Hidden Inequities of Access

Document Accessibility in an Aggregated Database


  • Amanda Hovious Emporia State University
  • Congwen Wang Northwest Missouri State University




document accessibility, databases, digital inclusion, libraries, equity of access


Despite ongoing efforts to improve database accessibility, aggregated database vendors concede that they do not have complete control over document accessibility. Instead, they point to the responsibility of journal publishers to deliver articles in an accessible format. This may increase the likelihood that users with disabilities will encounter articles that are not compatible with a screen reader. To better understand the extent of the problem, a document accessibility audit was conducted of randomly selected articles from EBSCO’s Library & Information Source database. Full-text articles from 12 library science journals were evaluated against two measures of screen reader compatibility: HTML format (the optimal format for screen readers) and PDF accessibility conformance. Findings showed inconsistencies in HTML format availability for articles in the selected journals. Additionally, the entire sample of PDF articles failed to meet the minimum standard of PDF Universal Accessibility of containing a tagged structure. However, all PDF articles passed accessibility permissions tests, so could be made accessible retroactively by a third party.

Author Biographies

Amanda Hovious, Emporia State University

Amanda Hovious is an Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University. She is a former reference and instruction librarian and holds a second master’s degree in instructional design and technology. Her research is shaped by the understanding that uncertainty is a ubiquitous property of the information world, which can be better understood through the lens of human interactions in sociotechnical environments.

Congwen Wang, Northwest Missouri State University

Congwen Wang is a research librarian at Northwest Missouri State University. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and dual master’s degrees in library science and informatics from Emporia State University. His main job as a research librarian is electronic resource management. He is interested in student information seeking behavior and library database management.


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How to Cite

Hovious, A., & Wang, C. (2024). Hidden Inequities of Access: Document Accessibility in an Aggregated Database . Information Technology and Libraries, 43(1). https://doi.org/10.5860/ital.v43i1.16661