Digital scholarship presents a tremendous but far-too-often unrealized opportunity for physically challenged scholars and students.
Primary and secondary materials that are digitized can prove much more accessible than hard copies to print-disabled audiences; however, how these materials are digitized and published makes all the difference. Texts scanned as images, for example, are not accessible to screen-reading software, a crucial tool for blind and low- vision scholars undertaking sustained and high volume reading.
AccessScholar will address the problem of this unrealized opportunity in several ways.
It will publish and disseminate accessibility standards such as those advocated by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and NFB (National Foundation for the Blind) Nonvisual Web Accessibility Certification Project.
It will promote best practices by recognizing and honoring digital databases or publishers of scholarly ebooks whose sites and content are highly accessible to disabled users.
It will promote improved accessibility by serving as a clearing house for requests that digital research databases and publishers of scholarly ebooks make their sites or content accessible for disabled users.
As a crowd-sourcing initiative, it will maintain a database of primary and secondary scholarly materials that (through OCR software, for example) individuals have made more accessible. Further, it will urge the institutions that hold the less accessible versions of those materials to update their databases to incorporate the more accessible versions.
Thus, visitors to AccessScholar will be able to learn about accessibility standards and best practices, find an institutional advocate for requests to make specific scholarly materials more accessible, and use or contribute to a repository of scholarly materials that have been made more accessible.