Getting it right, from the beginning – design for accessibility

It makes intuitive sense that our web sites, content and software need to be usable by the intended audience. That audience includes people with disabilities, but sometimes that gets missed when we’re gathering requirements or designing solutions.

We need to respond when people with diverse abilities contact us about the difficulties they are having in using our services. Yet, no matter how quickly we respond, imagine what it must be like to have to stop what you’re doing, contact someone, explain what you want, and wait for the response – and to have that happen not just occasionally, but over and over again.

Responding to requests is not enough. Retrofitting services and content is expensive. If we truly respect all members of the campus community, if we are truly good stewards of the resources entrusted to us, we need to get services and content right the first time. The best way to accomplish that is to make accessible design an integral part of the normal way our services and content are created.

What can UW-Madison faculty and staff do to help make accessible design the norm?

  • Become familiar with the UW-Madison Web Accessibility Policy, and the supporting DoIT Web Accessibility Resources
  • When chartering a project, ensure that best practices related to accessibility are baked in to the requirements and the project plan.
  • When meeting with web service vendors and hiring web developers, let them know that UW-Madison is committed to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). When meeting with software vendors, inform them that a basic expectation of UW-Madison is that the software we use be designed, from the outset, with the Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act in mind.

Getting things right the first time is all about requirements and design.  This requires that we work together respectfully as we transition toward a future in which accessible design is a normal part of what our partners and we do. Design that intentionally considers users with disabilities results in services that are better designed for everyone.