EBSCO Publishing Moves Beyond Web Accessibility Standards

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EBSCOhost improves usability for visually and physically disabled users. Working with accessibility experts, EBSCO Publishing makes changes to improve screen reader navigation of EBSCOhost. All EBSCOhost users benefit from decreased page sizes meaning shorter download times.

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EBSCO stands out as a company that has rejected the minimalist accessible repair approach used by many companies that may allow Websites to pass automated accessibility tests; but are still unusable by many people with disabilities. EBSCO stands as a model of how collaboration on accessibility leads to benefits for everyone, especially people with disabilities.

EBSCO Publishing (EBSCO) has teamed with accessibility experts to make it easier to search EBSCOhost® using screen readers and keyboard controls. Working with the EBSCO Accessibility Interest Group, led by the Illinois Center for Instructional Technology Accessibility (iCITA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign (http://cita.uiuc.edu), EBSCO was able to determine that Text-Only interfaces, the industry standard for Web accessibility which is referred to as 508 compliance in the United States, were no longer enough.

The EBSCOhost Text-Only interface met the standards for 508 compliance, as outlined within the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards. However, the Text-Only interface still incorporated various elements that presented roadblocks to functional usability for impaired researchers using screen readers. By working with the EBSCO Accessibility Interest Group, changes have been made making the full features of EBSCOhost available to all users, including those with various physical and visual disabilities.

Jon Gunderson, Ph.D., Director of IT Accessibility Services (CITES) and Coordinator of Assistive Communication and Information Technology (DRES) at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign says, "EBSCO stands out as a company that has rejected the minimalist accessible repair approach used by many companies that may allow Websites to pass automated accessibility tests; but are still unusable by many people with disabilities. EBSCO stands as a model of how collaboration on accessibility leads to benefits for everyone, especially people with disabilities."

EBSCO has invested time and resources to exceed Web accessibility standards by improving page orientation and navigation of EBSCOhost. Visually and physically impaired users can utilize the features of EBSCOhost and all EBSCOhost users benefit from the modifications. Notable improvements include:

  •     Elimination of most tables to improve searching with screen readers or keyboard controls
  •     Descriptive page titles, section header tags and selected link labels
  •     Redesigned form controls for easier tab navigation
  •     Streamlined code for simpler page structures
  •     Access keys which support international keyboard functionality across multiple browsers
  •     Detailed alternative text image descriptions
  •     Visually and physically impaired users can perform searches independently most of the time
  •     Decreased page size mean shorter download times for all users

A video showing a screen reader user accessing EBSCOhost after the enhancements dramatically shows the difference the improvements have made to the EBSCOhost experience. Ron Burns, Director of Software Product Management at EBSCO, says being able to see first-hand how users of screen readers struggled to navigate through searches and results prompted EBSCO to make the changes. "The difference between simply being 'compliant' and creating fruitful search experiences for impaired users is quite dramatic. For example, seeing how screen readers got caught up on tables helped us see that the coding was a barrier to searching."

Interestingly, the changes made for impaired users have provided significant benefits for all users. Improving navigability for screen readers and keyboard controls dramatically decreased the pages sizes which, in turn, improved the overall delivery speed of EBSCOhost for users with low bandwidth connections.

EBSCO will continue to proactively address accessibility issues in future software releases, as well as work with the EBSCO Accessibility Interest Group and remain at the forefront of interface development.

More information can be found at http://www.ebscohost.com/webaccessibility.

About EBSCO
EBSCO Publishing is the world's premier database aggregator, offering a suite of more than 200 full-text and secondary research databases. Through a library of tens of thousands of full-text journals, magazines, books, monographs, reports and various other publication types from renowned publishers, EBSCO serves the content needs of all researchers (Academic, Medical, K-12, Public Library, Corporate, Government, etc.). The company's product lines include proprietary databases such as Academic Search™, Business Source®, CINAHL®, DynaMed™, Literary Reference Center™, MasterFILE™, NoveList®, SocINDEX™ and SPORTDiscus™ as well as dozens of leading licensed databases such as ATLA Religion Database™, EconLit, MEDLINE®, MLA International Bibliography, PsycARTICLES® and PsycINFO®. Databases are powered by EBSCOhost®, the most-used for-fee electronic resource in libraries around the world. For more information, visit the EBSCO Publishing Web site at: http://www.ebscohost.com, or contact: information@ebscohost.com.

EBSCO Publishing is a division of EBSCO Industries Inc., one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.

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KATHLEEN MCEVOY
EBSCO PUBLISHING
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