphs and charts to represent data and results. Additionally, researchers use images and other non-text items (such as equations) in research. However, without proper alternative text, these visual representations are meaningless to users with certain visual impairments.

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What does Reading Level have to do with Racism and Equity?

As the Web Services Librarian, I play an important role in determining the standards for content on the Boston Public Library website. The blogs are some of the most important content I oversee. They’re important because they let library workers talk about things they and their patrons care about. I think that connection to the public is special and needs to be protected.

As a part of the annual training bloggers go through, I remind them to keep their posts to a 10th grade reading level or below (ideally 8th grade). The few exceptions are on a case-by-case basis. However, staff members come back to me and say that the requirement is too restrictive, and what’s the big deal anyway?

When you don’t consider the reading level of your content, you are shutting out people who don’t read at the same level as you. Those people will most likely include, but are not limited to:

  • People of color
  • People who are poor
  • People with learning disabilities
  • People who don’t speak English as their first language

TL;DR: The reading level of your content is a racism and equity issue. If you’re not thinking about the reading levels of your content, you are preventing large groups of disadvantaged people from reading it. About half of adults in the U.S. do not read above an eighth grade reading level, and you are excluding them. Use hemingwayapp.com to help you reduce the reading level of your content.

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How to Do Usability Testing Without a Budget

This post is about doing usability testing on a website for a public library, without a budget for usability testing, or any extra software beyond a simple survey tool and Google Analytics.
 
So, to start at the beginning, my team completely overhauled our old library website design, and for good reason(s):
 
  1. It looked very outdated, because it was basically a lightly modified version of the website we created in the early 2000s.

a. It was all static HTML pages for the most part.

 

2. The design wasn’t responsive, making it a headache for patrons on mobile or tablet devices, and for staff members trying to help users on mobile or tablet devices.

3. Certain parts of the website were not accessibility compliant.

 
Those are the biggest reasons for the switch, but as you can imagine, there were a lot of reasons to do it.

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Visual of a springshare calendar on an academic library website with the no coffee Achromatopsia filter applied

Library Websites’ Hall of Shame: Color Blindness

This is a continuation of my Hall of Shame series, where I point out website “crimes” that many libraries are guilty of committing. If you missed my first post in this series, you can see it here: Hall of Shame series.

This time, I’m coming for those libraries (and other institutions) who don’t test their website to see if it works for people who are color blind.

Color blindness affects approximately 8% of all men, and 0.05% of women (National Eye Institute). This means out of the approximately 300 million people in the United States (doing the math myself) they may be as many as 12 million men and about 7.5 million women in the United States with some form of color blindness, which is a total around 19.5 million.

So, with all of these people who are color blind, what can we do to improve their experience on websites?

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