The open access movement, from the Budapest and Berlin declarations onward, has consistently focused on removing economic and legal barriers to scholarly information. While this has increased access to research for many, it implicitly assumes that content need only be online, free, and openly licensed for everyone to have access—an assumption which neglects the barriers that may lurk within content, preventing disabled or impaired users from enjoying the same access to scholarship.
This assumption is as prevalent in library open access services as elsewhere; like many other repository teams, we have focused on recruiting content, not evaluating it. This year, with strategic priorities from the university and library increasingly focused on accessibility, we are challenging that assumption.
However, as we began asking whether our repository content was accessible, we realized that not only did we not know the answer, we didn’t know where to start asking questions! To remedy this, we partnered with accessibility experts on campus, explored best practices for accessibility, and developed a rubric for evaluating repository content. Through a subsequent “accessibility audit” we identified opportunities to change policies and practices, in order to make our open access content more truly accessible.
In this presentation, we will describe this accessibility audit: the resources and expertise which helped us understand what to evaluate, the tools we developed to guide our analysis, what we learned about our repository materials, and the changes we are making in response to what we learned. We will share and discuss our rubric and also suggest some best practices for Digital Commons administrators.
Through this discussion, we hope to spark a conversation about how repository managers can balance the time and opportunity costs of improved accessibility with the benefits of making open access research truly accessible.