New website provides central location for campus accessibility answers

We all play an important role in making UW-Madison an inclusive university, and disability is an important facet of diversity within our community. You may be wondering: how can I help make college more inclusive for members of our community with disabilities?

A new website that centralizes the university’s resources on disability and accessibility in one place – [email protected]–Madison – answers that question. The site’s goal is to ensure faculty, staff, and students have access to the tools and resources needed to fulfill the university’s shared responsibility to create an inclusive and accessible environment. This site replaces the current accessibility page (accessible from the quick links menu on wisc.edu) and will serve as the primary destination for accessibility information.

Ruben Mota

At first, UW-Madison’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator Ruben Mota conceptualized the new website as a one-stop webpage to house disability education opportunities. However, while doing initial research and working on the university’s digital accessibility policy, he says it became clear that “a single training webpage would not be as effective as a central hub of website enabling the university community to access the information on disability and accessibility they need for their daily work in favor of inclusion.

In early 2021, with support from the Office of Compliance leadership, Mota partnered with the Center for User Experience in the Division of Information Technology (DoIT). “We set out to create an easy-to-locate resource that individuals could visit anytime when planning their physical or virtual events or when creating digital resources to make them accessible,” Mota said.

“I hope this website continues to raise awareness of how disability is shaped by how we view our university and not necessarily our own physical or mental health,” says Mota. “If we can intentionally design inclusively, from a human perspective, and with critical accessibility attributes in mind, then we can more effectively ensure everyone – whether able or disabled – has access independent rather than relying on reasonable accommodation to solve a physical problem or digital barrier, which is one of the reasons why this website emphasizes our collective role in creating inclusion.

Partnering with DoIT allowed Mota to create a user-friendly website. The Center for User Experience is also a central university resource for human-centered design and digital accessibility, as well as a key stakeholder and content contributor to the site. Mota and the Office of Compliance recently co-led a refresh of the university’s Web Accessibility Policy with the center, leading to the approval of UW-Madison’s Digital Accessibility Policy in November 2021. Accessibility @UW-Madison followed, with Mota and user experience architect Christine Anderson collaborating.

In the spirit of the new policy, the website stresses that accessibility can only be achieved if we all contribute to it. Visitors to the site will find a solid selection of guides, such as the university’s list of accessible building entrances and how to host an inclusive hybrid meeting, in addition to training, services, contacts and other resources to understand their responsibilities and opportunities to create a more inclusive campus.

“This website confirms our university’s belief that we build a better institution by valuing everyone’s contributions,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “My leadership team supports this website because every Badger plays a role in creating an accessible environment for their UW-Madison community.”

“While this phase of the website project is complete,” says Mota, “any department can contact me to share other academic resources they think should be included in the website. “We really all need to design inclusively.”

Special thanks to the Office of Employees with Disabilities Resources, McBurney Disability Resource Center, UW Libraries, Accessible Technology Advisory Group, FP&M, Badgers for Special Olympics, People’s Access and Inclusion Committee disabilities and the Disability Studies Initiative for their feedback and work on this project. .

About Jean R. Manzer

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