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Why Accessibility?

Here are the five main reasons why accessibility should be a major part of your website planning process, whether you are developing a new website or revamping an old one:

  1. Accessibility Gives Access to All
    I believe that as archivists, we have an ethical duty to make the history we save accessible to EVERYONE. There will be many viewers with some sort of disability that come to your website. Their user experience should be similar to those viewers who don't have a disability, it is just that simple.

  2. Accessibility Increases Visibility and Usability
    When a website is made more accessible, it not only becomes more usable for people of all abilities, it also gets better search engine coverage. The viewers and the archives win in this situation.

  3. Accessibility Meets Potential Legislative Mandates
    Many countries have accessibility acts, and archival websites may be covered under them. For example, the United States has the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This Act makes it legally mandatory to provide accessible physical spaces, and soon the ADA will officially include websites as well. Be ready for that pending legislation!

  4. Accessibility Avoids Potential Legal Actions
    While I have not found any publicly documented lawsuits or complaints relating to archival web site accessibility in the U.S. or Canada, that does not mean that they don’t exist. Many of them are never made public, as they are settled out of court. There is one recent lawsuit in the United States, which should be noted. This lawsuit was brought by the National Federation of the Blind against Penn State University for violations under Title II of the ADA. Part of the suit relates to the inaccessibility of the Penn State Library online catalogue for blind students and faculty. Make your site accessible so that your archives doesn't get sued!

  5. Accessibility Means Better Archived Websites
    If a website is accessible, then it will be a better site to archive. Many archives are now archiving websites with programs such as the Heritrix web crawler. These archives are seeing what we as web developers already knew, the better your site is constructed (in terms of good code and accessibility/usability), the better it is read by a crawler and then archived. The reason is that archival web crawlers like Heritrix access websites like a text browser or a search engine spider. Thus, archivists need to make their websites better and then they need to educate the public on this issue, so that all websites can be properly archived for future generations. The Smithsonian and Library of Congress have both put out very important articles on this issue.