HathiTrust Marks Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019 by Planning Website Update

May 16, 2019

By Angelina Zaytsev


On Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019, when many developers and designers commit to learning more about accessibility and improving the websites under their control, HathiTrust looks forward to an exciting update that will improve the accessibility of the HathiTrust Digital Library. The Digital Library portion of the website allows users to search, retrieve, and read books and other items within the library. This update to the Digital Library interface will be made in the next couple of weeks (follow @hathitrust on Twitter to receive news).

In the past few months, we have undertaken a comprehensive accessibility evaluation of our Digital Library, which was conducted by University of Michigan student, Luke Kudryashov (read more about our Accessibility Review Process below). As a result of this review, we identified a number of areas where we could improve the HathiTrust website and make it easier for users with disabilities to navigate the website and read books.

The last significant overhaul of the website occurred in 2013. Internet technologies have changed in the last six years, allowing us to do things in 2019 that weren’t possible in 2013. In addition, recommendations have changed, and additional guidance and best practices for creating accessible web content have emerged. This was a lesson to us of the costs of stasis: even if we haven’t changed, the world around us has.

While these changes are intended to most benefit users who navigate the Digital Library using screen reader software and other adaptive technology tools, our sighted patrons will also notice some of the changes that will improve their ability to use the Digital Library.

Changes Coming Soon

We will soon release the following updates that collectively increase the accessibility of the HathiTrust Digital Library:

  1. Replace search tabs with radio buttons
  2. Increase the base font size from 13-16 pixels to 16 pixels throughout the site
  3. Increase the contrast of text and other visual elements
  4. Move some content from the left side of the screen to the right to allow users to get to critical content more quickly
  5. Move “jump to page” feature to the bottom of the book display
  6. Add new scrollbar to navigate between pages in the book display
  7. Modify use and function of pop-ups in the book display
  8. Improve spelling and labelling issues for features detected by screen reader software.
  9. Enhance book display graphics to help users identify when a page is loading vs. blank
  10. Implement more informative download dialog to tell users what percentage of the download is complete.
  11. Improved tab focus throughout the digital library

The following screenshot depicts some of the expected changes. Overall, the style and design of the Digital Library will remain familiar, with some small tweaks in the look of the site.

Screenshot of the updated book display view. Changes include a scrollbar along bottom, a bright yellow login button, moved features, larger font and more whitespace.

For more on HathiTrust’s commitment to increasing access to the HathiTrust Digital Library for patrons with low-vision or other disabilities, visit the Accessibility page on the website.

HathiTrust’s Accessibility Review Process

We reviewed the accessibility of the HathiTrust Digital Library using the following methods. Although many automated tools can check some elements for accessibility, these tools must be used in coordination with manual processes to identify all accessibility problems.

  • Checked the website against the main website accessibility guidelines, notably:
  • Conducted manual keyboard checks to make sure all features are accessible using only a keyboard without a mouse.
  • Tested color contrast with the ColorZilla Chrome extension and the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker.
  • Tested the site’s compatibility with NVDA (in Firefox) and VoiceOver (in Safari) screen readers.
  • Tested various operating system and browser settings to ensure that the site preserved user determined settings (color contrast, overall zoom, text zoom, font type, text spacing).
  • Tested downloadable PDFs with NVDA and VoiceOver.
  • Evaluated the consistency of navigation and layout of analogous pages.
  • Evaluated the accuracy and understandability of error identification and suggestions for correction.

Many resources provide more information about conducting accessibility reviews, and we recommend starting with the W3C’s “Evaluating Web Accessibility Overview” and WebAIM’s many articles.