• On 18/10/2019
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Back to Accessibility

While I’ve never really left accessibility, I hadn’t been able to focus on it as much as I wanted. I was delighted when Nupoor Ranade contacted me and suggested that maybe we should do a special issue on accessibility. it’s no secret that I do a few things, but Nupoor hit me at the right moment when I felt like I needed–yes, needed–to return to doing this work.

If you’ve done some work on accessibility from an empirical view, please consider submitting. If you’re a practitioner that may not have done a lot of writing for peer-reviewed publications, go ahead and submit. We’ll help you through.

Abstract submission deadline March 1, 2020

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication
September 2021 Issue

Guest editors: Lisa Melonçon (University of South Florida) and Nupoor Ranade (North Carolina State University)

Accessibility is the quality that ensures that all people can use information or technology regardless of disability. The publication of Melonçon’s [1] collection in 2013 brought accessibility issues to the forefront of technical and professional communication. The years since have seen only limited engagement with accessibility and its application as a key part of design and communication decisions. Recent academic research has focused on pedagogical approaches [2] and issues of design, most of it theoretical [3], leaving much room for applied approaches. Moreover, research and initiatives in the workplace are also lagging. For example, although large organizations like IBM, Microsoft and SAS conduct significant research in this area, the results have not been widely adopted beyond their own corporate borders, as evidenced by the many access problems revealed in a recent analysis of top web pages [4].

Despite laws in the US and abroad and an increased awareness of diversity issues, practitioners and academics alike still struggle to include access in their workflows and make information accessible for users with disabilities or limitations [5]. This struggle has resulted in an overreliance on checklists (see, e.g., [6]). For example, when practitioners want to implement accessibility, they often turn to a checklist or other VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) guidelines out of necessity or lack of time or resources, without truly considering the full communicative effects and limitations of those checklists. This abstract framing of accessibility limits the analysis of communication practices because it fails to consider the broader issues of social construction and marginalization of knowledge. Even though scholars have pushed back against checklists [7] because they fail to take an instrumental approach, more research is needed to examine and understand how to make information, systems, design, and products more accessible.

Therefore, accessibility remains a crucial subject of investigation for academic researchers and an elusive goal in the workplace. We see the need to create contexts that will encourage technical and professional communicators to look critically at the role that accessibility plays in the process and practice of design, communication, and everyday experience. This special issue aims to encourage practitioners and scholars to develop and to share empirical research that can assist in practical ways to advance accessibility design, implementation, and testing, and to emphasize accessibility’s role in conceptualizing and building inclusive and equitable products, services, and information.

The guest editors invite proposals that engage with following or similar questions:

  • How have organizations addressed access? Empirical work and case studies can be used to describe techniques and strategies for implementation, legal implications, ethical challenges, and noteworthy successes or failures in achieving accessibility.
  • What do scholars and practitioners see as opportunities to expand the definitions or approaches to accessibility beyond the checklist? Through integrative literature reviews or case studies, how might we rethink our current definitions of accessibility and its relationship to practice?
  • How can we reconsider our base definitions of accessibility and universal design in new ways that are more relevant today, and how will they help improve our implementation strategies?
  • How might we expand concepts of user experience through accessibility? And what are the costs and benefits of doing so?
  • How are professional communicators engaging in accessibility testing to increase the tests’ effectiveness?
  • What practices can we borrow from related fields like computer science, cognitive psychology, data science, and disability studies to illuminate approaches for incorporating accessibility practices in technical and professional communication work?
  • In what ways can professional communicators expand critical methodologies for accessible user experience? What do these look like in practice?
  • What is the role of access and accessibility in intercultural communication projects? How can we expand our understanding of these practices through access?
  • What do we see as areas to improve training and awareness surrounding the issues of accessibility?
  • How can we contribute to conversations on pedagogical interventions for accessibility studies or on ways to tackle cultural and technological challenges while incorporating accessibility studies in the curriculum?

IEEE ProComm welcomes empirical research articles, integrative literature reviews, case studies, teaching cases, and tutorials that address any of these questions or your own questions that are related to issues of accessibility and the role that it plays and should play in professional communication. A review of current best resources for support in accessibility design would be of particular interest to our readership. (Consult https://procomm.ieee.org/transactions-of-professional-communication/for-prospective-authors/guidelines-to-follow/ for explanations of these article types and links to guidelines and review rubrics.)

Important Dates

Abstract submission deadline March 1, 2020

Notification of authors April 1, 2020

Submission of complete drafts September 15, 2020

Reviews returned to authors December 1, 2021

Revised drafts submitted for second review February 1, 2021

Final and complete articles submitted May 1, 2021

Editing of articles completed by guest editor(s) June 1, 2021

Special issue published September 1, 2021


Questions and Submissions

The guest editors encourage questions or queries:

Send submissions to both editors at the addresses listed above.


[1]        L. Meloncon, Rhetorical Accessibility: At the Intersection of Technical Communication and Disability Studies. Amityville, NY: Baywood, 2013.

[2]        S. K. Oswal, “Guest editor’s introduction: Can workplaces, classrooms, and pedagogies be disabling?,” Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, vol. 81, no. 1, pp. 3–19, 2018.

[3]        S. Zdenek, “Guest editor’s introduction: reimagining disability and accessibility in technical and professional communication,” Communication Design Quarterly Review, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 4–11, 2019.

[4]        WebAim, “The WebAIM Million: An accessibility analysis of the top 1,000,000 home pages,” 2019 [Online]. Available:https://webaim.org/projects/million/

[5]        B. Gregory, “Designing for Cognitive Differences”, 2018 [Online]. Available: https://alistapart.com/article/designing-for-cognitive-differences/

[6]        IBM checklist for accessibility. [Online]. https://www.ibm.com/able/guidelines/ci162/accessibility_checklist.html.

[7]        S. K. Oswal, L. Meloncon, “Saying no to the checklist: Shifting from an ideology of normalcy to an ideology of inclusion in online writing instruction.” Writing Program Administration, vol 40, no. 3, pp. 61-77, 2017.

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