Lauren Ray, Open Education and Psychology Librarian at the University of Washington (UW), described her experience working with developers at Pressbooks to improve the platform’s accessibility.
UW Libraries invested in Pressbooks in 2019 and Ray began to offer training sessions for faculty members interested in using the platform. At the same time, Ray began working with the UW Access Technology Center (ATC) to test typical workflows on the back end of the Pressbooks platform. ATC students used assistive technologies to follow the workflows Ray wanted to present to faculty and identified accessibility challenges. Ray then worked with the ATC to prioritize particular challenges and report them to the Pressbooks GitHub.
In time, Ray and ATC staff began meeting with Pressbooks support to discuss issues. Ray noted that her role was often facilitator while the ATC drew on its prior experience advocating for accessibility to present detailed requests. Hadi Rangin, IT Accessibility Specialist with the ATC, provided an invaluable perspective as a blind person who could demonstrate assistive technology and point out specific concerns. Ultimately, Pressbooks responded to these conversations by resolving most of the issues brought forward.
Reflecting on this experience, Ray made suggestions to other librarians working on accessibility issues with vendors:
- Seek support from accessibility experts on campus;
- Include lived experience of the disability community in conversations with vendors;
- Even if a company initially responds well to accessibility requests, continue to hold them accountable;
- Remember to consider accessibility on both the front end and back end of platforms;
- Don’t be afraid to speak up if something isn’t working.
For more on the UW Libraries’ engagement with accessibility, see their webpage—“Accessibility Progress at the Libraries.”