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Accessibility at Saint Mary's University

For people with and without disabilities; a guide to accessibility at Saint Mary's University, in Nova Scotia, and in Canada.

Library Resources

The following links are useful to people with and without disabilities. They provide a basic orientation to the library, but they also offer tips that will make your research much quicker and help you find the most pertinent material for your papers and projects.

Accessibility Analyses of Available Library Databases

The Saint Mary's Patrick Power Library offers many electronic research resources with varying levels of accessibility. The accessibility analysis documents below provide the accessibility statements for each database (when available), but they also include the results of manual testing performed by library staff. These tests were performed between January and August 2020 using Freedom Scientific's screen reader Job Access with Speech (JAWS), Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome.

The accessibility analyses are intended to provide useful tips and to mention inaccessible features of the platforms and database content. They do not mention features that improve the platforms' or content's accessibility unless the features are particularly notable.

The analyses are grouped by database provider. They are arranged first by the quantity of databases offered, then in alphabetical order. If you cannot find the accessibility analysis you are looking for, it may be because it is listed under the name of its provider, or it may be because the Library acquired the resource after the analyses were completed.

Please let us know if you cannot find the accessibility analysis you are looking for, if you notice that any of the information provided in the accessibility analyses is out of date, or if any of the links to the accessibility statements are broken. Note that information regarding screen reader and web browser compatibility is likely to be out of date before any other information, as Google Chrome is constantly being improved and Internet Explorer is being phased out.

Here are some general notes on accessibility that apply to any database:

  • Since publishers have differing accessibility policies and have published content at a time before accessibility was taken into account, and since databases tend to include resources from multiple publishers, notes regarding accessibility of resources may be inaccurate. In general, level of accessibility of content will be inconsistent. Notes in the accessibility analysis are intended to warn you of potential problems you may experience.
  • If you have trouble viewing features such as tables, images or equations when reading a resource in one format, it is possible that reading the resource in another format will fix your problem.
  • Unless an analysis states otherwise, resources in HTML format read better than any other format. This is because they are least likely to be presented as images (though there are some exceptions), and they are easiest for screen reader users to navigate. However, content in PDF format often provides page numbers where content in HTML format does not. This means it is harder to create in-text citations when working from the resource in HTML format. Page numbers or lack thereof will only be mentioned in a platform's accessibility analysis when this general rule does not apply to the platform in question.
  • Even if mathematical equations viewed in HTML format are created in and inserted by a program that is supposed to be accessible for screen reader users, they read in one long string - it is not possible to read them by character. This might change with later versions of the programs. The two math equation insertion programs are MathML and Math Jax. However, some equations are even less accessible, as mathematical symbols read as unrelated numbers and letters. Equation accessibility differs by publisher and database.
  • Screen reader users cannot satisfactorily read complicated content such as periodic tables.
  • Unless an image is given descriptive alternative text, screen reader users will not be able to discern its contents. Graphs and diagrams are always images, and equations and tables are sometimes images.
  • PDFs are not automatically accessible, and many publishers do not employ techniques to make them so. If they are not accessible, it may be because:
    • they are images which must be or have been turned into text via Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) software for screen reader users. This does not always produce readable content, as it depends heavily upon the quality of the image. Further, images may cause navigational problems for low-vision users, as they must scroll left and right in order to read each line of text.
    • Original documents were turned into PDFs without consideration of accessibility limitations. These PDFs contain text but are harder to navigate for screen reader users, since they may lack properly formatted landmarks such as section headings, tables, lists or links.
  • For best results, screen reader users should download two (2) web browsers that work with their screen reader of choice, because some features work better in one browser than another. If you use Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, note that some areas are collapsed in Google Chrome that are not collapsed in Internet Explorer. Search filters are the most common example of this. If you are using Google Chrome and cannot find a database feature, this may be the cause.
  • For screen reader users, it may be hard to close a PDF resource that was opened from a web page without closing the entire web page (and hence the entire browsing session). This happens when the PDF does not open in a new tab. When this happens, a good workaround is to duplicate your open tab before you open the PDF so that when you close the tab, you do not lose your search.
  • In some of the following accessibility analyses, you will see notes regarding low contrast and very small text. These determinations were made using WebAIM's WAVE Web Evaluation Tool, and the comments typically apply to ever-present features of pages such as headers, footers, filters, search boxes, and page navigation links.
  • The following resources are only available either in print, on campus, or at specific computer terminals on campus, so accessibility analyses were not completed: Bloomberg Professional Service, Capital IQ, Chronicle Herald/Mail Star 1992-98, Chronicle Herald/Mail Star Obituaries 1993, Datastream, Globe & Mail/Financial Times, IMF Data Library - International & Government Financial Statistics, and TSX Online.