Universities in the United States ramp up accessibility efforts


  • Digital accessibility
  • Built accessibility
  • Students with disabilities


  • United States
  • Iowa
  • Michigan

Driving the news – universities break new ground in accessibility:

Universities in the U.S. are amplifying their efforts to enhance digital accessibility, with academic libraries emerging as leaders in this endeavor. Going beyond compliance with legal requirements, these institutions are prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, including accessibility, community outreach, and technology. 

Why it matters:

The U.S Department of Justice is publishing a new rule under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), mandating that state and local governments ensure web content and mobile apps are accessible for people with disabilities.

With 7.3 million students with disabilities in the U.S. facing accessibility challenges, campuses like Iowa State University (ISU) are taking proactive measures toward accessibility and compliance.

These efforts will enable students to fully engage in educational opportunities and campus life. Iowa State is making physical accessibility improvements across campus, including:

  • Sidewalk replacement near the library
  • Transitioning to flat floor systems from tiered slopes
  • Enhancing exit ramp access
  • Upgrading elevator access campus-wide

Beyond the built environment, Iowa State has been implementing inclusive design in digital technology. One example of this is the University’s move toward advancing digital inclusion by procuring Glean, a note taking tool that converts speech to text, providing students with disabilities an equitable way to access class information. This initiative is part of ISU’s Digital Accessibility Toolkit, which includes resources and tools to ensure accessibility across various platforms, from websites to videos.

Michigan State University (MSU) is also at the forefront of accessibility initiatives with HeardAI, a voice-activated AI app addressing challenges for over 80 million people who stutter. With a $5 million award from the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator program, MSU is set to radically improve voice AI accessibility, demonstrating a commitment to equity and inclusion in digital technology.

Bottom line:

The momentum towards accessibility in universities is picking up notably. Academic institutions are prioritizing inclusion by implementing dynamic new initiatives. 

Whether it’s physical or digital spaces, every student, including those with disabilities, will have equal opportunities to thrive in educational settings. It’s time for every academic institution, regardless of their nature, to take proactive steps towards building inclusive campus environments.

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