There are various groups at the University of Washington (UW) whose primary responsibility is accessibility. Accessible Technology Services (ATS) within UW-IT is one of these groups, and our focus is on the accessibility of information technology (IT). The UW has created, procured, and/or used a massive amount of IT: Hundreds of thousands of web pages; millions of digital documents; tens of thousands of videos on YouTube and countless more on Panopto; thousands of software packages; and hundreds, if not thousands, of classroom technologies and other hardware devices. All of these technologies present possible barriers to certain groups of students, faculty, staff, and/or visitors who need to access them, including individuals with disabilities.
Although ATS staff works very hard to raise awareness, educate stakeholders, and provide accessibility solutions, we’re a small team facing a daunting challenge. Given this, a key to our success is our growing network of IT Accessibility Liaisons. The Liaisons network is comprised of staff and faculty who are out there in the trenches, not necessarily charged with accessibility in their job descriptions, but willing to do their part to try to improve IT accessibility within their scope of influence.
IT Accessibility Liaisons partake in the following activities:
- communicate online via a private email list and also meet as a group one morning, three times per year
- continue to learn about how IT used on campus can be made more accessible
- collect information from and spread the word within their units about the UW’s IT Accessibility Policy and otherwise promote the IT Accessibility Initiative
For more information, including a registration form for becoming a liaison, resources from our past meetings, and a current list of liaisons, see our IT Accessibility Liaisons web page.
Our next half-day meeting is on Valentine’s Day, February 14, and will focus on automated accessibility checkers. There will be live demos of an extensive variety of accessibility tools, including free browser extensions for checking web page accessibility; Siteimprove, our licensed website accessibility checker; Ally, a tool within Canvas for checking the accessibility of course content; accessibility checkers that are built into Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat; and accessibility checker APIs that UW web developers are integrating into their development and testing pipeline.
Also, since it’s Valentine’s Day, there might be some candy!
If you’d like to join us for what’s sure to be a fun and informative event,
- Become a Liaison, if you haven’t already, and
- Register for the event. The deadline for registering is Monday, February 10.
I hope to see you there!