Bringing Awareness to Accessibility

May 18, 2023 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)!  As the name suggests, it is a day marked to further awareness about accessibility issues and to promote efforts to remove barriers for those with disabilities.

Despite our best intentions, the way we use content tools can inadvertently create barriers for persons with disabilities, particularly those who use assistive technologies such as screen-readers. With a little bit of knowledge and simple changes we can avoid these barriers and provide everyone with the best possible experience. Below are some tips and strategies to help you create inclusive online spaces today.

What you can do

If you are at the beginning of your journey learning about accessibility, there are many resources available at U of T and across the internet. Making our digital materials better for all students, staff, faculty, and librarians begins with small habit changes in how we approach things like digital documents, websites, video, and audio content.

Headings that are out of order, or font changes used instead of headings may mean that people with assistive technologies cannot easily skim a document for the information they are looking for. Links with unmeaningful text like “here,” “click here,” “more,” “read more,” or even bare URLs can similarly slow people down, forcing them to re-read the text before the link, or worse, leave the site in frustration. Below are some actions you can take to eliminate these barriers.

Read Up

Guides on Accessibility topics abound online, from inside U of T and from the wider world. PSEC has a page with a general list of useful resources.  To get you started, here are some selected guides on useful topics, including captioning, alternative text, and link text:

Attend Training

U of T staff are encouraged to sign up for our in-house sessions. We offer courses on a wide variety of subjects including:

Join the community

The AODA Office has formed an Accessibility Community that hosts regular one-off sessions, drop-in office hours and recordings of past sessions.  Contact the AODA Office to Join on MS Teams.

Delving deeper

Accessibility Checking Tools

Taking your journey further, you can engage with many of the different kinds of Accessibility Checking Tools available; they won’t tell you everything about the accessibility of a website, but they can help identify many types of content error. If you have any questions about how to obtain or use any of the following, contact aoda@utoronto.ca.

  • WAVE extension for Chrome or Firefox – developed by WebAIM. A beginner-friendly, visual markup checker
  • Sa11y – developed by Adam Chaboryk at Toronto Metropolitan University. A lightweight content checking tool which can also be used as a bookmarklet
  • ARC Toolkit for Chrome – developed by TPGi. A developer-friendly tool, with a clean dev-tool view.
  • Axe Dev Tools for Chrome – developed by Dequeue. Also designed for developers who want to view issues within the dev tool window.
    Website Reviews

The AODA Office provides Divisions and Faculties with a wide range of consultations about their websites. If you would like a review of your site to find out how well it performs in terms of accessibility, please write to the University of Toronto’s AODA Office to request a review.

Celebrate Champions

Do you have someone in your department who is a champion of accessibility? Let U of T know and give them a True Blue recognition!