Think Accessible Before You Buy

Questions to Ask to Ensure that the Electronic Resources Your Library Plans to Purchase are Accessible

An ASCLA Toolkit

Ch., William Reed, Susanne Bjorner, Simon J.M. Healey, Valerie Lewis, Michael L. Marlin, Adina Joyce Mulliken, Brian Rankin

Often, library staff may have to make purchasing decisions regarding electronic databases and resources, software for public use, or a new web site design or layout. Libraries share a great responsibility and may be legally required to ensure that anyone-especially patrons and staff with disabilities- can effectively use these electronic services.

Thanks to continuing efforts to produce accessibility standards for electronic resources and information technology by the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the United States Access Board, guidelines do exist to assist software manufacturers and programmers, and web site designers and developers on how to make their products accessible to people with disabilities. These standards tend to use rather technical language, but rightly so, since these guidelines are intended to assist programmers and developers.

Unfortunately, these technical standards can be a real challenge to translate and understand for those of us without a technical background, or who are not former computer programmers or web page coders. Therefore, in an effort to break down the technical language barrier, the following checklists and guidelines are intended to help libraries “think accessible” as they consider purchasing electronic resources and web services.

The checklist and guidelines offered here are by no means original ideas. In fact, all the considerations listed on the checklists were taken from the Access Board, Section 508 and W3C WAI technical standards. But they have been retranslated with plenty of examples to help promote awareness toward purchasing products that are accessible to people with disabilities, and currently represent the highest priority accessibility checkpoints to ensure usability for patrons with various disabilities. Patrons and staff with disabilities or anyone using assistive technologies may require special accommodations when accessing a libraries’ electronic and information technologies, and this consideration should be a top priority in the decision-making process, and continue even after a product has been purchased.

Download: Think Accessible Before You Buy (Accessible PDF) or Think Accessible Before You Buy (Word Document)