UW Libraries Blog

May 21, 2020

Accessibility Is Essential for Remote Learning

Andy Andrews, Accessibility Coordinator, UW Libraries

Today, May 21st, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#GAAD) focusing on digital access and inclusion for the more than one billion people with disabilities and impairments.  As the Accessibility Coordinator for UW Libraries, I routinely answer questions about what the Libraries are doing to ensure accessibility is considered and properly implemented, especially as more content is moved online; so today is great opportunity to shine a light on all of the work our Libraries team has been doing in this area.  As we made the temporary transition from in-person to remote learning for our users, I have been amazed by the efforts of UW Libraries staff to ensure our students and faculty have adequate access to library resources in spring quarter.

The UW Libraries has done considerable work to improve accessibility. It has been going on for many years and will continue ongoing, as equity and inclusion are core to the Libraries’ strategic plan; enhancing equitable environments for research, learning, and working.

One way we are making that happen is through the Libraries Accessibility Working Group. The group has hosted accessibility workshops covering a range of topics from improving digital accessibility to understanding the roles of service animals. Currently the group is working on a 5-year accessibility plan to remediate accessibility issues within the Libraries.

How are Libraries continuing to address accessibility for remote learning?  The good news is… a lot!

Staff members, including students, are working remotely, leading projects to make improvements to many of our vast electronic resources.

Here is a list of a few of the projects that we have going on right now:

  • captioning videos for the libraries YouTube channel
  • captioning and transcription for work in our Moving Image collection
  • developing an accessible template for transcription of oral history projects
  • keyboard testing of library E-resources in our A-Z database lists
  • improving the accessibility of PDF files on our web site and in Special Collections
  • performing accessibility audits of third-party platforms for purchase consideration

There are many more projects that we have in progress and we acknowledge there is still much to do when it comes to addressing the body of work required to improve accessibility for remote learning.  Our staff are incredibly dedicated to this work—I see progress every day that demonstrates a collective belief that accessibility is as essential to remote learning as it is to face-to-face learning.

Be sure to check out how the UW accessibility community is celebrating today and services offered across campus HERE.

For questions about UW Libraries accessibility initiatives and projects, feel free to email me:  andy4@uw.edu