Ensuring Accessibility of Information Products and Services



Increasingly, funders at state and local levels require accessibility in licensed information products and services. What does that mean for libraries and content providers? Are there guidelines that ensure compliance? What guarantees are there? What are the challenges in developing robust accessibility in a product or service? How can decision-makers ensure that a product is compliant before they sign the license? This roundtable discussion offers an opportunity to hear from users, experts, and practitioners about what is working (and what’s not). 

Confirmed roundtable participants include (among others) Rachel Comerford, Senior Director of Accessibility Outreach and Communications, Macmillan Learning; Violaine Iglesias, CEO, Cadmore Media; ​​Stephen Kemsley, User Experience Manager and Web Accessibility Specialist (IAAP certified), ProQuest, a division of Clarivate; and John UnsworthUniversity Librarian and Dean of Libraries, University of Virginia.


Event Sessions

Roundtable Discussion


Rachel Comerford

Senior Director of Accessibility Outreach and Communication
Macmillan Learning

John Unsworth

Dean of Libraries, University Librarian and Professor of English
University of Virginia

Moderated by Jill O'Neill, Director of Content, NISO.

The discussion by participants touched on the following:

Let’s begin by talking a little about the current landscape of content and the overall accessibility of that content in available formats, whether in print or in an alternate format such as video. What does that landscape look like, from the perspective of your individual role? 

Recognizing that current physical and online environments present barriers to some percentage of the population, how are existing institutions, organizations, departments, or individuals handling issues of accessibility ? Within your own organization, where does responsibility for thinking about accessibility reside? 

How do you gauge or measure the accessibility of your product or service?

What are the resources necessary in developing accessible information platforms or resources?

What challenges might the introduction of accessibility accommodations create for an existing organization’s environment or workflow? Can integrating accessibility be made to scale? How does that impact budgets and/or production costs?

There are instances where market demands factor into decision-making for innovation or long-term development or longevity of a product. An enhancement (such as an audio rendering of a text) or customization of a specific format may create concern over potential constraints that it puts on a provider’s subsequent success. Can we talk about those tensions? How should the community be thinking about the balance between profiting from innovative product development and recognition of the need to accommodate a disability? 

In what ways might automation or artificial intelligence be applied to improve accessibility of content formats? Are we close to any solutions? 

What can be done to broaden awareness of available accessible products and services? How might providers better communicate the types of accessibility that they’ve been able to build into a particular product or service? 

How can libraries determine for themselves the degree of accessibility in a product or service? Is there a need for establishing benchmarks for accessibility? What opportunities are there for collaborative assessment?

Resources, literature, and more!

Shared by John Unsworth, University of Virginia:

UVA Library Design Principles - UVA Library's Design Principles were originally proposed by the Web Implementation Group, approved by senior leadership for Library-wide adoption, and were launched with a series of webinars that encouraged staff members to think about ways these Principles apply to their work.

Librarv Accessibility Alliance - The Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) formed the Library E-Resource Accessibility Group in 2015 to address concerns about the accessibility of library e-resources.

Educational Materials Made Accessible (EMMA) - The purpose of this project and the infrastructure we are creating is to reduce the duplication of effort in disability service offices at colleges and universities across the United States, and thereby to enable faster, better service for those needing accessible learning materials.

Association of Research Libraries: The Law and Accessible Texts: Reconciling Civil Rights and Copyrights -  The white paper on the legal issues around copyright and accessibility that were produced in the Mellon-funded FRAME project (out of which EMMA is emerging).

Global Certified Accessible (GCA) Program - Benetech’s GCA certification is the first-ever independent third-party digital accessibility certification program. Our goal is to help publishers build born accessible content that meets the needs of all readers. The program accomplishes this by helping adjust publisher workflows to ensure that content they produce is accessible from the start.

Benetech Accessibility Resources - Resources and guides to help you understand and produce accessible content.

Section 508: Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT™)  - A document that explains how information and communication technology (ICT) products such as software, hardware, electronic content, and support documentation meet (conform to) the Revised 508 Standards for IT accessibility.

WebAIM (Accessibility in Mind) - Expanding the potential of the web for people with disabilities by empowering individuals and organizations to create accessible content.

The HistoryMakers - This is the "Science-Makers" subset of HistoryMakers, and it is fully and freely available, so if people want to see an example of transcribed, captioned, time-indexed, searchable video presented in an accessible interface, this will serve that purpose.

Shared by Rachel Comeford, Macmillan Learning:

We Need Diverse Books - A 501(c)(3) non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.

Demystifying Disability: WHAT TO KNOW, WHAT TO SAY, AND HOW TO BE AN ALLY A book By Emily Ladau

Additional Information

NISO assumes organizations register as a group. The model assumes that an unlimited number of staff will be watching the live broadcast in a single location, but also includes access to an archived recording of the event for those who may have timing conflicts. 

NISO understands that, during the current pandemic, staff at a number of organizations may be practicing safe social distancing or working remotely. To accommodate those workers, we are allowing registrants to share the sign-on instructions with all colleagues so that they may join the broadcast directly. 

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Links to the archived recording of the broadcast are distributed to registrants 24-48 hours following the close of the live event. Access to that recording is intended for internal use of fellow staff at the registrant’s organization or institution. Speaker presentations are posted to the NISO event page.

Broadcast Platform

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