County of Brant Public Library uses ReachDeck to improve website accessibility and readability


Libraries are all about access: to content, to the online world, and to information and support.

In order to provide equal access to services to all its users, websites must be fully accessible to everyone. Especially those with disabilities, low literacy or English as a second language. County of Brant Public Library recognizes this. ReachDeck supports them as they work hard to improve website accessibility and readability for all.

Outcomes

  • ReachDeck helped improve accessibility as services moved online and branches closed in the midst of a pandemic
  • With the ReachDeck Auditor, they're able to "keep on top of broken links"
  • The ReachDeck Editor helps their team "be more analytical and thoughtful when creating communications....to slow down and craft messages that are more accessible and meaningful"
  • Overall ReachDeck "helps improve the user experience beyond the obvious. It helps more people than you think it will"

The background

County of Brant Public Library is the public library system serving the communities in the County of Brant, Ontario, Canada. It has five branches in total. These can be found in Scotland, St. George, Paris, Burford and Glen Morris, as well as the Onondaga mobile branch.

As a public services organization, they recognize how important it is that they are inclusive of every citizen.

Christine MacArthur, County of Brant Library Manager, Technical Services said:

“We are a public library and one of our key goals is to provide an inclusive environment for our community. Building inclusion is also part of our strategic plan – both in terms of physical space and online.”

“We are committed to serving our whole community, who we know have diverse accessibility needs.”

The challenge

According to Statistics Canada, more than 5.3 million Canadians live with a disability. That’s almost 16% of the population.

It has also been found that almost half of adult Canadians struggle with literacy. 48% have reading and writing skills that fall below a high school level. 17% read at the lowest level, where they may, for example, be unable to read instructions on a medication packet.

Making sure that online content is accessible to users with disabilities and low literacy became even more important this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, services moved online and branches closed. It was essential that the County of Brant Public Library didn’t leave any users behind.

Christine explained: “Online has increased massively – we weren’t open to the public so we had a boom on social, email and virtual chat services.”

“In Ontario we had one of the longest lockdowns of any region in the world. For a long time people such as senior citizens / long term care home residents couldn't receive any books from us through our visiting book service.”

“Parents trying to homeschool to keep their childrens’ development were big users of our services too. Everyone has been impacted. The ability to pivot and find a way to deliver online was crucial – otherwise our libraries couldn’t be used.”

“We were driven to protect our community. These are our neighbours.  We were so passionate that COVID-19 and lockdown didn’t stop us from connecting.“

As a Texthelp customer, County of Brant Public Library was already using the ReachDeck Toolbar. They were keen to hear about how the ReachDeck Auditor and Editor could improve their online presence.

The solution

The ReachDeck Auditor helps website owners find and fix accessibility problems as well as assessing the readability of web pages. The ReachDeck Editor helps all staff improve the quality and accessibility of content. Editor finds grammar, spelling and readability errors as you type. 

Christine  continued: “ReachDeck gives us the tools to make our services more diverse for whoever needs it.”

“We previously had the ReachDeck Toolbar alone. We first subscribed as it offered easy web integration, intuitive UI, and offered functionality beyond screen readers.  For example the screen mask tool is such a simple tool and patrons loved it. The toolbar offers support on our website for a variety of disabilities.”

On why they decided to move to the full ReachDeck suite, MacArthur said:

“It was great to have a tool that all staff could use to improve our website and content. Our marketing people use ReachDeck Editor to create articles and copy that is easier to understand. With it, our team is confident they're creating communications that are accessible to our community. Editor strengthens our message, making it credible, concise, and jargon-free.”

“The long sentence and word reading age aids are strong assets we especially love! These resources allow us to connect with our community as succinctly as possible, while enhancing and supporting our message.”

Christine’s team uses ReachDeck to create content of all kinds. Not just for the website. She explained:

“We use ReachDeck Editor for print communications created for our community, including press releases, program flyers, brochures, and posters. Additionally, digital correspondence, including social media posts, website text, and newsletters, is run through ReachDeck Editor.”

“ReachDeck teaches our team to be more analytical and thoughtful when creating communications. It reminds us to slow down and craft messages that are more accessible and meaningful.”

On who ReachDeck helps them support, MacArthur said:

“People with disabilities, older users, those who are non-native English speakers were obviously the first people we hoped to support. But ReachDeck helps us improve the experience beyond the obvious. It helps more people than you think it will.”

“The tools are useful for so many other groups of people. For example screen masking helps many users to focus better. The simplify tool allows users to choose their own color contrast. This can help people with color blindness, as well as people working in sunlight or glare.”

Christine has also found the broken link checker in ReachDeck Auditor a particular help.

“The broken link checker within the Auditor helps us to keep on top of broken links,” she explained.  

“This is essential because most of our links are referrals out to community services. These change frequently, so the broken link checker helps us to keep them up to date.  These links are a point of reference to find food banks, women shelters and more. Being able to make sure that information is up to date is so important.”

Lasting value

ReachDeck has helped the County of Brant Public Library to improve the online experience of all their service users.

We knew ReachDeck would help our members with print or literacy disabilities to use our services with less barriers. The fact that the tools help us improve communications beyond just our website is a big added value. The depth of support from the Texthelp team throughout implementation and rollout has been wonderful.

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