Case Study 6.1: University of Texas at Arlington—An Open Textbook Audit
In 2018 Michelle Reed, formerly the Open Education Librarian at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), collaborated with Ciara Turner, a student in the university’s Disabilities Studies program, to evaluate the accessibility of twenty UTA open educational resources (OER). They published the results of their work in the book chapter “Experiential Learning and Open Education: Partnering with Students to Evaluate OER Accessibility.”
When breaking down the audit process, Reed made several key decisions that helped structure the project, including:
- Goals: The goal was to provide a structured learning experience for a student while reviewing a typical selection of UTA open texts. Another goal was to create a rubric for evaluating accessibility and, ultimately, statements assessing the accessibility of individual OER.
- Project Scope: Reed and Turner focused on twenty open texts and suggest that random sampling was used to evaluate images, links, and tables within these books. The project focused on the OER themselves rather than platform concerns.
- Evaluation Criteria: Based on the “BCcampus Open Education Accessibility Toolkit” and WCAG guidelines, the project developed eight success criteria. The eight standards dealt with content organization, images, tables, hyperlinks, multimedia, formulas, font, and color contrast. Two late additions to the criteria were interactive elements and accessibility documentation.
- Tools: The project made use of the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool—particularly for HTML content.
- Personnel and Support: Turner joined the audit effort from the Disabilities Studies program.
Although this project resulted in specific accessibility fixes, conversations with faculty authors, and creation of a standardized accessibility rubric, it is worth noting that Reed and Turner also raised larger questions about the assumptions universities make when they support creation of inaccessible educational resources. Whom do educators imagine as their students and what ableist assumptions are implicit in their imagination?
These questions also constitute an important outcome of the audit and are worth pondering prior to engaging in any open access publishing work.