The Welcoming Website Part 4: Collaborating Across Campus
by Kate Browne, Technology Trainer at Illinois Wesleyan University
on March 23, 2016
I am happy to end my blog series on web accessibility with a post that focuses on collaboration, a cornerstone of Universal Design and disability activism. Like all other campus initiatives, ensuring that physical and digital spaces remain accessible requires cooperation from everyone on campus. Here are some ideas on how to make web accessibility a priority for your institution:
Accentuate the Positive
When you talk to your colleagues about web accessibility, frame change as an opportunity to connect rather than a punitive response. A little enthusiasm goes a long way! Emphasize accessibility as a practice that invites people to your campus and identify ways in which your campus already accommodates users. Many of the accessibility check strategies that I referenced in earlier posts do not require a substantial commitment of resources and can be used as quick examples to show how web pages can impact a user’s experience of digital campus environments.
Keep It Simple
I wouldn’t start a presentation on web accessibility by going over the differences between Section 508 and WCAG compliance guidelines. If most people on your campus are new to the concept of accessibility, too much information at once can be overwhelming. Empathy is a driving force in making accessibility a priority, so a personal story from your campus or an example from an organization like WebAIM can foster the connection between individuals and their responsibility for accommodation. Distributing information about accessibility gradually can help your audiences adjust to thinking about accessibility.
Cultivate Inclusive Habits
The perspective that accessibility is a process rather than a target not only eases anxiety about implementing major changes, but it helps users develop inclusive habits. In all of my training sessions for new OU Campus™ users, I stress the importance of thinking about accessibility at every stage of page development. Whether a department creates a new page or wants to overhaul content on an existing page, users at my institution ask, “How accessible is it?” Keeping issues of accessibility as core concerns helps foster a climate of inclusion and reinforces the idea that accommodation is for everyone. One idea is to create a checklist of accessibility requirements for content managers.
Connect with Content Managers
Once your content managers understand the importance of their role in creating an accessible space for site users, these people can be your a11y allies. As I mentioned in a previous post, each person’s experience with disability and accommodation varies. Testing and feedback from multiple perspectives provides a much richer picture of what accessibility can be. Engaging content managers with web accessibility can also influence change in other areas of campus life as these individuals begin to broadly consider how accessibility functions in physical and digital spaces.
Thanks for joining me on this web accessibility series! To continue the conversation, connect with me on Twitter at @katebrowneblogs.
See other posts in Kate's blog series:
- The Welcoming Website Part 1: Accessibility and Universal Design
- The Welcoming Website Part 2: Assessing Accessibility
- The Welcoming Website Part 3: Making the Most of Accessibility Check
About the Blogger
Kate Browne is a Technology Trainer at Illinois Wesleyan University. She comes to IT by way of teaching and research in digital humanities as an English Studies PhD candidate—a fact she uses to remind her OU Campus content managers that technology expertise isn’t just for computer science majors anymore.