Accessibility of the OU’s repository Open Research Online and its content

Regulations on the accessibility of new public sector websites have been in place for a while and it has been a requirement that from Monday 23 September 2019, public sector websites launched on or after 23 September 2018 must meet accessibility standards. This includes publishing accessibility statements, explaining how accessible their websites are. For existing websites the deadline is the 23 September 2020.

Around a third of disabled people in the UK experience difficulties in accessing public, commercial and leisure goods and services. The aim of the legislation is to help make sure online public services are accessible to all users, including people with disabilities[1].

At the Open University we have been working on a refresh of our institutional repository. As part of this we have being carrying out work to ensure it is accessible.

To make ORO more accessible we have:

  • removed tables where these were only used for layout, thereby also making the site more responsive to different device sizes.
  • ensured that images have appropriate alternative text and that form fields (e.g. search) have attached labels.
  • added jump points within large browse views (e.g. author browse view) to make them quicker and easier to navigate by keyboard / screen reader.

Alongside the refresh we have undertaken an assessment of the content on the repository to determine how accessible it is. As a result of this assessment we have launched an ‘accessibility on demand’ pilot. If someone accessing the full-text content on ORO finds it inaccessible there is a form linked to from the accessibility statement. In the form we ask for details of what the accessibility issue is and then on receiving it we will endeavour to make an accessible copy within 20 working days. Having this targeted approach seems more effective as then we can concentrate on resolving the accessibility issues that the requester has identified.

The newly refreshed website was launched in the summer and contains an accessibility statement which gives information about accessibility of the repository and its content. It also has a number of areas that we have not been able to resolve and are still working on e.g. download history charts can’t be read by screen reader, so we are working on making tables of download data available.

As part of this work we have identified some areas to explore in the future. These include working with publishers and authors so more accessible authors accepted manuscripts are created. Providing advice and guidance to academics on creating accessible content. Working with our Graduate School to put processes and guidance in place so our research students create accessible versions of their thesis.

[1] Regulations on the accessibility of new public sector websites come into force


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