Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours)

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr. Justin Brown

Abstract

Website accessibility is a very real and pressing issue for public libraries internationally. Tim Berners-Lee credited with founding the Web, states "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." (Henry & McGee, 2010). There is wide-spread support for adherence to the Web Content Advisory Guidelines Version 1.0 and 2.0 (WCAG) throughout Federal, State and Local levels of government in Australia. The Guidelines have also been affirmed by the Australian Human Rights Commission, disability advocacy groups such as Vision Australia, and the Australian Library and Information Association. The Australian Government issued a press release in February 2010 which mandates conformance with WCAG 2.0 by 2015 for all government sites. In order to accommodate this, a new transition strategy has been provided by the Australian Government. While adherence to the Guidelines is clearly mandated, the level of adherence within the public libraries in Western Australia has not been tested until now. Public libraries, by their very nature, should be providing an equality of access to their collections and services. This research assesses the level of adherence to the Web Content Advisory Guidelines (Version 1.0 and 2.0) of public libraries within Western Australia. Through on-line website accessibility evaluation tools, manual checklists, surveys and interviews, this research identifies the level of compliance to these Guidelines as well as the implementation barriers and level of understanding within Western Australia. The assessment of the website accessibility of public libraries in Western Australia operated as a case study methodology incorporating both quantitative and qualitative assessment tools. An analysis of the research methods and findings is provided in this dissertation. The findings of the research demonstrate that at present no public library website in Western Australia with an on-line catalogue link, other than the State Library of Western Australia, conforms to the WCAG Version 1.0 or 2.0 at any level of compliance. Libraries identify a number of barriers to implementation of the guidelines including lack of understanding of the necessity of compliance, lack of understanding of the benefits of compliance, time and cost. The theoretical framework suggested in this research suggests that with increased understanding of the issues and increased support, libraries should be in a better position to work toward website accessibility.

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