May 17, 2022

Report: “Harvard Library’s User Research Center Improves Accessibility Using Student Feedback”

From The Harvard Gazette:

For Amy Deschenes, Head of UX & Digital Accessibility for Harvard Library and leader of the URC [User Research Center] team, including students with disabilities in their research has been key to the center’s success.

“User-centered design means designing and updating web content to make it as easy to access and understand as possible, based on testing by and feedback from the people who will use it,” Deschenes said. “I take the stance that user-centered design inherently includes accessibility. It is part of it, it’s not a separate thing. If you’re not testing with users who have disabilities, you’re missing a whole segment of the population; it would be like only testing with men.”


Student participation in URC studies has been “through the roof” since the pandemic began, Deschenes said. The URC was able to conduct more interviews over Zoom in a year than all the in-person interviews they’d conducted before 2020, and a larger percentage of these interviews were with students who have disabilities.

Some of these students noted they need new or different accommodations for classes or library services, compared to pre-pandemic, Deschenes said. But for some, a silver lining of the pandemic is that everything became accessible in a way it wasn’t before.

“A student with a mobility and visual impairment told me that remote classes are the most accessible classes he’s ever had at Harvard,” Deschenes said. “He didn’t have to ask for an accommodation for every class, and he felt virtual learning put him on more even footing with others.”

Learn More, Read the Complete Article (about 860 words)

Direct to Harvard Library User Research Center Website

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.