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Accessibility of digital systems in information retrieval by users with visual impairment

Fridah Gatwiri Kiambati (Human Development Theme, African Population and Health Research Center, Nairobi, Kenya)
Samuel Wanyonyi Juma (Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Brenda Aromu Wawire (Human Development Theme, African Population and Health Research Center, Nairobi, Kenya)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 21 May 2024

57

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to evaluate the accessibility of digital information systems as a key usability attribute in information retrieval by users with visual impairment (VI), to inform development of accessible information systems.

Design/methodology/approach

This study used a cross-sectional survey design based on the quantitative research paradigm. Data was collected from 117 students with visual impairments from selected public universities in Kenya, using a semi-structured questionnaire adapted from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Findings

This study revealed that gender did not influence screen reader compatibility, alternative format preferences, perceptions of accessible content or digital library navigability. Instead, type of visual impairment, prior assistive technology (AT) training and digital library use frequency significantly impacted these attributes. Blind students reported positive experiences, favouring alternative formats, and expressed positive views on accessible content while those with low vision faced more challenges. Prior training in assistive technology and frequent digital library use resulted in higher screen reader compatibility and better navigability. Increased digital library use was linked to access to alternative content for those with prior assistive technology training.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes to the existing literature on accessibility of digital information systems for users with visual impairments. Further research is needed to explore other factors that may influence the accessibility of digital systems, such as the design of user interfaces as well as an evaluation of accessibility of digital systems for other categories of disabilities such as hearing impairment, physical impairment, autism and intellectual disability, among others.

Practical implications

The findings of this study have practical implications for the design and development of digital systems such as digital libraries. Developers can leverage findings of this study to enhance compatibility of digital platforms with screen readers and provide alternative formats and accessible content. User-centred design principles can be used to create interfaces that are easy to navigate and friendly to users with visual impairments. Training programmes on assistive technology should be provided to users to enhance their skills and confidence in using digital systems.

Originality/value

This study contributes towards design and creation of navigable systems that are compatible with screen readers. The study also points out the importance of creating more inclusive and usable digital environments for persons with visual impairments.

Keywords

Citation

Kiambati, F.G., Juma, S.W. and Wawire, B.A. (2024), "Accessibility of digital systems in information retrieval by users with visual impairment", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAE-11-2023-0190

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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