The publishing industry, and scholarly publishing especially, is going through a rapid digital and social transformation. In the 21st century, the web has changed the way everyone consumes and perceives knowledge and content. While digital transformation has revolutionized the publishing community, it has also posed many potent challenges. One of those challenges is how to make web platforms accessible to all.

According to the World Bank, almost 15% of the world population, which constitutes more than a billion people, has been recognized as having some kind of disability. A Brighton, U.K.–based disability and diversity consultancy observed that 71% of people with disabilities tend to leave a website if they find it too difficult to use. For scholarly publishers that cater mostly to institutions, libraries, and governmental entities, implementing accessible platforms and services is now essential. Noncompliance with the required accessibility norms can cause publishers to be penalized, face legal implications, and receive negative publicity as a result. Web accessibility not only promotes equality but also creates an inclusive environment for all readers.

Accessibility benefits for the publishers

Apart from being a safeguard against legal consequences, good accessibility compliance welcomes more readers, resulting in additional revenue while improving search engine optimization (SEO) rankings. Developing a website based on current accessibility standards affects every aspect of its design. The cost is worthwhile, as it provides search engines with useful information. The metatags and descriptions of images not only add ease of reading for screen readers but are also favored by most search engines, thereby improving the discoverability of the content. Opting for a platform that is compatible with accessibility guidelines can produce measurable outcomes resulting in more citations and usage.

Our accessibility services

At MPS, we provide clients with auditing services that are both site-specific and product-wide. In both instances, our approach is to follow all of the standard guidelines and conduct an in-depth website audit to first enumerate any accessibility issues. Then we act upon that audit to generate a website that is fully compatible with the approved guidelines.

A key feature of our approach is to use both automated and manual testing. Automated testing is perfect for the bulk assessment of a site against accessibility criteria, pulling out all the obvious problems at scale. But this is not enough. Manual testing, ideally by a native user of screen readers, will pull out more nuanced issues that can be fixed or fine-tuned to deliver the best possible experience for the broadest range of users.

All our websites undergo accessibility testing against WCAG 2.1 AA as part of our standard site launch process. For sites that are instances of our hosting platform products, JCore and Scolaris, we deliver a standard Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) that explains how the platform meets each of the criteria of WCAG 2.1 AA. This standard product service is sufficient for most publishers, but we also offer a site-specific audit service that allows publishers to take things to the next level.

Our site-specific accessibility audit service is a four-step process that includes: running accessibility tests against a specific instance(s) of a platform product; reviewing the results of those tests and agreeing on which issues should be addressed; carrying out the development work needed to address the agreed-upon issues; and delivering a site-specific VPAT document.

Via this process, publishers can be sure that their specific instance of a web platform product is meeting the needs of the broadest range of users. Web accessibility allows content to be more widely read especially by readers who require assistance, and this enhances the research value chain by enabling researchers who rely on this kind of assistive technology.

In terms of accessibility, MPS has been instrumental in improving content readability and discoverability for many publishers globally. We are currently supporting publishers in complying with the WCAG 2.1 Level AA, Section 508 guidelines and ADA requirements. At MPS, we make sure that our platforms, products, and services meet globally accepted accessibility standards. Through our accessibility services and compliance consultancy, MPS is a one-stop solution for all website accessibility.

Oliver Rickard, product director at HighWire Press

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