WebAIM Offers Free Course to USU Personnel

WebAIM, located in the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University, is offering complimentary registrations to its Online Document Accessibility Training course to all faculty and staff at USU. The goal is to help USU personnel ensure that the materials they share online are accessible.

This opportunity comes at a time when USU classes have gone fully online, and many employees are working from home. It’s being offered through June 2020 by a world-renowned organization that trains organizations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies, on how to make sure their websites are usable to everyone.

WebAIM is now celebrating its 20th anniversary, which falls on the same year as the COVID-19 pandemic. The group had already included plans to share resources as part of its anniversary—and now they are needed more than ever.  The documents course will help faculty who are now teaching online, because its focus is in creating accessible Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents. It will help faculty and staff who upload resources onto Canvas for students to use.

So many of the materials that are created and shared are hard—if not impossible—for people with disabilities to access. An improperly scanned document can be unreadable to screen readers, which are used by the blind to access the web. Poor formatting can make it hard for those with cognitive issues to make sense of the content. A web page with poor contrast may be hard for a reader with visual impairments to puzzle out.

 “It’s just very apparent as everyone is moving online, it is showing the vulnerabilities and the huge problems in accessibility,” said Dr. Cyndi Rowland, WebAIM’s director.

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Christopher Phillips is the electronic and information technology accessibility coordinator at the Center for Innovative Design and Instruction at Utah State University. “During this unusual time when students are required to rely more on electronic resources, it is essential that we ensure that materials are shared in an accessible and inclusive way so that everyone has the same opportunity to participate and stay informed,” he said. “Although accessibility can feel intimidating, there are quick and easy things you can do to make your content more accessible. In addition, we have resources and people here at Utah State who would love to help you.”

Resources for creating accessible materials:

Anyone at USU can sign up online for the Online Document Accessibility Training course. If you have questions about accessibility or you’re interested in participating in the course, contact Christopher Phillips at 435-797-5535 or accessibility@usu.edu.

This “Remote Teaching and Accessibility” page on the USU website offers some helpful information.

WebAIM also created Inclusive Design: Bring Web Accessibility to Your Nonprofit for the Macarthur Foundation. This guide, developed for the nonprofit world, includes many helpful tips for beginners, especially in its “Start with Yourself” section.

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