More information about me at http://modernhypatia.info .
Who asks us questions? Data from December 1, 2015 through February 29, 2016. Alumni: 0%. Blindness organizations: 1%. Perkins Staff: 50%. Researcher (academic research): 8%. All others (community, practitioners not from Perkins, etc.) 41%.
Where do the questions come from? Perkins International (http://perkins.org/international) works in 67 countries around the globe, often in collaboration with local agencies. They also bring 15 experienced professionals to Perkins each year for ongoing training, research, observation, and resources. People in this program this year include teachers from Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, China, Croatia, Egypt, Ghana, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Moldova, Nepal, the Philippines, St. Lucia, and Vietnam. Questions about countries where Perkins has a presence are referred to the regional coordinator: I answer questions from all other locations.
What kinds of questions do we get asked? Data from December 1, 2015 through February 29, 2016. Alumni information questions: 4%. Practitioner: 22%. History: 24%. K-12 students or their teachers (mostly National History Day) : 4% Reference (all topics not otherwise covered) : 15% Resources (Do we have an article/book/etc.): 31%.
How do we get our questions? Data from December 1, 2015 through February 29, 2016. Email : 47% (several different initial sources). In person: 32% (mostly resources: do we have?) Phone: 16% (about half start with a voice mail), 5% snail mail. 0% social media.
What’s my initial impression of the contact? What kinds of terms do they use? Treat this as an indication of how to respond, but not a final decision. I have experience – lots of it – reading from cues in text-only environments. It’s good and appropriate to trust that as long as it’s informed, and as long as I use those decisions to provide better service, not worse.
How did they reach me? (If they have emailed the library email address, they may already have seen our webpages.) What does their signature (if any) indicate about their location, level of education, professional affiliation, etc? Do they identify their background in the text?
Trust what people tell you. (Even when they don’t realise what they’re telling you.) Look at common indicators to get an idea of when simpler language, definitions of terms, etc. may be appropriate.
Screenshot of Adobe Acrobat processing tools for accessibility showing the reading order window, the page in progress, and the tools window for order editing. The unedited page has many confusing markings.
Screenshot of reading order, showing how out of order the automatic rendering of the page is. The content jumps from the address of the library to the last edited date of the document, and no sequence lines up with the visual order of the page.
Screenshot of reading order tabs and windows after 5 minutes of editing. The page layout is much easier to understand, and the order listed makes sense with the flow of the work. Each section is numbered in sequence. Some decisions were made about the order in which content should appear.
Screenshot of revised reading order tab. The information flows logically, and the headings are pulled out and easily identified, allowing for quick browsing.
Reference for a Diverse
Jennifer Arnott : March 2016
1. Introduction and context
2. Barriers to access
3. As a reference librarian…
(structures for answering)
4. Accessibility habits
Me, Perkins, why I’m interested in this.
Research Librarian, Perkins School for the Blind
o Independent High School librarian.
o Information Technology Librarian in University of Maine system.
o Interested in technology and accessibility, but no previous content
experience beyond that.
Staff: Me, an archivist, a shared assistant.
o Several other people answering questions on specific websites or
related projects. (National Center for the Deafblind, Scout, elearning
Inside the United States
(Perkins works in 67 countries)
Barriers to Access
Can people get to our information?
Devices : Ownership
In the United States…
75% have a desktop or laptop
68% have a smartphone
45% have a tablet
Devices : Access
(Still in the United States)
67% have broadband at home
13% have a smartphone but no
broadband at home.
Devices : Implication
Large file sizes
Devices : Outside US
Often limits on bandwidth,
content, or content sources.
Search options often limited.
(i.e. deafblind or deaf-blind?)
Preferred terms change over time.
English may be 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.
language for the person asking.
Need to keep answers useful.
Sites not designed for accessibility.
Screen reader complications.
Color / design choices.
Image-based PDFs are inaccessible.
Text-based need attention.
Mobility and dexterity.
Autoplay sound/video (don’t!)
As a reference librarian
Quick evaluation, personas,
structure, long-term attention.
Indication, not final action
Trust my experience, but inform it
Method of contact
Who did they contact?
Trust what they tell me.
Phrasing they use.
(terms in the field vs. common use)
(large font, spelling, structure)
Archetypal user of a system.
Take time to develop, but can help
• MA degree or higher.
• Familiar with complex research.
• Access to multiple devices.
• Access to other libraries.
• If they have access needs, will
usually mention when relevant.
• MA and/or other training.
• Focus on practice, not research.
• Limited time/access to materials.
• Likely wants best sources with
• May be visually impaired.
• Often MA or higher degree.
• English not their first language.
• Research or practice focus.
• Limited access to materials.
• May have limited bandwidth.
• May be using smartphone.
• May be visually impaired.
• Unknown level of education.
• New to field, won’t know vocab.
• Significant emotional piece.
• Likely wants experiences / practical
• May have unspecified access needs
or limited technology skill.
• Some degree of visual impairment (or
they wouldn’t be an alum).
• Unknown level of education.
• May need alternate format assistance
but which format may not be obvious.
Parts of an Answer
I am Jennifer Arnott, the Research Librarian here at
Here is a brief answer.
More details are down here. Please let me know if you
need an alternate format.
Mirror their format.
Names can be complicated.
Did they contact me directly?
If not, let them know me / my role.
Some academic cultures, more formal
than we normally are.
2-3 sentence summary.
Screen reader users do not want to
hear all the details to get to ‘which
message was this’?
Additional details can be longer.
Use meaningful links.
Mention alternate formats if available.
Help people use your awesome content.
Link text that describes the link.
“Click here” = meaningless
URL = hard to decipher/browse
See the Perkins Archive site for..
More clicks to get
to an answer
Avoid single sense labels
(‘below’, ‘items in red are required’, etc.)
Instead: multiple senses
(“See the ‘Get more help’ section in the right sidebar” or
“Required items are indicated in red with a *”)
Images should have it.
(unless they are purely decorative)
Describe the content in context of the
image: why that image?
… is very complicated.
Is text accessible?
(save from Word/etc. not print)
Image scans are not accessible.
About your job…
Do you need to read braille?
No, but I’m learning, because it’s sometimes helpful. I’m
very very slow, though.
Could someone who is VI
do your job?
Probably not, since a lot of it involves working with
materials that aren’t digitized or are hard to read even if
you have good vision.
Denise Paolucci :
Web accessibility for the 21st Century.
presentation (100 slides) : resources
those are # 1s in a11y, not the letter l.)
Perkins Solutions (http://perkinssolutions.org) offers
accessibility assessment and remediation for websites and