accessibility all hands

Roll up your sleeves! Why accessibility in higher ed needs all hands on-deck

Fundamentally, delivering an accessible platform is not about checking a box and saying, "It's done." Why accessibility is never-ending and needs IT and vendor input.

The accessibility of learning content is undergoing a dramatic change right now.

This change is being built upon existing standards that key parts of the industry are implementing, as well as new standards. All the changes that are happening are, for the first time, enabling the ability for institutions, instructors and learners to adopt and access accessible content, that is the exact same content, at the same time, on the same platforms as any other user.

Vendors must ensure that the content they provide is available where and when users need it, and that the platform and the content are created in a way that they will work together to ensure accessibility.

You cannot measure accessibility by just looking at one part of the ecosystem. For example, the software displaying the text needs to understand the markup that is inside the content, and how those two things together will work with the assistive technology (such as a screen reader) being used by the learner.

Getting Everyone on the Same Page

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have emerged as the benchmark for creating this common platform for accessibility. The WCAG technical standard’s 12 guidelines, that fall under four principles, provide testable success criteria.

Published and maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG is also an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 40500:2012). The international success and adoption of this standard has increased the expectation of what every company should do.

With the prevalent use of web technologies everywhere today, it would be unthinkable to consider a part of a learning ecosystem that did not work with the internet. In the US, the recently announced refresh of the Federal Government Accessibility Standards (Section 508) has brought the specifics about the WCAG standard to the forefront, and the WCAG standard now defines the requirements that must be used.

The same adoption of WCAG has happened in the U.K., the European Union and around the world.

(Next page: New accessibility standards for publishing; why teamwork is essential)

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