[community] Open Access Journals and AODA Compliance

Harnum, Alan aharnum at ocadu.ca
Tue Apr 26 11:55:42 UTC 2016

This question came to me via a colleague of a colleague from my time in the library world. I've received permission from them to share (with identifying details removed) the situation they're facing, as I think it may be of interest to our wider community. This person works in open journal access / institutional repositories for an Ontario academic library.

Their question:

> We're in the process of working with a Canadian journal to provide hosting. One of the places we are not quite on the same page about is around what is required around accessibility for documents provided through the site (assuming site accessibility will be under control).

> The journal is intended to be open access and the crux of the issue is whether legacy works can be immediately available on the web, or if they must sit behind a login if they do not meet the highest possible standards of compliance for PDFs. We are dealing with both older documents that have been scanned from print and OCR'd (lower accessibility) and documents that were born digital mostly word to PDF, that are better. The journal plans on making all future submissions comply with the highest possible standards for documents. The journal's position is that anything that does not meet the same standards as the new documents they create cannot be accessible without a login. The journal does plan on converting over time as best they can, and would be willing to update specific articles at request of users with a notification of this on the site.

> It had not been my understanding that a login to legacy content was necessary component to compliance, and I'm concerned at the implications for our content more generally.

> I see a problem here for a lot of previous open access research if we will need to remove immediate access to it since  many of these items will likely be things like accepted manuscripts, or open access to back journal content like the case we're looking at. The size of the task aside, one of the reasons the Tri-Agency doesn't consider services like ResearchGate as sufficient for OA requirements is the layer of authentication that is often required to access the content. I'm also don't understand what putting in a authentication layer to back content really accomplishes.

My reply:

> I’d say the following is fairly unambiguous: you don’t change your basic liability or requirement to conform with AODA by putting things behind a login screen, and I’m reasonably certain anyone versed in AODA compliance would say the same. You can’t categorically transform some of your otherwise public site into an intranet just because you’ve got a login requirement. Intranets are specifically "an organization’s internal website that is used to privately and securely share any part of the organization’s information or operational systems within the organization” - as soon as you don’t hit all those criteria, you wouldn’t qualify.

> The larger issue of what your obligation is when dealing with legacy PDFs is one I’m less certain about – I’d say at a practical level, you’d want to cover yourselves as follows at minimum(you’ve already mentioned some of this below):
> - acknowledge that some of the older PDF content may not meet accessibility criteria
> - explain the plan to remediate older content
> - provide means for an interested consumer to obtain an alternative version of a legacy document that might be more accessible to them
> I think the situation you describe is part of a larger sphere of problems of content creators removing content from the public web because they don’t believe they have the resources to make it AODA compliant, and wish to avoid liability. As you correctly identify, whether this is a real or perceived issue, it’s rather perilous for OA. Could I bring the issue (I’ll describe it in anonymous terms) to the rest of my research group? I believe we’ve worked in the past with other OA organizations, and there may be further answers from others.

Thoughts? From my time in the library world, there are web & other accessibility issues with many of the systems libraries commonly use, including ones intended for open access journals.


E aharnum at ocadu.ca<mailto://aharnum@ocadu.ca>

100 McCaul Street, Toronto, Canada, M5T 1W1

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