BACKGROUND: After defining accessibility and usability, the author offers a broad survey of the research studies on digital content databases which have thus far primarily depended on data drawn from studies conducted by sighted researchers with non-disabled users employing screen readers and low vision devices. OBJECTIVE: This article aims at producing a detailed description of the difficulties confronted by blind screen reader users with online library databases which now hold most of the academic, peer-reviewed journal and periodical content essential for research and teaching in higher education. METHODS: The approach taken here is borrowed from descriptive ethnography which allows the author to create a complete picture of the accessibility and usability problems faced by an experienced academic user of digital library databases and screen readers. RESULTS: The author provides a detailed analysis of the different aspects of accessibility issues in digital databases under several headers with a special focus on full-text PDF files. CONCLUSIONS: The author emphasizes that long-term studies with actual, blind screen reader users employing both qualitative and computerized research tools can yield meaningful data for the designers and developers to improve these databases to a level that they begin to provide an equal access to the blind.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/sushil_oswal/16/