Over the course of next several months, IDT will be bringing the WSU community a lot of information about accessibility. Accessibility is just as important in our online campus as it is on the physical one, and because so much of what we do online has something to do with instruction, it might be even more critical.
Along the way, we will be using terms you will want to know, so bookmark this blog post for future reference.
- UX: User Experience is often shorthanded to “UX.” UX is actually bigger than accessibility, but it includes it as a critical keystone. Good UX means that the overall user experience is pleasurable and satisfying and that all users have equal access to the experience. At Wichita State, our goal is to have classes and online interactions with great UX for all users, and by working toward that we will automatically be working toward good accessibility.
- Accessibility: Simply put, this is the ability for all users to access materials, whether directly or indirectly through some kind of assistive service or technology. To improve accessibility, our office encourages presenting data in a minimum of two ways (a spoken format accompanied by a written transcript, for example). We also encourage presenting material in a way that is friendly to screen readers, encourage tagging in .pdf documents, and make many other specific and general suggestions that will help us get to our goal of fully accessible materials.
- ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act, or “ADA” protects people with disabilities as a matter of civil rights. ADA legislation protects all of our students and their access to learning.
- 508/504: Whereas ADA is law, regulations 508 and 504 have the force of law. These regulations ensure equal access to information and activities, regardless of disability status.
It’s important to know the terms at the outset so we can all talk about these issues with the same basic understandings. But why are we talking about accessibility at all? The obvious answer is that within a university, the students constitute the center of our universe. We are student-centric, and everything else orbits around; they are the reason for universal experience on our campus. At IDT we believe that focusing on “UX” as a general concept allows us to think of all of our students as we design and build courses, programs, and other online experiences from the ground up, and by doing that, we will meet our ethical and legal obligations for accessibility.