Sean McCue, User Interface Designer, UMKC University Libraries
Dani Wellemeyer, Head of Outreach and Engagement, UMKC University Libraries
Access to information is one of the core values of librarianship. UMKC University Libraries have been in the process of updating our website–including the associated pages for each library location, plus pages for library resources, special collections and archival collections, and online exhibits–for a few years now. Accessibility for all users is a focus of the project, and the platforms and tools chosen reflect the Libraries’ commitment to online accessibility.
First, the library website is moving away from Drupal to a .NET framework. Sean McCue, User Interface Designer for UMKC University Libraries, further explains the platform switch. “The (new) library websites are being built with Bootstrap, which is a common front-end framework for web development. This framework has quite a bit of baked-in accessibility (proper use of aria tags, assigning role attributes to identify different elements on a page, etc.). We’re also careful to always assign alt tags to any images used on our pages. All of the tags, roles, and attributes that we utilize are to the benefit of screen readers and adaptive technology folks may potentially be using when on our site.”
More library resources than ever are accessible online, and users rely on the library’s website for anytime, anywhere access to collections and information. That means our website is necessarily quite expansive; however, we’re mindful that there are accessibility issues present with a website of that size. A huge part of the website redesign has been to wrangle in the literally hundreds and hundreds of pages with oodles of duplicative, out of date, or incorrect content. This is an effort to improve not only the overall management of the website, but also to resolve accessibility issues. Condensing information to be scannable, non-repetitive, and readable (e.g. by removing librarian jargon), and putting content in hierarchical and rational locations on the website is a big part of the upgrade.
Visual aspects of the website redesign also hit on some major accessibility factors: lots of clean, white background space with black text to ensure high legibility, clear, web-safe typefaces, and responsive design. In the few instances where we use background images, we maintain a high contrast between the background and overlaid text.
Finally, in order to complete a holistic approach to online accessibility, we have dedicated content on the library website that is specific to the physical accessibility of the library spaces. These pages pertain to each of our physical locations, so there are accessibility information pages for Miller Nichols Library and the Health Sciences Library. Check them out for extensive descriptions of research and material accessibility in the Libraries and online, and adaptive technology available at each location.