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SUNY Oswego will honor the importance of access and inclusion in education as part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day on Thursday, May 16.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is intended “to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities,” according to the international event’s website.

Rebecca Mushtare, an associate professor of art and associate director of the college's Center of Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), noted that the college has increasingly emphasized accessibility. With so much learning and other communication happening online, there's a high need to ensure all audiences have access to important content, she said.

“Accessibility is integral to the desire to have an inclusive campus,” Mushtare said. “Accessibility is integral to every single content creator who shares anything they write or make digitally.”

Mushtare pointed out that knowledge of how to create inclusive work is important because all students, faculty and staff create content. “They write documents, create videos, publish on the web, send emails, etc.,” Mushtare explained. “Each of these materials can be created in a way that allows our audiences to access those materials using the devices they prefer from smartphones to Braille displays and everything in-between (ex. screen readers, desktop computers, audio browsers, etc.). Focusing on accessibility as a teacher means that our students can get the content they need when they need it. It means that students with disabilities may not need to request accommodations because the materials that are provided have considered their needs from the beginning and benefit all students.”

On May 16, the college’s Workgroup on Accessible Teaching and CELT will host a series of workshops related to accessibility, all in Library Classroom 2. The workshops are open to anyone in the campus community. They include:

  • 9:30 a.m.: “A Practical Guide to Text Alternatives (for content creators),” by Joe Fitzsimmons and Kelli Ariel,
  • 10:30 a.m.: “Introduction to Digital Accessibility,” by Mushtare and Kate Percival
  • 11:30 a.m.: “Introduction to Ally" (an accessibility tool in Blackboard), by Kathi Dutton
  • 1 p.m.: “Designing Accessible Presentations,” by Percival
  • 2 p.m.: “Designing Accessible Materials with Google Apps,” by Dan Laird
  • 3 p.m.: “Making Videos Accessible with Captioning,” by Laird

“Our campus has a number of teams of faculty and staff working on accessibility initiatives, including training, policies and workflows,” Mushtare said. “We’ve focused a lot of effort this year on raising the visibility of accessibility.”

The Division of Extended Learning, for example, has incorporated accessibility practices into the development of new online courses, and the Workgroup on Accessible Teaching has offered extended workshops during CELT’s spring and winter breakout sessions and has done special trainings for specific departments on campus, Mushtare noted.

In a pilot program, the college also engaged faculty across all four schools to explore workflows in a wide variety of research areas and specializations, with seven accessibility fellows working toward fully accessible course while serving as resources for other members of their schools, Mushtare said. Those fellows also are exploring ways they can start to teach and require their students to create accessible materials.

Additional resources include an updated college accessibility website, new books and materials in Penfield Library to support the campus community (many of which will be on display for Global Accessibility Awareness Day) and “Writing Online: Access Matters” workshops for students each semester for the Write Ways series.

The message is taking hold across campus. One example of students understanding and implementing these guidelines came last semester when five SUNY Oswego students under the mentorship of Mushtare won the national AIR-U competition for accessibility in web design for the team's inclusive work on the Vote Oswego site.