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NECC Library Database Accessibility

Accessibility and Universal Design

White icons of different people, such as a man using a cane, a pregnant woman, a baby in a stroller, and a person in a wheelchair, on a blue background, with text reading "Universal Design" on a white banner and "Making design accessible to everyone in society"


Contrary to popular belief, accessibility is not about disability, but ability. Accessible resources make it easy for everyone to enjoy the same services, information, and interactions at the same time, for the same price, and of the same quality. Some examples of people without permanent disabilities who may benefit from accessibility include:

  • people with access to only devices with small screens (mobile phones, smart watches, etc.)
    • Pew estimates that 15% of people aged 18-29 depend on mobile devices for online access 
  • older people with changing abilities due to aging
  • people with temporary disabilities such as a broken arm or lost glasses
  • people with situational limitations such as in bright sunlight or circumstances in which they can only listen to audio or only read captions
  • people using a slow Internet connection or cellular service to access online resources
  • people developing their English language skillls


Universal design (UD) is the process of constructing an environment (physical or virtual) that allows it to be accessed, understood, and used by everyone. Universal design for learning (UDL) applies this process to educational environments, with the goal of minimizing barriers and maximizing learning. UDL entails:

  • Action and Expression -- providing several ways to interact with material and demonstrate learning (e.g. tests that include different question types)
  • Representation -- presenting the same instruction in multiple ways (e.g. captions and transcripts to accompany audiovisual materials)
  • Engagement -- extending a variety of opportunities for connection and interaction (e.g. interactive skill-building exercises)


NECC Libraries are committed to ensuring a universally-designed experience for all users. We are currently working through the following steps, as outlined by the University of Washington's DO-IT initiative, in order to increase the accessibility of our online databases:

  1. Identify the product or environment to which you wish to apply UD/UDL
    • NECC Library databases
  2. Describe the population for which the application is designed and the characteristics of potential members of this population
    • NECC students, faculty, and staff
    • wide range of ages, genders, sizes, ethnicities, races, native languages, learning styles and abilities
  3. Involve the identified population in all phases of development, implementation, and evaluation.
    • Ongoing consultation with NECC library staff, Learning Accommodations, Center for Instructional Technology, IT, Accessible Media Committee, selected faculty and staff members, and representative samples of students
  4. Create or select UD guidelines/standards for the application and integrate them into the best practices in the application's field (e.g. community college library services) 
    • Developing a procedure for identifying inaccessible database resources (VPATs) and working with vendors to improve the accessibility of identified resources
  5. Apply universal design to the overall design and ongoing operations in the application in order to maximize the benefit of the application to the user population. 
    • Planning to implement the VPAT review and vendor contact procedures into daily operations as soon as possible  
  6. Develop processes to address accommodations requests from individuals who may not automatically be able to access the application
    • Designed an accessible Google Form with which library users can report inaccessible database resources to a core accessibility team comprised of library staff at all levels
    • Creating a checklist for the core accessibility team to utilize for resolving/responding to reported database accessibility issues in an efficient manner
  7.  Tailor and deliver ongoing training and support to stakeholders (faculty, IT staff, procurement officers, etc.). 
    • Developed this Database Accessibility LibGuide with information on database accessibility features, identifying inaccessible materials, library contacts, and aforementioned reporting form
    • Potentially including overview of database accessibility features in information literacy sessions
  8. Periodically evaluate the application with a diverse group of user and make modifications based on feedback
    • Intention to survey library users and solicit feedback on library database accessibility measures at least annually following full implementation
    • Expectation that the accessibility team will meet regularly for professional development, support, troubleshooting, etc. 



Burgstahler, S. (2015, January 26). Universal Design: Process, Principles, and Applications. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from

CAST. (n.d.). The UDL Guidelines. Retrieved April 2, 2020, from

Dresselhaus, A. (2013, December 18). Accessible Electronic Resources for All [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from

Henry, S. L. (Ed.). (2019, June 5). [Introduction to Web Accessibility]. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from accessibility-intro/

Universal Design Center at California State University Network. (n.d.). Accessibility (A11y) & Universal Design. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from


Why Is Online Accessibility Important?


  • increases usability for all people
  • attracts students to the college


  • increases the market
    • a large proportion of the US population (around 19%) has at least one disability
  • creates a welcoming environment
  • supports success and retention
  • enhances branding


  • inaccessible resources put the college at risk of litigation 
  • equal access is required under the ADA and Sections 504 and 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act
  • Department of Justice considers the web to be a "place of public accommodation" that everyone should have equal access to


The internet is one of the best things that has ever happened to people with disabilities and has the potential to revolutionize universal access to information, but it can also place obstacles that destroy that potential and leave people with disabilities discouraged and dependent on others. 

Dresselhaus, A. (2013, December 18). Accessible Electronic Resources for All [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from

Universal Design Center at California State University Network. (n.d.). Accessibility (A11y) & Universal Design. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from

Web Accessibility in Mind. (n.d.). [Introduction to Web Accessibility]. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

To cite this LibGuide use the following templates:

APA: Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page. Title of LibGuide. URL

MLA: Northern Essex Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL.