1 Universidad de Alicante (SPAIN)
2 Escuela Politécnica Nacional (ECUADOR)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2024 Proceedings
Publication year: 2024
Pages: 5006-5014
ISBN: 978-84-09-59215-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2024.1294
Conference name: 18th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-6 March, 2024
Location: Valencia, Spain
Universities provide information services to their communities through institutional web portals. They also share their scholarly work through digital repositories, digital libraries and digital journals. However, it is not clear to what extent this is happening in developing countries in South America and Central Africa.

The world's economy is now driven by regional markets that encompass many countries. These regional markets also represent an increase in higher education opportunities for their citizens. Inclusive participation in this scenario is highly dependent on web services provided by universities from the countries that make up the regional market. Fortunately, Internet use is growing every year around the world, and developing countries from the Americas and Africa are embracing the information society.

Universities from South America are very present on the Internet, but Central African universities seem to be lagging behind, and citizens from the regional market of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) may face difficulties in accessing information services from universities in the region. In order to know to what extent this is true, this study conducts a comparative study of two regional markets, Mercosur in South America and ECCAS in Central Africa.

This study focuses on institutional websites, digital repositories and digital journals. As institutional websites are the first point of contact for users, it is also important to assess the accessibility of these websites for everyone, including people with disabilities. Web accessibility for all is an ongoing issue. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), now in version 2.2, which provide guidelines for making websites accessible; however, many websites do not comply and people with disabilities face barriers to accessing the web. One alternative to overcome these barriers is the use of assistive technology, which depends on Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA). Therefore, this study also contributes with indicators of web accessibility and ARIA of universities from Mercosur and ECCAS over the last six years. This will serve as a basis for performance evaluations that can help stakeholders make decisions for a more inclusive higher education in both regions.

The main objective of this research is to evaluate the availability and accessibility of information services in higher education in Mercosur and ECCAS. This objective is subdivided into the following objectives:
- Determine the availability of institutional websites, digital repositories and digital journals from universities in Mercosur and ECCAS.
- Determine the web accessibility performance of the homepages of Mercosur and ECCAS universities over the last six years.
- Measure the level of implementation of ARIA on the websites of Mercosur and ECCAS universities.

The results show that the level of accessibility of the universities analysed, both Mercosur and ECCAS, is unsatisfactory and needs to be improved in order to achieve an inclusive education system.
Disability, information services, university, WCAG, web accessibility.