What is digital accessibility?
Digital accessibility is the practice of designing and developing websites, software and other media so they are usable by everyone, regardless of ability.
Examples of accessible technology include:
- the zoom function on an iPhone or iPad that allows a person with low vision to increase the size of text;
- a speech-to-text program like Dragon that allows a paralyzed person to write papers and navigate on a computer using voice commands instead of using a mouse or keyboard;
- a screen reader program like JAWS that reads online content and ebooks aloud to a blind person;
- captioning that allows a Deaf or hard of hearing person to experience a video on the web.
Why is it important?
As daily life shifts to be more and more online, the accessibility of our digital campus becomes more critical. For many people with disabilities, assistive technology is the only means they have to access the changing landscape of education. This is also true of employees, who rely on digital accessibility in order to perform their work.
Digital resources that aren’t accessible exclude people with disabilities from interacting with our digital campus. This is no different than constructing a new building on campus that does not have a wheelchair accessible entrance.
The business case for digital accessibility
- Increasing inclusion. Accessibility ensures equal opportunity to all students, faculty, staff and members of the public with disabilities. By ensuring digital accessibility we ensure that as broad a population as possible can access, benefit from and contribute to our university.
- Increasing digital campus usability. Good design is at the core of digital accessibility. Increased attention to accessibility benefits all users.
- Mitigating potential risk. An increasing number of schools have been sued or investigated by the DOJ in the last few years, including Harvard, MIT, Penn State, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. These lawsuits will likely be the next big wave of enforcement to hit higher education.