1 Overview of Accessibility


Why is accessibility important? Who is accessibility for?

Accessibility acknowledges that not everyone interacts with their environment in the same manner, whether this be due to a physical or cognitive difference. When someone with a visual impairment such as blindness uses a computer, they will often use a “screen reader” to make the content accessible to them. Similarly, someone with an auditory impairment, such as deafness, can use the captioning on a video in order to know what is being said. Someone using a wheelchair, on the other hand, may need desks to be at a particular height or bookshelves to be appropriately spaced for them to navigate through them. Because of this, it is important that we design both digital and physical environments with the knowledge that there is a wide spectrum of individuals with both visible and invisible disabilities that are impacted by those design choices.

Who is impacted by accessible design choices?

While our primary concern with accessibility is to provide access to those with disabilities, it is also helpful to realize that the concepts of “universal design” mean that these features can be used by anyone who may find them preferable. Video captioning can be helpful for those with auditory processing disorders, for example, in addition to those who have limited hearing. Something important to remember, however, is that it is almost impossible for one solution to actually fit the needs of every single person, and to instead prioritize offering accommodations to those that need them, and flexibility in design so that people can choose what works best for them.

What does it mean to be accessible?

The UW Libraries have made a commitment to be accessible, and this means that, as employees of the UW Libraries, we need to do our work in a manner that ensures equivalent availability of resources to those with disabilities. For digital objects, this means ensuring that all of the elements are properly labeled on the computer side, so that assistive technologies (such as screen readers) can appropriately translate the content. For physical spaces, this means following our policies and guidelines about things such as mobility devices and service animals.

Make accessibility part of your daily work

If you make accessibility reviews part of your everyday process, it will help prevent you from having to go back and fix it later. Doing simple things, like choosing the Request Accessible Content option in Microsoft Outlook can help remind people to consider the many different ways in which people will be interacting with the things we create, and help to ease that interaction for everyone.

Use accessibility checkers

Accessibility checkers are built in tools, such as in Microsoft Office products, which will help identify issues in your work that may prevent people from being able to fully access it. Accessibility checkers find accessibility issues and provide a list of suggestions and tips to help you make your content more accessible.


Inspect this email

Use the image below and click on the hotspots to see which content might be an accessibility issue.


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Quick Tips for Accessibility Copyright © 2023 by Perry Yee; Deepa Banerjee; Kira Wyld; Artemis L.; and Jinny S. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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