UK Disability History Month 2020 began on 18 November. This year’s theme is Access: How far have we come? How far have we to go? The UK formally approved the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009. Article 9 of this stipulates “the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility.”
At Leeds Beckett University Library, accessibility has always been a high priority; it helps to ensure all our students and staff can access and make the most of our services. Recently we have focused on identifying and eliminating barriers to accessibility within our online systems and content. This project began in response to new regulations introduced in 2018 making it a legal requirement for our online systems and content to be accessible, in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1 to level AA. It is especially important currently considering the recent shift towards online studying necessitated by Covid-19.
Our overarching accessibility statement lists our platforms and links to relevant accessibility information created in house or provided by system suppliers. It summarises key accessibility strengths and areas for improvement, sets out our accessibility roadmap and updates on our progress.
We have audited the accessibility of various systems against the WCAG criteria. These include the Library and Skills for Learning websites, along with space and appointment bookings and Click & Collect. We found some accessibility issues which we fixed or are still working on. We are moving on to look at the accessibility of the Archive and Special Collections website, our interactive online tutorials, and the accessibility of content on the Library website such as uploaded documents, images and videos.
Links to accessibility statements from the providers of our electronic information resources have been added to the Database A-Z, eBook Collections and Ejournals A-Z pages and each eBook platform also has its own accessibility FAQ. Leeds Beckett Library colleagues took a lead in the sector in advocating for this and in initiating a collaborative approach to share the work with other institutions. They continue to work on obtaining any outstanding accessibility statements from providers.
We have produced detailed accessibility guidance and online training for colleagues; attend regular sector accessibility updates and follow work across the sector to ensure we keep on top of developments and share good practice.
Our Digital Learning team has recently introduced BlackBoard Ally. This is a new accessibility tool in MyBeckett which students can use to convert files into alternative formats and lecturers can use to check and improve the accessibility of their content. The average accessibility score of content in MyBeckett has increased from around 63% when Ally was launched to around 75% at the end of October 2020. The team has also provided accessibility training for academic staff.
Accessibility support and feedback
To support you in using our systems and websites, the Library’s software page provides information on assistive software, including packages temporarily available for free home use such as Read & Write, MindView and Pro-Study. If you have never used these previously, this is a good opportunity to give them a try and see how they can help. AbilityNet has advice on making your device easier to use if you have a disability, and if you need information on the content of our systems and websites in a different format (for example accessible PDF, large print, easy read, audio recording or braille) please Contact Us.
We’re always looking to improve the accessibility of our systems and websites and we welcome accessibility feedback. If you find any problems or think we’re not meeting accessibility requirements, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.