the Librarian

Web Accessibility and Library Websites

What is Web Accessibility?


Accessibility is the measure of access for those with disabilities. Those with visual impairments may require a screen reader to access the web while those with colorblindness will have a hard time reading text with not enough contrast to the background. The wide range of abilities are taken into account with web accessibility standards. A side benefit to following accessibility standards is that they make your website better and easier to use for those without disabilities. It might even improve your search engine rankings and optimize how your website shows up on search engine results. 

"Untitled" by Søren Astrup Jørgensen is in the Public Domain, CC0

Accessibility and Libraries


Committees can be a great way to use the skills and knowledge of a group of people all focused on directing their energy towards a problem or set of problems. On my community college campus, web accessibility has become an important aspect to not just students, but faculty and staff as well, leading to the establishment of an accessibility committee. Since this is a topic that I talked about at the CLAMS Conference and have designed the La Vida LibGuides system on the basics of, I was enthusiastic about campus efforts. 


While the campus wide committee has been working on official policy and campus-wide changes, the library has been working on a few changes of its own. Libraries have a unique responsibility because our websites are often portals to subscription databases that can't be accessed through any other means. Also, when we design learning guides, we are introducing outside content through links, embedding, or uploading that may not have the same standards of accessibility that we do. 


Speaking of Standards for Web Accessibilty


It's really important that we all agree on one source of standards, but thankfully the W3C (also known as the World Wide Consortium) has established themselves as the authority when it comes to accessibility. The WCAG has long been considered the best checklist to ensure that those with screen readers and color blindness can use the website being designed. In June 2018 the WCAG got an update, which means we now have the WCAG 2.1. 


LibGuides and Web Accessibility


Thankfully, LibGuides is super aware of accessibility standards and have worked them invisibly into the architecture of the website. The main things it doesn't do for you is require you to type in ALT tags, (find out more about ALT tags here), or restrict you from using tables which can be really confusing for screen readers. 


VPAT Hub on a Library's Website


As I mentioned previously, a library's website is a delicate organism with lots of other sources mixed into it. Database vendors such as EBSCOhost and ProQuest are providing VPAT documents on their websites, but this can be confusing to someone who accesses these products through a library's website. For now, our solution is to create a hub of accessibility statements on our library's website that allows us to keep all this information in one place. To take a peek on what I have put together for our library, go to