Accessibility and Inclusion in Digital Scholarly Editing

Digital Scholarly Editions (DSEs) have been standardized as a new form of publication alternative or complementary to the traditional printed book. However, it is striking how, behind the shared label of DSEs, a huge variety of products is included that can be very different from each other as for quality, design, and purposes (Pierazzo & Mancinelli 2020, Vanhoutte 2013). After more than 30 years of practice, experimentation and consolidated tradition, the world of digital scholarly editing requires practitioners to rethink the way in which editions are created to make them become more accessible and inclusive. While ‘access’ is a highly cited term in DSEs (and in the humanities in general, cf. Greco 2018), its use generally refers to making data and source materials available to users in general rather to making them more accessible to a wide and diverse range of users.

Now, how does the world of digital scholarly editing look like right now? Is written cultural heritage made accessible in an inclusive way? This line of research (cf., (Cappellotto & Cioffi, 2024)) will propose a close examination and screening of current available editions, to detect best practices and problematic aspects to be improved (cfr. Martinez et al. 2019). To do that, a package of evaluation tools will be selected among the ones provided by the Web Accessibility Initiative. We will focus our attention on the principles provided by the WAI – according to which data should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust – as well as on the WCAG for the accessibility of the content. Beside automatic analysis on accessibility, a qualitative analysis on usability will be performed manually by dedicated focus groups and dedicated surveys. The results of our mixed analysis will be progressively combined to elaborate a first set of basic requirements for accessible and inclusive DSEs (see also Henzel 2022 and Gilbert 2019). By developing a new mentality of accessible DSEs, the scientific community could focus more and more on creating inclusive resources, which will benefit a more diverse audience. Furthermore, this new approach could impact the larger field of the Digital Humanities, especially those projects concerned with the web preservation and dissemination of cultural heritage, which could profit from our work to carry out similar studies and introduce best practices and proposals for improvement in their own fields.


  1. Anna Cappellotto, Raffaele Cioffi
    Journal of the Digital Humanities Association of Southern Africa, Feb 2024