SFU Sprint Report #2: Accessibility

May 31st, 2019 by  | Comments Off on SFU Sprint Report #2: Accessibility

Motivated by upcoming legislation in the Canadian province of Ontario, our second SFU Sprint report comes from our accessibility group. Sprinters set the bar high and completed two very important projects: (1) a roadmap to achieve Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA accessibility of the OJS platform; and (2) a draft module for a PKP School course to help content creators ensure that their scholarly outputs are accessible.


Beginning January 1, 2021, all university websites in Ontario will be required to meet Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards. For the PKP community, this legislation impacts around 200 OJS journals. Much like an elevator in a building, accessibility makes web content more usable for everyone. Screen reader accessibility provides Internet users with options for how they consume content based on their preferences and needs.  Beyond Ontario, screen reader accessibility is becoming a common requirement for web content platforms operated by organizations funded through government agencies.  Led by University of Toronto Librarian Mariya Maistrovskaya, sprinters engaged in important discussion about the accessibility of both the OJS platform and its content. Regardless of where and what is happening in Ontario, all agreed on the importance of making inclusive choices to make OJS journals available to as broad an audience as possible.

Accessibility for OJS 3

With the above in mind, the first of our two accessibility sprint groups set out to determine how to go about ensuring that existing PKP themes available for the OJS/OMP public interface are compliant to the WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards. The final sprint product was a roadmap for PKP outlining how to achieve this desired goal. Recommendations included three main tasks for PKP:

  • Establish an Accessibility Working Group;
  • Conduct an in-depth accessibility audit and analysis of OJS/OMP (both automated and human-based testing); and
  • Redevelop OJS/OMP themes based on recommendations.

You can check out the “Accessibility Roadmap for PKP” draft created at the SFU Sprint online. Community feedback is welcome. Details regarding next steps will be shared on the PKP website as we work through logistics. In the meantime, this important document provides the necessary outline for us to organize and prepare for future work.

PKP School Accessibility Module

The second accessibility group focused on education, notably, how to encourage those that use our software to follow more accessible practices. It was important to distinguish that while we can enhance the platform and how it operates, as an open source project, we cannot control what our community does with or uploads to OJS. That said, we’d like to do as much as possible to ensure our community understands usability better, including how to create accessible scholarly content. This we can do via documentation and education. In particular, sprinters suggested developing a PKP School module.

PKP School modules are free to access online and are completely self-paced. Content contains a mix of video narration, readings, learning exercises, and discussion moderated by PKP staff. Using a PKP School template, our sprinters created a complete first draft of an accessibility module titled “Creating Accessible Content.” The draft is available for community feedback here. While there are no immediate plans to move this content into the School just yet, we hope to continue to work with partners and funders to do so. Again, this is an important first, and rather large, step made possible by the SFU Sprint.

Thank you – and an invitation.

We would like to recognize the many sprinters who contributed to the above accessibility discussions and work: Sonja Betz (University of Alberta), Robert Browder (Virginia Tech), Eloisa Guerrero (PKP), Mariya Maistrovskaya (University of Toronto), Andrea Kosavic (York University), Suzanne Jay (University of British Columbia), Dana McFarland (Vancouver Island University), Kevin Stranack (PKP), and Israel Cefrin (PKP). If you are as inspired or passionate about this work as we are, we’d love to work with you to help keep momentum. Please contact us to learn more and inquire about future opportunities for collaboration.

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