Accessibility and Digital Communications
Officially, digital designers must adhere to system-wide policy IT0126.
When we think about accessibility, our goal should not be merely to make our content accessible to users with disabilities but should instead be to make our designs work for everyone.
“What may be needed for some is useful for all.” This is the central principle of universal design, which in turn drives our philosophy of accessibility. Universal design is design for older people, for people with disabilities, and for people without disabilities. Adopting this approach will ensure that your design will work for everyone, regardless of ability.
Accessibility at UT
Increasingly, people “meet” the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, online. New students will have visited several of our websites or interacted with us through social media before ever taking their first step on our campus. Alumni and donors receive emails without having visited our campus in years. We have no idea what needs for accommodation these individuals may or may not have, and we owe it to them to make sure their interactions with us and our brand are as accessible as possible.
Designing with accessibility in mind at the beginning of a project makes things far easier than trying to “fix” accessibility concerns at the end of a project.
Designing for accessibility pays off in many ways. Much of what makes sites more accessible also makes them more usable, more mobile-friendly and cross-browser compatible, simpler to navigate, and easier to understand for non-native English speakers.
With all of this in mind, we are sharing a few tips and best practices to help you as you are building websites. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it addresses many common problems found on UT websites.
If you have further questions, The Web Accessibility Initiative offers lots of handy tips to help you make your websites more accessible.