Accessibility: Screen Readers in the Library

Our last blog post about accessibility focused on making sure that your website was easy to access by people that use assistive technologies, such as screen readers, which read aloud what's on a computer screen to users with low or no vision.  I recently attended a fantastic webinar on actual screen reader software itself by Kelsey Flynn of the White Oak Public Library District in Illinois, presented through the LITA webinar series.  Kelsey covered some of the basics of accessibility software, including deep dives into the five most popular screen reader titles.

Some of my key takeaways:

Know Before You Legislate!

Remember the famous viral clip of a Senator on the floor of the Senate holding aloft a snowball as proof that climate change was surely a hoax, or the meme-inspiring "the Internet is not a big truck; it's a series of tubes" quote from a different Senator?  Well, those zany congresspeople were at it again during last month's Congressional hearings with Google:

This clip might be late night comedy fodder, and many people are correctly pointing out that the specific question isn't really answered by whether the device was an Android or an iPhone -- but it proves a greater point that our legislators are often woefully misinformed about the technology that they are quick to regulate.  That wasn't always the case, and it doesn't have to be the case now.

Reaching Your Entire Community Online: Code for America's Digital Outreach Playbook

As someone who has worked on community technology projects for nearly twenty years, it was always conventional wisdom that we had to reach people offline to bring them online.  In other words, we couldn't solely do outreach via the Internet when we were targeting people that were, often by definition, completely offline.  As librarians in an increasingly digital world approaching 2020, it can be frustrating to see low uptake of digital services or low participation rates in online programs, like summer reading. When studies show that Americans of all ages and economic groups go online in increasing numbers, why is the online use rate of our digital services not skyrocketing?

Protecting Patron Privacy: A Data Perspective

Remember earlier this summer when your email inbox and the headers of your favorite websites were chock full of notices about "Updated Privacy Policies?"  You may also remember that this flurry of privacy policy updates was due to a new European Union law going into effect that controlled how companies could collect data about European citizens.  Since many Internet services are global by nature, some Americans also benefit from these new data policies, although American companies serving American citizens obviously don't need to abide by the EU regulations.

Is your library website accessible to all?

As a librarian, you naturally want to ensure that your library is accessible to patrons of all ages and abilities?  We build ramps and elevators for people who use wheelchairs, scooters, and other mobility assistants to make sure they have access to every resource in our library.

Are you taking the same care to make sure that all of your patrons can access the resources on your website?

Building a Chatbot for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Ever been to a "hackathon" -- a gathering of technologists committed to working on a short-term project, usually a couple of days?  Imagine two dozen programmers, designers, and specialists locked in a room for 2 days with laptops, snacks, and caffeine, all focused on prototyping an innovative app for a good cause.  Learning, sharing, and pure geekery ensue!