Six ways to address accessibility as part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day

The key to embracing accessibility – whether online, in the classroom, or across the campus – says ITaP assistive technology specialist Dean Brusnighan is realizing that taking the time to address an issue doesn’t just help a handful of individuals; in the end, everyone benefits.

“If we address accessibility from the beginning, starting with the way we design things, you end up with a better product or service for everyone, and no one is left out,” says Brusnighan.

That emphasis on designing with accessibility in mind is one of the cornerstones of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (May 17), an annual reminder that accessibility is an ongoing issue for everyone, especially with the rapid pace of technology changes.

Participants in accessibility day are encouraged to attempt to go an hour without using a technology most people take for granted – such as not using a computer mouse, attempting to navigate a website using a screen reader, or enlarging all of the fonts in a web browser to 200 percent, to see how functionality may be lost when accessibility isn’t a designed-in feature.

Beyond a single day of participation, Brusnighan encourages faculty, staff and students at Purdue to take some simple steps to help ensure accessibility on campus. Below are six things anyone can do to help make Purdue a more accessible community:

Make your documents accessible
Making your course’s Word documents, PDFs and PowerPoints accessible does not require a lot of time – one easy change is to use the built-in style settings in Word to make documents easier to navigate – but there are resources available to make getting started easier.
ITaP’s Teaching and Learning Technologies team works with instructors to help them learn how to create their own accessible documents, including this list of helpful tips and one-on-one consultations.

Check your website
Curious if your department or lab’s web page is accessible? Purdue faculty and staff can use Compliance Sherriff software to check their website’s accessibility, and get feedback on what needs to be changed or improved. To receive access to Compliance Sheriff, users are required to complete a training session – the next session will be from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, and registration is necessary.

Caption your videos – for free!
Did you know that instructional videos created in Video Express rooms – Purdue’s self-service video recording studios – are now eligible for closed captioning at no charge.
Videos uploaded to Kaltura via the Video Express website have the option to include captions from Cielo 24, a company that specializes in captioning educational videos.
Find out more about Video Express free captions.

Get to know the Disability resource center
Purdue’s Disability Resource Center works with students to ensure access to curricular and co-curricular offerings.  The DRC is a resource to students, faculty and staff and are available to discuss individual questions or concerns.  The goal is creating an inclusive environment by design.
The DRC compliments the work of ITaP’s Assistive Technology Center to provide guidance for those who teach students with disabilities, and center staff members are available to provide department or individual training on adding more inclusive approaches to your course design.

Know Purdue’s standard
Purdue’s Office of Institutional Equity works across the University to ensure equal access to everyone – both on campus and online. In 2017, the office updated its standards for Electronic Information, Communication and Technology Accessibility, which lays out accessibility standards for electronic materials, whether websites or digital documents (such as email and Blackboard).
As part of the standard, the office is using Compliance Sheriff to conduct random accessibility audits on Purdue-affiliated web pages – and will provide feedback and guidance to help improve accessibility. 

Make your voice heard
Notice a physical barrier that is limiting accessibility? Have concerns about accessing course materials? Have campus construction projects or technology changes made it harder to get around campus or do your job – or the job of someone else? The Office of Institutional Equity has an online form to submit accessibility issues or concerns. Submissions can be anonymous.

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998,

Last updated: May 10, 2018