For weeks we’ve been talking about Accessibility. Though at one point this was a highly under-discussed topic, it is one that deserves the attention it is now getting. In recent weeks we have been focusing heavily on the technical side of things: discussing how to check for accessibility in color contrasts, PDF, and Word documents. While knowing how to address problems with accessibility is important, knowing why we should give our time to accessibility concerns is essential.
Yes. Accessibility is now part of federal laws. Having been written into important pieces of legislation such as the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), accessibility is to starting to emerge on the forefront of education conversations. But beyond the legalities, accessibility is being discussed for the same reason it was clear to law makers that it needed to be addressed in the ADA and Rehabilitation Act.
Accessibility is about humans. It’s about people! Something that it seems too easy to forget as the conversations go on and on about how to solve the accessibility problems seen in documents, courses, videos, and other electronic and web content. Since the lack of accessibility occurs in the hardware and software, it becomes easy to ignore the human element being so significantly impacted by these issues.
A syllabus isn’t just a digital or physical document that students don’t or won’t read until it’s convenient for them. This is someone’s introduction into the way the course is going to be taught. This document tells them how their grades are going to be determined, when assignments are going to be due, what text book they need, and how to contact someone when they need help. This is their lifeline to the course. But what if it isn’t accessible to them? The whole purpose behind a syllabus is to provide information to the student that will be essential for their success in the course. Without that document, their grades, GPA, and academic career may be severely impacted. From then on, it’s simply a downward spiral. The inaccessible flaw that started out as a seemingly insignificant issue has completely altered someone’s school career and potential for employment, and thus their entire future.
Accessibility isn’t a tech issue or legal issue; it’s a human one. At WSU we serve students and employees and people. The same people who may be impacted everyday by a lack of accessibility. It’s important to remember that as we talk about the how and what of accessibility issues. We are focusing on the topic not because it’s about technology, or fixing technological flaws, but because it’s about people. It’s about making sure that the people we serve, all have an equal opportunity.