Is Your Journal Accessible? Working With Community to Make OJS Open for All

May 21st, 2020 by  | No Comments

In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), PKP’s newly formed Accessibility Interest Group shares an update on what PKP is doing to improve the accessibility of Open Journal Systems – and what authors, editors and publishers need to know to do their part as well.

The PKP Accessibility Interest Group (AIG) held its first meeting on March 17, 2020. The AIG was formed to educate, inform, contribute to, and advocate for accessibility in PKP software. Like most PKP community endeavours, the idea of forming a working group was first conceived at a development sprint. In May 2019, library publishers using Open Journal Systems (OJS) joined forces with PKP staff to establish a plan to make the software more accessible. Creating a working group was just one way to keep the conversation going post-sprint.

The following update is provided by members of PKP’s AIG. Special thanks to all of our community members – sprinters and group members alike – for their continued support and efforts to ensure PKP software is open and accessible for all.


PKP Accessibility Update

OJS 3.X

The release of OJS 3 in 2016 was PKP’s first crucial step towards improved usability and accessibility. The redesign was accompanied with rigorous usability testing to ensure intuitive navigation. It also included PKP’s first efforts towards making the OJS dashboard accessible. As a follow-up to this work, community members at PKP’s SFU Sprint in 2019 produced a roadmap to help guide PKP towards further compliance with web accessibility standards. One of the major recommendations was to conduct an in-depth accessibility audit and analysis of OJS.

Audit Report

In 2019, an external vendor was contracted to evaluate the current state of OJS’s public reader interface for compliance with accessibility standards. The evaluation included a combination of automated tests and manual assessment done by people with distinct technologies (smartphones, tablets) and disabilities (impaired vision, blindness). Following the audit, PKP chose to focus its remediation efforts on OJS’ Default Theme to facilitate future adaptation by other PKP software, e.g., Open Monograph Press (OMP). 

Accessibility issues outlined in the audit report and completed tickets can be viewed in the PKP Accessibility Github Project. Today, PKP’s development team continues to actively work towards resolving issues identified in the report. The project is also open for community members to file issues related to accessibility in user interface and functionality. 

Next Steps

The goal is to make OJS’ Default Theme accessible for the release of OJS 3.3 early next year. Following these fixes, PKP will initiate a second round of audit to catch any remaining issues and make final adjustments. Once the work is complete, a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) will be generated to outline the level of compliance and any concerns that still need to be addressed. PKP also has plans to commission a second audit report to evaluate the accessibility of the OJS dashboard (including both the submission and review workflows). In partnership with the University of Alberta, PKP is also working on incorporating accessibility testing into its existing usability tests. The AIG will support this work by soliciting and directing community contributions.

We Need Your Help

Making PKP software accessible is only half the battle. Editors, authors, and publishers also have a responsibility. To support these stakeholders, the AIG is working with PKP’s Documentation Interest Group (DIG) to publish a guide for authors and editors on creating accessible content. The guide will include general accessibility principles and tips for both website content and published content. Work is currently underway, with the hope to release in Summer 2020.


Stay tuned for more updates and resources from the AIG. And if you’re interested in getting involved – either by joining the group, filing issues, and/or supporting user testing – please contact us.

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