Stephen Fornal from Tarrant County College, discussed the important of accessibility in university (well really, ALL) websites. The goal of his UAD9 presentation was to convince us to level the field and be inclusive; website accessibility should not only be about the law. Stephen pointed out that from a marketing perspective, it is estimated that 14% of the population is disabled in some way and might be intrigued by a college that met their needs from the very start. He reminded us that staff may also be affected bu disabilities due to age, accidents or even spiders!
He shared a video from his colleague, Tracy, who lost her vision due to the anti-venom she received after a bite from a brown recluse spider. She now works with screen readers and teaching students how to navigate sites. She pointed that that using semantic markup correctly is enough to get going, but encouraged us in her video to make good choices from the very beginning of a project.
Stephen discussed the rules (504, 508, ADA) but really encouraged the room to be empathetic to their audiences. He suggested we remember that accessibility = #a11y = ally. We have to be the ones to connect with everyone interested in our sites.
He ran through all kinds of rules (see presentation at http://bit.ly/Fornal-HEWeb2015) and suggested we work with screen readers (free option includes NVDA, Windows eyes and Voice over). But the truly handicapped might use a puff method, chin stick or voice activation. The bottom line was talk to your users, test early, test often, make captions, give details and use semantic markup (h1-h6, fill in alt tags and call a list a list!).
And if you figure out how to automate a11y testing as part of a redesign or roll-out, Stephen wants to hear from you. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.