Wednesday, May 9 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and to honor this event, Bellevue College will make its website “naked” to raise awareness of the problems disabled persons face in accessing digital technology. Its entire website will be stripped down to its simplest form, with mostly text and few graphics, to make it easier to read for visually impaired users who rely on audible screen readers to navigate and access information. BC is the only public or private enterprise to do this in the entire state of Washington.
“We wanted to do something that a lot of people will notice, because there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to improve accessibility for people who need it. This type of awareness can lead to solutions being found that will make technology more accessible for all people,” said Russell Beard, Vice President for Information Resources at the college. On a given day, close to 25,000 people access the site.
The college has made digital accessibility for all students a priority, regardless of their impairment. “We feel that those who have a disability should have the same expectation of being able to use the software as someone who doesn’t. To us, it’s no different from making a building accessible by adding a wheelchair ramp,” Beard said.
To that end, the college is instituting policies that require any technology purchasing decisions to take accessibility into account. Vendors must provide detailed information about how persons with various levels of impairment can use their products. “We’ve made it very clear that we don’t intend to authorize anything that’s not accessible. While there is no product that is perfectly accessible, there are products that are not usable at all by the disabled, and we will not buy them,” Beard continued.
More information about Global Accessibility Awareness Day can be found by visiting http://www.mysqltalk.com/gaad.html.