Addressing the digital accessibility divide

While much of the conversation around the digital divide focuses on access to digital tools and resources, there is another aspect to it that is equally important to address—accessibility.

As part of our commitment to advancing knowledge and learning, we want everyone to be able to access and engage with our products and services. It has become increasingly clear that we have a responsibility to consider how the digitization of content doesn’t create barriers to those who have visual impairments, or who may require physical adaptations to our content.

As highlighted by Dwyer Scullion, Business Analysis Manager at OUP, ‘accessibility is one of the fundamental principles of publishing in a world where the majority of our interactions take place through digital means.’ As we continue to see an ongoing shift towards digital content, it is important that content is available and accessible to everyone who needs to use it. Accessibility issues can close off content to whole groups. And, for those who require certain materials to complete a course or activity within an educational institution, not being able to access materials can have a significant, negative impact on the learning experience, and potentially even result in legal complaints.

In his blog, Dwyer goes on to explain how librarian colleagues at the Open University invited the team to witness some of accessibility issues with our products first-hand. He recounts the moment he realised that the Oxford Academic platform didn’t work properly with screen readers, or allow for keyboard-only navigation. In short, our platform wasn’t good enough.

Drawing on this insight, our teams reviewed our digital platforms to understand what changes needed to be made to deliver an accessible experience, based on three core strands—accessibility, usability, and inclusion.

Since then, significant progress has been made towards improving accessibility on our platforms, so that they can be better accessed through a screen reader and navigated using a keyboard. We have also published our commitment to accessibility, which outlines not only how we comply to relevant accessibility laws, but how we continue to review and enhance our products and services, as well as the progress we have made so far.

There is of course, still more that needs to be done, but by ensuring accessibility is at the forefront of our minds as we develop an increasing number of digital content, we hope to play our part in tackling the digital accessibility divide.