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Summary: Technology has the potential to be life-changing, especially for people with disabilities. As the designers, creators and implementers of technology, we can positively or negatively impact the ability of individuals to access and use what we create.
Imagine: What happens without an accessible web?
Imagine you're a Deaf student and you're exploring majors on college websites. You encounter a lot of uncaptioned video content. Do you request captions on all the videos and wait for it to be done and then come back to it when it’s ready? Or do you move on and possibly miss your calling?
Or, imagine you're a student who relies on speech recognition software to navigate the web. You’re trying to do your part of a group project that’s worth much of your semester grade and you continue to find barriers to the information you need because the code for the websites you visit makes the information inaccessible to you.
What do you tell your group members? How often is this a message you need to deliver? How do you feel delivering that message?
Adaptive technologies can help
Adaptive technologies exist to aid individuals with disabilities in accessing online and other digital information. However, adaptive technology tools can only be effective where web accessibility principles and practices have been embraced and implemented.
Unfortunately, people with disabilities still frequently report experiencing website access issues.
Digital accessibility benefits everyone
Accessible information is faster and easier to update and maintain as requests for accessible alternatives are minimized. Additionally:
- Captioning provides access in very loud or very quiet environments, or where other factors make speech difficult or impossible to understand.
- Accessible documents and transcripts can be searched by individuals and automated systems such as search engines.
- Flexible designs that degrade gracefully ensure access by a variety of devices for individuals with diverse abilities and learning styles.
- Diversity that includes the experiences of people with disabilities creates a more vibrant, rigorous university community and enriches research and scholarship.
What you can do
You can influence the adoption and implementation of digital accessibility from whatever role you have at the U of M.
- Community awareness. Build a community of people who practice accessibility in their work. Ask questions about accessibility in your work teams. Learn about accessibility principles. Organize trainings for your colleagues.
- Influence up toward institutional commitment. Ask how accessibility aligns with your unit’s strategic goals and guiding principles. Ask your supervisor about making accessibility part of your everyday work.
Ask your managers how you can help them make accessibility a priority. Make it easy for them to say yes. Join the Web & Tech Accessibility Community of Practice to learn from others on campus who are practicing this work.
- Acceptance and adoption. Start small! Practice what you learn. Help others appreciate the value and importance of digital accessibility.
- Workflows. Make accessibility part of your workflow. For example, when you make a video, write a script and use it as your transcript to create captions.
- Access to resources and experts. Actively seek out the knowledge and expertise you need to get started. Many tools, tutorials, guides, and people are available to help you.
- Laws and policies. Know what's expected of your institution and of your contributions to a more Accessible U.