Web Accessibility for Higher Ed: Takeaways from AHEAD 2017

Each year, higher education professionals and leaders in accessibility gather for the annual Association on Higher Education and Disability conference. For Promet Accessibility, this conference serves as an excellent way for our team to learn about the web accessibility best practices and latest ADA Section 508 standards that are an indispensable part of all web development projects, not just those in the higher education industry.

AHEAD Web Accessibility in Higher Education 2017 Conference Logo

This year's conference featured thought-provoking topics on web accessibility including: Accommodating Online Learning: Much More than Captions; Developing a Procurement Policy - From Soup to Nuts; Accessible Design is Sustainable Design and sessions that highlight research and data-based practices.

While the key takeaways from each presentation and talk were varied, our team noticed several overarching takeaways from our week spent at AHEAD:

Don't Reinvent the Wheel! Much like the spirit of the open source community that we are accustomed to with Drupal and Wordpress development, the attendees and speakers at AHEAD shared the same message about learning from our peers. Many universities - large and small - are making great strides in providing an accessible environment for students of all abilities, both on and off the web. The more organizations, universities and businesses are willing to share their experiences, collaborate, and learn from one another, the easier our collective path to a fully accessible digital world will be. 

Related: is your site compliant with ADA Section 508 & WCAG 2.0? find out today

Educate Yourself & Your Organization. In order to ensure ADA and WCAG 2.0 compliance for your digital properties, it is crucial for your development team and content editors to fully understand current legal requirements and guidelines for creating accessible content. This will not only provide the best possible user experience for all individuals, but also protect your organization from legal liability.

Related: sign up for advanced web accessibility training for developers

Advocating for Accessibility. One topic that was continually addressed across multiple presentations was the need for universities to achieve buy in from their organization in order to allocate budget and resources to address issues in web accessibility and remain compliant. As we have worked with clients across higher ed, government, non-profit, and businesses of all sizes, the same is often true. Unfortunately, web accessibility is often an after thought in the web development process and may not be addressed until there is either 1. a legal compliant filed or 2. an issue raised by someone who is up to speed on the latest ADA or WCAG 2.0 guidelines. 

Let's raise the bar together and not leave web accessibility to chance. As professionals in a digital world, it is up to each and every one of us to advocate for an accessible web. 

What about accessibility? Isn’t that a part of usability?
And they’re right of course. Unless you’re going to make a blanket statement that people with disability are not apart of your audience, you really can’t  say your site is usable unless it’s accessible.
- Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think

About AHEAD

AHEAD is a professional membership organization for individuals involved in the development of policy and in the provision of quality services to meet the needs of persons with disabilities involved in all areas of higher education. At this time, we boast more than 2,800 members throughout the United States, Canada, England, Australia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Japan and Greece. In addition to our International membership, AHEAD is fortunate to have formal partnerships with 31 Regional Affiliates and numerous other professional organizations working to advance equity in higher education for people with disabilities.

Since 1977 AHEAD has delivered quality training to higher education personnel through conferences, workshops, publications and consultation. AHEAD members represent a diverse network of professionals who actively address disability issues on their campuses and in the field of higher education. AHEAD is actively involved in all facets of promoting full and equal participation by individuals with disabilities in higher education; and supporting the systems, institutions, professions, and professionals who attend to the fulfillment of this important mission.