The blood that flows through a college or university is made up of documents. Word documents, PDFs, powerpoints, excel spreadsheets, and more — they’re all critical to the academic and non-academic work that we do. In most cases, the documents we use regularly are years or decades old, having been created by our predecessors and updated by others, repeatedly, over the years.
The challenge of trying to turn around and make all of our legacy documents accessible is daunting — like trying to replace every brick on campus without taking any buildings down in the process. We need to find ways to make progress and limit risk. A few core ideas will help with this:
This is everyone’s work. Unless your institution can fund a large internal unit dedicated to creating accessible versions of documents across campus, this is work that we are all going to have to own for our own set of documents.
Get trained. The KSARN training hub has some starter training that will get your feet wet, but in most cases it’s a good idea to work with your institutions IT training team to learn how to create your documents in an accessible way.
Start now. Unless you’re under the pressure created by a complaint or other legal action, you can make it a point to start making all of the documents you create or edit from this point forward in an accessible way, rather than trying to go back and make a whole library of legacy documents accessible.
Limit Exposure. If you have documents that can be kept in a private area where only internal staff can access them, that limits your exposure. You are still responsible to make sure that these files are accessible, too, but those that are behind a login can be triaged for later re-design.
Recreate, don’t Remediate. In our experience, most documents are faster and easier to recreate in an accessible way than they are to remediate the existing document. This also gives you an opportunity to rethink other elements of the document.
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