Student Affairs Professionals are known for their ability to masterfully navigate the many acronyms within higher education. Well, here is new- lesser known, but invaluable- one to add to the expansive Student Affairs repertoire:
Developed by the W3C or World Wide Web Consortium, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 include internationally recognized recommendations on making web content accessible for individuals with disabilities. It is certainly enough to point out that 15% of individuals around the world are living with disabilities. However, it is also worth noting that 100% of individuals utilizing any products, spaces, and programs in all facets of society stand to benefit from inclusive and accessible design.
Below are the four principles (and yet, another acronym- POUR) within the WCAG 2.0, which can help guide Student Affairs Professionals in the development and delivery of accessible and engaging Student Life content.
A Brief Overview of POUR:
Perceivable: Are students able to engage with website content through multiple modes?
Photographs, videos, and audio recordings should be accompanied by captions, audio descriptions, and transcripts whenever possible, with social media posts following suit. In fact, many platforms are beginning to flaunt accessibility features and options within user settings.
Operable: Is your website easily navigable using various tools and devices?
Seamless navigation of web content, with or without keyboard access, is essential for users. Students will benefit from user-control of time, speed, duration, and volume of dynamic content, along with discernible and well-labeled links, tabs, and prompts. Be mindful of potential barriers and concerns that arise with stimulation-overload, particularly among students with certain disabilities.
Understandable: Is the content and the overall function of your website clear, logical, and predictable?
Everything from the use of proper language to the overall flow and format of a webpage should be concise and straight-forward. Avoiding slang terms, abbreviations is just as important as prioritizing functionality over visual aesthetic when arranging content. Interactive features such as forms should be user-friendly and responsive to errors, providing opportunities for user-correction.
Robust: Is your website compatible with the wide array of software students use to access content?
User experience should not vary from one platform to the next. The website should continuously undergo testing and updates to ensure that it remains compatible with the ever-evolving Web browsers, plugins, and assistive technologies students utilize to engage with its content.
Beyond Legislation and Statistics: We All Deserve Access
Accessibility should not be an after-thought, but a driving force, in all aspects of higher education. Consulting the expertise of accessibility experts and garnering user feedback will prove invaluable to the development and ongoing maintenance of truly inclusive Student Life programs and resources. Furthermore, there is a great deal to be learned through social media groups and discussions as well as online tutorials and articles. With regards to any extra costs or resources that increased web accessibility might entail, here is a final thought:
The perceived costs associated with installing basic accessibility features such as ramps, adjustable lighting, and railings throughout campus would never justify their omission; why should an institution’s virtual spaces be any different?