The Discoverability Story
David Clover (Head of User Engagement, University of East London) and Ben Watson (Accessible Information Adviser at the University of Kent) scoured the free text comments from the audit returns. These were in the 'Comment' sections regarding the discoverability of accessibility information.
In the sections below, they pull out some of the key 'user experience' lessons that suppliers could take back to their web teams.
How They Searched
Our assessors were library and disability support staff and may be expected to be more skilled in finding information on websites and platforms. However for many platforms finding information on accessibility was itself a challenge – many respondents mentioned using a web search engine to try and find information where it was difficult to find on the site itself. In some cases, this referred assessors to US information only and not UK versions of this.
Other assessors described a process of “just… clicking on random sections”, until the relevant information was found.
What They Found
Accessibility information was preferred under Help, or Support and Training headings, or indeed as a link from the main page itself. Placing information under Settings, Librarian Services, or Technical Questions is unlikely to be useful to end users (though they might help those who support them).
In some instances, information was scattered and different information in different sections, again not useful. Assessors noted labeling of accessibility information varied across providers and in some cases came under Rights and Permissions, Web Accessibility (when referred to both website and content), or under general support and FAQ sections. When links were at the bottom of pages these were often described as being in small font (raising concerns about how accessible information on accessibility was).
Many providers only had information on website accessibility, not for the platform or actual content. For some others it was unclear what the information covered and information didn’t seem to differentiate between the website and the platform.
Some additional problems encountered included broken links for sections on support and accessibility, and the format of the information provided itself – with notes on contrast, links defaulted to opening in new tabs, and large (16 page) usability guides.
Some noted good practice included “an additional link to 'edit accessibility settings' on the left hand side of the home page which opens a pop up enabling the user to make some immediate changes to font, contrast etc.,” as well as ensuring information is available from within the platform itself as well on the aggregator website. Video guides were suggested as a useful tool that could be provided.
Similarly to the Platform findings, our assessors had varied experiences across the different publisher sites due to a wide range of issues including:
poor or no site map,
misleading labeling, and
‘claimed’ security issues.
Where poor labeling or site mapping was an issue our assessors seemed to have had most success by Googling the publisher name and the keyword ‘accessibility’. This kind of labeling concern is well summed up in the following comments:
‘It was on author’s page, well concealed.'
‘I could find nothing on the main publisher site. I found no accessibility information via Google searching. I found another link to their eBooks but I can't use the 'Help' or 'Contact us' links because there is a problem with the site's security certificate’.
Another assessor commented:
‘The accessibility page can be navigated to by a google search and is in the 'about us' section of the website, however I could not find a way to navigate to it using the site itself’ so the issue of site mapping is a recurrent theme. Even where the information may well have been very useful it is not always seemingly given prominence in the information architecture to make it easy to find.'
Lack of Clarity
Another recurrent issue for assessors was that publishers that have numerous imprints seem to have different accessibility statements for each imprint which can make finding specific information very difficult and confusing. Sometimes it was not clear which imprint was being referred to:
‘No information on Academic Press, some general information on Elsevier site. Assume the information about eBooks covers this imprint but there is no explicit information’.
There was also a lack of clarity around whether an accessibility statement was related to the website, the content or both, as is made clear in the following comment:
‘T&F (Parent company) has fairly comprehensive accessibility page for its website (https://taylorandfrancis.com/accessibility/) but not, it seems, its eBooks’
'Web accessibility info NOT content accessibility’.
Other issues were less frequently experienced such as
geographical issues: ‘Aimed at US students’
vagueness: ‘So limited - single sentence on 'contact us' page - "If you are an educational institution requiring a digital copy of one of our books for a student with a print disability, please consult Bookshare.org, where our current titles are archived for this purpose. If the title you seek is not available there, you may then contact us directly.’
The importance of good information was highlighted by one assessor who noted:
The information provided rather undersells the accessibility of the resources provided.