Nathan Tallman, Digital Preservation Librarian at Penn State University Libraries, described efforts at his institution to advocate for the improved accessibility of CONTENTdm. After OCLC announced the release of CONTENTdm’s new responsive interface, Penn State opted to migrate to a hosted version of the platform. The goal was to resolve performance issues as well as accessibility concerns that OCLC had promised to resolve in the latest release. However, in testing with Penn State’s IT Accessibility Group, the university learned that significant accessibility issues persisted. Specifically, the platform presented navigation problems and even failed to provide an alt text field for images.
Acting as Product Owner, Tallman reached out to OCLC with “forcefully worded emails” to express the university’s concerns about the new product. OCLC responded and moved to address some of the university’s complaints. Tallman described this process in a collaborative presentation with OCLC: “Works in Progress Webinar: Accessibility and Digital Collections.”
Penn State’s interactions with OCLC did not clear up all accessibility issues with CONTENTdm. For instance, as of April 2021, there is still no support for visually descriptive alt text. With that said, Tallman made the following recommendations for working with vendors:
- Test all marketing claims made about products;
- Don’t be afraid to give feedback to development teams;
- Use implementation phases as opportunity to get further attention on accessibility issues;
- Don’t just use support tickets to communicate with a company—use direct emails;
- Use the library’s market power to reward companies with accessible products.