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Access/ibility: Access and Usability for Digital Publishing

In the summer of 2015, 27 scholars and librarians convened at West Virginia University for a summer seminar focused on accessibility in digital publishing. To our knowledge, this is the first time that representatives from such a broad range of fields have collaborated on this issue—and partially as a consequence of the breadth of approaches, we decided to develop as comprehensive an approach to accessibility as we could, given our differing outlooks.

This webtext is a report on the seminar, providing the framework that we developed as a work in progress (and is, in a way, an homage to the many similar projects-in-progress that were reported on in the first few years of the journal—it seems we will always be encountering and engaging new technological and social challenges that arise with advances in digital publishing). More than just a report, however, along with several of the other pieces published in this issue, we are offering an invitation to join our collaborative as we develop a series of policies, statements of best practice, and resources aimed at furthering and supporting the broadest possible approach to accessibility and usability.

Our goal is to map the relationships between global open-access publishing, the accessibility of those publications to diverse users, and sustainability and preservation of digitally published and archived texts, in all their designed formats and media. We are short-handing these concepts through the word "access/ibility," which we take to encompass open access, access and preservation, and accessibility in terms of availability, usability, and disability. The authors of this collection—a cohort of digital rhetoric and disability studies scholars, press directors, and digital publishing librarians—suggest there is a continuing need for consideration of access and accessibility in knowledge production processes. As digital publishing (particularly, but not exclusively, digital scholarly publishing) matures as an industry, all stakeholders of digital publishing should consider these relationships as they research, teach, and publish digital projects and texts.

The main outcomes of the seminar were drafts of statements that provide the rationale for merging accessibility and usability, initial forays into drafting best practices and policies of institutional support, and a consideration of the role of access/ibility in writing and digital publishing pedagogies. We encourage our readers to download and share these initial documents; to use them as starting points for policies that may be crafted for your own institutions and organizations, and to remix and redistribute them far and wide. And in order to facilitate copy and re-use/remix, I've taken a very minimalist approach to the design of this webtext, keeping images, colors, and typographic features sparse.

To provide additional context, I have included our initial reading list for the seminar (amended with additional works during our time together) and a crowdsourced glossary designed to help elucidate the many acronyms and core concepts that we did not already share. The pages and resources that follow were collaboratively developed (and still being developed) by the seminar participants, so we haven't marked individual authorship beyond this introduction.

I will end this introduction with both a call to action and a statement of commitment—over the past twenty years, Kairos has moved steadily toward a stricter enforcement of standards and a move toward access/ibility (as we have defined it here): the call is to our authors, editors, and the teachers of the next generation of digital scholars to work toward creating and preserving accessible digital scholarship; the commitment is from the journal, to continue to pursue access/ibility in our own editorial practices.

-Douglas Eyman, Kairos Senior Editor & Publisher