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Accessible OHIO

Accessibility: The web is for everyone

This is the first in a series of stories about making OHIO's websites more accessible to people with disabilities. Future installments will include tips on how to sharpen your skills in this area.

In 2012, the man who invented the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, dramatically displayed his vision for the web during the opening ceremony of the London Summer Olympics. As he typed a tweet on a keyboard, the words "This is for Everyone" lit up the entire stadium. The word "everyone" carried political, ideological, moral, and financial weight.

It is hard to image a world without access to websites, but many people on this planet face significant barriers to the web. Obstacles like poor internet connectivity, government restrictions, economic challenges, and lack of education may be difficult for us as web developers, designers, and content creators to change. However, we can do something remarkable. We can make the web more accessible for people with disabilities.

According to the World Bank, roughly 15 percent of the world's population have some kind of disability. Some disabilities are clear cut, like permanent blindness or total loss of motor control, but there can also be varying degrees of disability, like reduced vision as we age or color-blindness. Sometimes disabilities can be temporary, like trying to navigate through a website without a mouse because you've broken your arm. A disability also could be situational, like trying to watch a video on a crowded bus. Given all of these varied contexts, it's highly likely that we all will be disabled in some way at some point in our lives.

As Ohio University moves forward with the Accessible OHIO initiative in other areas on our campuses, we will be breaking down barriers to OHIO websites. Together, we can send a strong message that those with disabilities are welcome to live and learn at Ohio University.  

Over the next several weeks, we will explain some simple steps you can take as a web content contributor or website owner to improve web accessibility. The University's new Web CMS will have a number of features to help with this, but the most important step of all will be changing how we think about web content. An accessible web page is a good web page, not just for a disabled visitor, but for all visitors.

Moving to a new Web CMS gives us an opportunity to start fresh with our websites. We should take advantage of this opportunity to make our sites accessible because, as Sir Tim Berners-Lee so aptly put it, this is for everyone.

The three-year long Web Content Management System (Web CMS) project will migrate approximately 200 university websites from CommonSpot to a modern Web CMS that offers improved usability, accessibility, and ease of maintenance. The new service also will make it easier to optimize web pages for search engines, making it more likely that OHIO pages will appear near the top of relevant Internet searches. Finally, the project will encourage digital marketing efforts and facilitate consistent branding across the institution.