1.1 Why should we care about digital accessibility?

Universal access provides greater than expected benefits

"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." —Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

Consider closed captioned video. A viewer with hearing loss certainly can benefit from closed captioned video. A person who has difficulties understanding speech in noisy environments can also benefit. Now consider the video content itself. What if the presenter has a strong accent or is speaking in technical terms? Captions can help provide clarity. Captions can also support poorly recorded video, such as when content is recorded in a noisy environment or if the sound becomes muffled. This wide range of benefits is very typical when you use universal access best practices.

Universal design provides benefits for the site creator as well! As you will read, accessible websites are well structured and clear to read. These same properties can also improve your site's search engine optimization and improve your results with artificial intelligence tools. For instance, AI tools are frequently being used to summarize web pages. Using HTML headings for headlines in your content provides AI with an outline of your site in advance. Similarly, alternative text on images not only make the images accessible to someone using a screen reader, it also identifies the content of images for a search engine or AI as well.

Doing it right the first time saves time (and money)

Having accessible content from the point of creation can save extensive time and effort spent on accessibility remediation after the fact. It can also potentially save legal costs. For example, dozens of colleges and universities across the United States are facing legal action over inaccessible technology and online resources.

We're librarians!

"We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests." — from ALA Code of Ethics (emphasis for illustration)

Providing universal access certainly makes sense from these perspectives, yet more importantly it helps us fulfill our ethical mission. As such, we should be at the front lines fighting for our patrons and students access to everything. We're librarians! Access is our middle name.

Fear not, the basics are easy

While implementing advanced web accessibility can require development experience, making the basic content we all create accessible can be accomplished by us all.


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