By DONOVAN HARRELL
As the Pitt community makes its way back to campus, Angie Bedford-Jack wants people to keep digital accessibility in mind.
Bedford-Jack, Pitt’s digital accessibility coordinator, said the University community should keep up its efforts in making digital materials more accessible for people with disabilities.
In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced a nationwide shutdown, Pitt had to quickly transfer to an online environment.
During this time, the University community’s attitudes on digital accessibility shifted, with people recognizing its importance while simultaneously coping with “a sense of complete and total overwhelm” from the transition to a remote environment, she said.
Even though the University had been working on improving digital accessibility before the pandemic, the hardships from the past year further solidified the need for accessible digital services, Bedford-Jack said
As the year continued and people began adjusting to remote work and teaching, “the importance of digital accessibility was able to be more centered,” she said.
“This is not across the board, of course, I wouldn’t expect it to be, but I am seeing more and more people who are interested in accessibility, are trying to figure out how they can get started around accessibility,” Bedford-Jack said. “I think it’s starting to feel like less of a scary concept because they’re beginning to see the really simple, concrete steps that they can take.”
Bedford-Jack added that the pandemic may have made people more empathetic to people who depend on digital accessibility.
The transition to a remote environment also caused, Pitt faculty, staff and students to move away from using print materials and services in favor of digital communication.
Even as the University community transitions back to more in-person services, Bedford-Jack said it’s important for people to keep in mind that many Pitt faculty and staff will continue to work remotely.
Bedford-Jack said there are some things the Pitt community should keep in mind when producing digital communications.
Use headings and styles to structure documents and create web pages instead of just increasing the font size or making letters bold. This makes it easier for people with assistive technology to navigate digital content.
Use alt text for images, which allows people with visual impairments using assistive technology to understand the images used in digital content.
When turning content into a hyperlink, make sure the words are clear and make sense out of context. This allows for people using assistive technology to have a better understanding of the website the hyperlink will direct them to. There’s no need to use the words “link” or “click here.”
Pitt faculty, staff and students should also continue to push for more widespread, digital accessibility implementation, Bedford-Jack said.
“We had a group of early adopters,” Bedford-Jack said. “And now, we have a more widespread group of people who are engaged in this work, and I see it growing every day but it still is largely dependent upon … it coming to somebody’s attention and being important, and they push their particular school or unit to attend to this.”
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-383-9905.
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