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Web resource aims for a more accessible U

October 31, 2016
Accessible U screengrab

“Digital accessibility can be a scary topic. Some people say ‘I’m not a tech person, what if I get it wrong?’"

In the fall of 2016, the University of Minnesota launched "Accessible U", a website resource developed to help educate faculty, staff, and students on digital accessibility and promote its importance for the University community.

The goal of Accessible U is to demystify digital accessibility best practices with an encouraging message of "start small, but start now." The site provides people with the resources they need to create a University community where people with disabilities can feel like they belong and contribute their many gifts.

The site is custom created for U of M-supported applications and programs. In addition to the core content, there are special sections of information for both instructors and web developers.

"Digital accessibility can be a scary topic. Some people say 'I'm not a tech person, what if I get it wrong?'. That's understandable, but we need to believe in something bigger than that fear and try something, even if it's small," said Scott Marshall, associate director of the Disability Resource Center. "The site is built around the idea that accessibility is everyone's everyday responsibility. It includes six core skills that users can adopt and practice over time. When we all adopt even just these core skills, the U will be a much more accessible place."

Accessible U encourages users to take small steps on the path of accessibility and be more thoughtful in choosing technology tools and developing digital content. "It's considerably easier to build-in accessibility from the beginning of a project, document, or website than go back and retrofit after the fact. The latter typically results in spending excess time, money, and a loss of access for people with disabilities," said Marshall. In addition to promoting the core skills, Accessible U can help the University community understand how their daily role can influence accessibility and see that the choices they make can have a big impact. He continues, "If everyone begins to take small steps, not only will those steps drive awareness of the importance of accessibility, they can make the U be a better place for everyone."

As part of the project, Disability Resource Center staff have been working closely with the Drupal Lite development team to ensure that Drupal Lite is an accessible web hosting solution for the U of M community.

Visit the Accessible U website to learn more, including how you can become involved as an accessibility ambassador and join the Web & Tech Accessibility Community of Practice.