Graduate Student, Student Affairs (2nd year Masters)
University of Maryland, College Park
NASPA Region II, Disability Knowledge Community Representative
As you browsed around the Internet today, did you happen to experience any of the following issues:
- Inability to read the text due to the small size
- Click on the wrong link because the color of the text did not distinguish itself
- Unable to find closed captioning for a video
- Difficulty finding speech recognition software
If any of these seem familiar, that’s likely because you have first-hand experience of when website content is not optimized to provide assistive support tools or what is termed, web accessibility. Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of building websites that are designed for use by all. Typically members of our community who have a disability (visual, auditory, motor/mobility, or intellectual) are most affected by web inaccessibility; however, they also impact anyone who are non-English speakers or possess low literacy levels. Therefore, as a community, we are all responsible to ensure that web content is created and designed in universally accessible ways.
As NASPA prepares to launch its new website, this topic is particularly salient in hopes that many of the suggestions and considerations submitted by members will be implemented into the new design to ensure complete web accessibility. Kaela Parks, the current National Chair for the Disability KC has been integral in helping the NASPA National office with the new website’s development, so there is optimism that upon its launch, there will be minimal issues to accessibility for our fellow colleagues.
For those who may be unfamiliar, here are a few quick tips (provided from the Disability KC resource page) that make websites more accessible:
- Images & animations: Use the alt attribute to describe the function of each picture or other visual element.
- Multimedia. Provide captioning or transcripts of audio and rich descriptions with of video.
- Hypertext links. Use text that makes sense when read out of context. For example, avoid “click here.”
- Page organization. Use headings, lists, and consistent structure.
- Graphs & charts. Summarize information in the narrative body of the webpage.
- Tables. Make line-by-line reading sensible. Summarize.
- Speech-To-Text (voice recognition)
Use a microphone to open and close documents, surf the web, or compose documents.
- Handwriting Analysis
Mark up documents with handwritten notes and even convert handwriting into text.
- Text-to-Speech (reading out loud)
Microsoft Word can read out loud. So can Excel and the free Adobe Reader. Some programs even make sound files (MP3) of text being read out loud.
(For Complete Guidelines & Checklist: www.w3.org/WAI )
I end this blog with the charge that we all try harder to be mindful as to how website may be inaccessible for our fellow NASPA community members. Also, we should remember that accessibility advocacy should extend beyond the NASPA website. We must also look at the many other sites we visit every day, and if we find them inaccessible, contact the web designer, and pass on the feedback to improve it. Here’s a wonderful clip made by the Australian Government that provides a great summary on the topic of web accessibility.