Harvard has a new Web Accessibility Policy

A recent article in the Crimson (Harvard’s student newspaper) reports that the university has introduced a new Digital Accessibility Policy that will go into effect as of December 1, 2019.

The policy requires that all web pages that are created or updated substantially after Dec 1, 2019 be compliant with the WCAG 2.1 AA standards — the most up-to-date version of the standards we are using at Wichita State, and that are being used by the vast majority of institutions that are working towards accessibility.

Harvard, of course, is far from alone. Back in December, Inside Higher Ed reported that “a blind resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.” had filed a lawsuit against 50 institutions over the accessibility of their web sites.

Lawsuits and complaints keep coming in, but within our institutions it can be exceptionally difficult to bring a sense of urgency to administration, staff, and faculty who are coping with the everyday work of a university. As I’m writing this we’re in the final weeks of a spring semester, and that means end of term piles of grading, graduation, commencement, enrolling new students, orientation, and, well, it’s Kansas, so tornados.

In a flood of urgent work, how do we make time for something as important as accessibility? How do we resist the urge to create just one more document the wrong way, post just this last video without captions, to worry about alt tags for images next week, when we are not quite so slammed?

If you’re an individual contributor — instructional staff, perhaps — you are responsible for your own work, and the best place to start is today. Learn to use the accessibility checkers in Office and Adobe products. Take the time now to test and review your content and think about what you’re creating.

If you’re a leader who has people who report to you, start with position descriptions. Create concrete expectations for accessibility as part of how your teams are evaluated.

If you’re a thought leader, create opportunities for sharing and review of the accessibility of the work your institution produces. Learn lessons from today so that tomorrow can be better.

And if you’re anyone on the team, anyone at all, ask the question.

  • How would this work for me if I had a visual impairment.
  • How would this work for me if I couldn’t hear it.
  • If I can’t use a mouse, can I access this content?

Keep asking those questions.

A meme of Arya, from A Game of Thrones. It reads

 

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