JSTOR

Summary

***Below is a summary of UARC's accessibility evaluation. For the full report, click the pdf link in the menu on the right.*** 

MSU Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting (MSU UARC) conducted a high-level accessibility evaluation of JSTOR to evaluate its conformance with WCAG 2.0 AA Criteria. This evaluation did not include all functionality or content of the site or all WCAG 2.0 AA Criteria.

During this evaluation, a number of issues were found that will make the site and its content difficult or impossible to use for some individuals with disabilities.

Critically, PDF documents cannot be effectively used by screen reader users. PDF files are untagged, and contain no text that can be used by assistive technologies when displayed in Adobe Acrobat/Reader, and while the PDF readers in Firefox and Chrome do allow users to access the document text, it is unstructured (e.g., headings are not used to organize content). Additionally, alternative text is not provided for any images in PDFs. As a result, individuals with visual impairments and other disabilities cannot effectively use PDF documents provided by the system.

Keyboard users, including screen reader users, will have difficulties when attempting to use the JSTOR website. Many interactive elements lack a sufficiently visible focus indicator, making it difficult or impossible for many keyboard-only users to effectively use them, as they cannot determine when they have reached the correct element. In addition, noninteractive content receives focus, focus order is inappropriate in places, and focus is unexpectedly reset at times. This makes the site difficult to use for users with severe dexterity impairments and users who rely on screen readers (including users with severe visual impairments).

Individuals with visual impairments that rely on screen readers will have additional problems. Some content is not read out by screen readers and some content cannot be accessed via keyboard when a screen reader is in use, rending the content and functionality unavailable to users with severe visual impairments. Many form inputs are not appropriately labeled or do not have programmatically associated instructions, and error messages are not appropriately communicated to assistive technologies, making the inputs difficult or impossible to use for those that rely on screen readers. Dynamic and interactive elements do not correctly announce themselves or provide feedback to screen readers, making them difficult to understand and use. Images throughout the site have incorrect or inappropriate alternative text and images of text are used in place of styled text, further impacting users with visual impairments. Screen reader users will also be frustrated by non-interactive content being identified as "clickable" (and by having "clickable" read out multiple times for a single object), making it difficult to determine what content they can interact with. Some structural information, including headings, is also not appropriately conveyed to screen reader users, making it difficult to understand content organization and to navigate within pages. Finally, some site content interferes with the use of screen readers by blocking access to critical screen reader keyboard controls.

A number of other issues were found that will make it difficult for users with a variety of disabilities from effectively using the system, including insufficient color contrast and color being relied on to convey some information.

To improve access for users with disabilities, UARC recommends a full WCAG 2.0 AA evaluation of JSTOR and that the problems discovered be remediated.