The University of Washington: A Promising Practice in User Group Support for Web Accessibility
In an effort to improve the accessibility of University of Washington (UW) online courses and websites, several campus organizations including DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology), C&C Project Consulting, the UW Access Technology Center, and the UW Educational Outreach program, formed a user support group, AccessibleWeb@U. The group promotes taking proactive efforts (universal design), as well as providing effective reactive measures (accommodations), when delivering online content.
The current group leader is a staff member of the technical support staff of Computing & Communications, the central computing organization. Having a leader who is not part of a disability-related service group serves to promote the idea that accessibility is everyone's responsibility. Key activities of the practice at the UW include working with the UW Educational Technology Group to promote accessible tools and course materials, providing stand-alone accessibility presentations, and integrating accessibility into mainstream web and other technology courses. The group meets in person once a month. The meetings are held in a conference room of a different group member every time to encourage the buy-in of all partners.
The group offers members a number of support resources, such as the AccessibleWeb@U website, which contains information on legal mandates, frequently asked questions, and resources. For continued support and information, they offer an electronic discussion list, AccessibleWeb@u.washington.edu, which is open to UW employees only. However, the DO-IT program offers a similar list, AccessWeb@u.washington.edu, which is open to people outside of the UW.