It’s time for another edition of the Friday News Roundup for the week of March 10th, 2017! This week, we’ll look at European politics (a bit of a break from American politics) and see what challenges the disabled community is facing with legislation in those countries.

We will also talk a bit about how one Ph.D. student is working to develop an incredibly unique and accessible online course for her students. That’s up first because I think it’s really inspiring and we could all learn a lot from her drive for universal access for students. We will also look at the shockingly low percentage of government respondents who felt they were adequately knowledgeable on the subject of web accessibility. So, let’s get to it!

Accessibility in Higher Education

Every so often I read a news story that I think really captures the spirit of the accessibility movement. Inside Higher Ed provided just such an article when they interviewed Jessie Male, a Ph.D. student who is in the process of developing her first online course.[1] While the title of Male’s class is English 2277: Introduction to Disability Studies, she is taking the course development much more seriously than just creating a passable intro course for freshman to barely acknowledge.

Male is actually building accessibility into the course. While you might think that it’s a given for a disability course to be accessible, you should know that it is generally somewhat rare to find a disability studies course at all. Throughout the interview, Male talks passionately and with a great deal of knowledge about the challenges and potential pitfalls she may encounter when developing such a course. It will be based online, and she is quite dedicated to being open to how her future students will learn best, and working within their strengths.

This includes developing the course with the knowledge that all students might not be comfortable disclosing their disability or working with disability services. In my opinion, teachers and universities can learn a lot from her drive and commitment to accessibility, and I’m excited to see more from her as she becomes a leader in the field.

Read more about Male’s upcoming course by visiting the article, ‘Access Moves’: How One Instructor Seeks Accessibility.

A Good Reminder

All websites need to evaluate their accessibility, but this article specifically calls out government sites that need to consider ADA guidelines WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 regulations. It is a bit startling how little these groups know about the accessibility guidelines that their websites need to follow.

This point is illustrated by GCN’s recent findings, “Yet, in our third annual North America-wide study, we found that nearly 9 out of 10 (87 percent) of the 435 municipal and county government respondents said they have moderate, weak or no knowledge of federal web accessibility requirements.”[2] In other words, 13% of people are pretty sure they know what they are doing when it comes to federal web accessibility.

While I applaud those people that have complied or do know the regulations, the number of people actually aware of the rules is far too low. If you are working for a government entity that has a website, you need to investigate the rules and see if they apply to your site. If they do, start making a plan to update your site. If they don’t start making a plan to update your site too.

Having an accessible website isn’t just so you can check a box that says you have followed the rules well enough to pass the standard. It’s about making sure that people can access and use the content on your site without barriers. Give people a clear path to your content, but if your site is tied to the government, then double check that you are following the rules, otherwise you could find your workplace facing some unpleasant repercussions.

Learn more about the Section 508 rules and the WCAG 2.0 guidelines so you can stay informed:

Europeans Protest for Better Regulations

Europeans are concerned that as it stands, the European Accessibility Act is not good enough to adequately support them. While the proposal includes a large list of digital considerations it is still considered to be quite lacking according to the New Europe site, “According to EDF members, the Accessibility Act should do more to include the built environment to the proposal.”[3] It remains to be seen if the protest was effective and if a more inclusive policy will be created.