Accessibility: What it means and why it is important

Drew Chiles, Accessibility Specialist

Academic Computing

University of Mississippi


4:00 p.m., Monday, March 27

235 Weir Hall

Abstract: From the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design, the needs of peoples with disabilities have been increasingly prioritized. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) have made equal access to information and education a priority for the 21st century. As education becomes increasingly tied to the internet and digital media, the conversation about equal access turns to my main focus—digital accessibility.

Accessibility generally means designing digital content so that it is flexible enough to reach the broadest possible range of users regardless of their physical abilities. This means content should be structured, logical, intuitive, and compliant with common assistive technology such as a screen reader. By using design practices that allow for diverse users, developers can ensure their products’ legal compliance as well as the ability to be consumed by most users. Whether the product is information, goods, or services, employers and the federal government will encourage if not demand an accessible standard.

This presentation will walk through basic accessibility concerns, detailing what to test as well as how to improve designs and plans in the future. In the years to come, equal access to digital media will only grow in importance. In order to design the most effective and efficient programs that create positive and helpful user experiences, designers must consider the myriad of users from the beginning. I hope to shed light on some of this diversity and point towards the likely the norms of the more accessible future.



Bio: As an accessibility specialist, Drew Chiles works with the webmaster and the App Development and Integration (ADI) group. His role as accessibility specialist is split into two main camps—IT work and faculty training. On the IT front, he works to ensure the accessibility of the applications and webpages that Ole Miss created or maintain. For faculty training, he teaches regular workshops to faculty members and attempts to find time in their departmental meetings for further training.