Creating Materials with Accessibility in Mind
Universal Accessibility is directly related to the Jesuit value of care for the whole person. Understanding the differences that create our learning community is key in meeting the needs of all our students, faculty, staff and surrounding community members.
As content is created for our community, think about all of the different audiences that encounter these materials, parents, community neighbors, students, employees. Understanding the importance of Universal Accessibility is an important component, as the goal is to think through alternative delivery methods of materials as well as the basic creation and organization of the materials. If we create of foundation of accessibility, everything built on top of that, from the application process, to course materials, to graduation preparation can be made accessible in a more efficient way.
Why make my content accessible?
The University is currently finalizing accessibility guidelines to aid our community in meeting the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, summarized in the Section 508 compliance checklist by WebAim and to conform to W3C Web Accessibility Standards, summarized in the WCAG 2.0 checklist by WebAim.
What do I need to make accessible?
The leadership in our facilities department consider physical accessibility in all planning projects. The goal of the Information Technology Accessibility Committee and the Universal Accessibility initiative is to make all Loyola-based electronic media accessible; to provide the necessary assistive technological equipment and services to students and employees with disabilities so they may access electronic information; and to arrange training for the University community on the importance of electronic accessibility and how to make online items accessible.
The Office of Disability Support Services works closely with our students and with leadership to assist students with one-on-one needs. The Technology Services department ensures that all new systems that are procured meet a specific level of accessibility. Now, we are focusing on the day to day work that is created via our various offices, academic and administrative. These items include PDF documents, Word documents, PowerPoints, and audio and video materials.
What are accessibility needs based on disability type?
Who are the audiences for accessibility? There are multiple audiences needing their own accessibility accommodations, depending on their needs. However, many "accommodations" actually serve more than just the intended core group, showing that accessibility can benefit everyone.
Individuals with severe visual impairment
Individuals with severe visual impairment may rely on a screen reader (software that reads content aloud) to access websites. Visual cues, such as images, section divisions, or table headers may be unperceivable to this audience unless additional information is added. Often required are text alternatives for images and other visual content and the specification of key landmarks (e.g. headers, lists) within a document. JAWS is a commonly used screen reader. This website has a demonstration of JAWS.
Individuals with low vision and individuals with colorblindness
The term "low vision" refers to individuals who have enough sight to use a visual browser, but who may need to enlarge text or use special high-contrast font and color settings in order to access online information. To accommodate low vision users, it is important to not inadvertently disable zooming or the ability to adjust color/font settings. For users with colorblindness, it is important that color-coded information be available with another visual cue such as changes in shape, line texture, or be text-based.
People with hearing impairment
A deaf person or someone with hearing loss can see all the visual information in a website but will not be able to hear any audio content. Audio information should be presented in captions or alternative text transcripts for some who is deaf or who has a hearing loss.
People with learning disabilities
Experts generally recommend maintaining a consistent, simple interface so that users with cognitive impairments can process online information more easily. Specific recommendations are found on Penn State’s Accessibility site for learning disabilities.
What are some specific resources for faculty members?
Here are great resources from other universities. Just click on the title to access the information:
Where can I learn more?
DoIt - Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology
CAST- Universal Design for Learning On Campus
AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability