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Database Accessibility

About this page

This library guide provides information about the accessibility of our databases including assistance for those using screen reader technology, keyboards, and more. We (Dave Ellenwood and Magenta Loera) gathered some information from the Big Ten Academic Alliance's E-Resource Accessibility Testing and library guides at UMASS Boston and Suffolk University Boston. 

Databases are organized first by vendor and then alphabetically. 

Please contact us at the Library's Research Help Desk or by e-mail at dave.ellenwood@seattlecolleges.edu if you have any questions about accessibility issues with these or any other library databases. 

Contents of the page:


Proquest Databases

Web of Knowledge

GALE Databases


National Center for Biotechnology

SciVerse (Elsevier)


All EBSCOhost databases provide a text to speech option for HTML Full Text articles. However, many articles are not available in HTML. When you have located an article, click on HTML Full Text and there will be an option to listen. You can also download these audio files in MP3 format. 

Newer PDFs in EBSCO are ADA compliant. EBSCO Publishing began providing its scanned PDFs with an Optical Character Reader (OCR) text layer in September 2004. 

Instructions for read aloud feature, text to speech: 

  • Choose the HTML Full Text option, the Listen icon appears on the Tools list just under the title of the article 

  • You may select three different accents and reading speeds 

  • To pause the reading, click on the pause button 

The instructions mainly relate to screen readers with some information for keyboard only users.  Resources were tested using Firefox but hopefully they will be useful for other screen readers and browsers. 

Screen Reader and keyboard Instructions for EBSCO Databases: 

  • Access the database, enter your search terms and press Enter to conduct the search.
  • The resulting references are listed so that the Add to folder option appears after the title of the article it relates to. 

Full text is provided in HTML and/or PDF. Use the HTML version when available. If only a PDF is provided and you are using JAWS, use Adobe Reader 7.0 to convert the article, but it will not always read in a linear fashion. 

  • Add the references you are interested in to a folder and opt to list them, then if you use links list in JAWS, the email, print and save to disk options are towards the bottom of the list.
  • To carry out another search choose the Advanced Search link. 

For keyboard users there are problems navigating an individual record using Internet Explorer, making it difficult to return to your results. You are advised to use the links to full text etc provided in the results list or use Firefox instead.

Additional guidance on navigating EBSCO databases: EBSCOhost Text to Speech and Accessibility Navigation Guide- JAWS

Proquest Databases

ProQuest databases contain many PDFs which are ADA compliant. However, older content was created from scanned images of original text that is not accessible to screen readers. This content is identified throughout ProQuest with the label 'Scanned image PDF.' 

Instructions for screen reader users: 

If you are using Internet Explorer and want to specify date ranges in Advanced Search use ALT + DOWN ARROW to open the Date Range combo box and use the up and down arrows to move through the options. Press enter to choose the appropriate date range, which may then open another box for you to enter the date details. If you don't access the combo box this way JAWS is confused when the additional date range boxes are automatically generated as you move through the options and stops reading. This does not happen with Firefox. Choose Full Text, rather than Full Text - PDF, where available. Once you are in Full Text, select level heading 2, to move straight to the full text. 

Additional guidance on navigating Proquest databases: ProQuest Accessibility Help.

Web of Knowledge

Instructions for screen reader users: 

Results are displayed in the order check box, reference number, title (as a link) and further reference details. To check a box, list the links on the page, move to an article title (move to link) and then select shift plus X to move to the check box for that article.  

GALE Databases

Gale Databases provide a Listen function for full-text articles. This can be found on the detailed display screen, which can be accessed by clicking on the title of the article from the search results.  Articles that are not in full-text do not have this option.  

Additional guidance on navigating GALE databases: http://www.cengage.com/accessibility/ 


Instructions for screen reader users: 

Search results appear in the following order: 

  • Check Box 
  • Reference Number 
  • Article Title (which is a link) 
  • Author 
  • Ereference Details 
  • Article Information 
  • Page of First Match 
  • PDF  

To access the full text of articles either choose PDF from the results list or click on the article title and then choose PDF.  If a PDF is not sufficiently tagged, JSTOR can manually tag PDFs. Additional guidance on navigating JSTOR: JSTOR accessibility pages.

Measures have been taken to ensure that you are able to:

  • Resize text, adjust text spacing, and change fonts by adjusting browser settings (for example, this can be done in the appearance settings in Chrome or in Firefox’s preferences).
  • Have sufficient color contrast on all areas of the site. You can change colors by adjusting the browser settings. Typically this can be done in the appearance settings, such as the font and color preferences in Firefox. There are also plug-ins that work with certain browsers, such as Change Colors on Google Chrome.
  • Navigate the website using just a keyboard and access all interactive elements.
  • Skip directly to main content and skip long lists of links.
  • Zoom in at least 200%. Text will reflow so it can be presented without loss of information or functionality.
  • Use the content in your desired orientation. Both landscape and portrait layouts will work responsively with the content.
  • Listen and use the website with a screen reader (ex. NVDA, VoiceOver, JAWS). All functionality within the JSTOR platform is accessible to these technologies.
  • Understand page hierarchy due to proper heading structure and the reading order being set correctly.
  • Utilize text-to-speech tools on the platform and with PDF content. There are many browser plug-in tools (such as Natural Reader for Chrome) that work on JSTOR. Some technology has text-to-speech software built into the device’s accessibility settings.
  • Access alternative text for images that are a part of the interface. Content contributed directly by JSTOR participating institutions and users (referred to as Community Collections) will display any supplied alternative text and descriptions of content.
  • Understand link destinations without surrounding context.

Please note that JSTOR no longer supports Internet Explorer 11. Some users may experience accessibility issues when using this browser. You can find a full list of compatible browsers on the JSTOR Support browser compatibility page.

National Center for Biotechnology

Note for screen reader users: 

Pubmed has recently been amended so that article titles now appear as links to further information, rather than the authors, making the database easier to navigate. 

SciVerse (Elsevier)

Summary (most significant issues for Elsevier) 

Despite a first page that seemed to promise a very accessible experience. This application returned a high number of issues through automated testing. Some of the most significant issues found with this application include: 

  • PDF documents not being tagged, resulting in an inaccessible experience, 
  • Form element values (labels) not being programmatically conveyed to assistive technologies. 

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Dave Ellenwood