Five ways to be more accessible for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and every other day

The key to embracing accessibility – whether online, in the classroom or across the campus – is realizing that taking the time to address an issue doesn’t just help a handful of individuals. In the end, says assistive technology specialist Dean Brusnighan, everyone benefits.

“If we address accessibility from the beginning, with a focus on universal design, you end up with a better product or service for everyone, and no one is left out,” says Brusnighan.

That emphasis on designing with accessibility in mind is one of the cornerstones of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (May 16), an annual reminder that accessibility is an ongoing issue for everyone, especially with the rapid pace of technology changes.

A series of open house-style events – including a booth at the Purdue Farmers market – will take place on May 16, allowing Purdue faculty, staff and students to learn about resources available on campus.

Participants in accessibility day also are encouraged to try going an hour without using technology most people take for granted. Try going without a computer mouse, attempting to navigate a website using a screen reader, or enlarging all of the fonts in a web browser to 200 percent, to see how functionality may be lost when accessibility isn’t a designed-in feature.

Beyond a single day of participation, Brusnighan encourages faculty, staff and students at Purdue to take some simple steps to help ensure accessibility on campus. Below are six things anyone can do to help make Purdue a more accessible community:

Make your documents accessible

Making your course’s Word documents, PDFs and PowerPoints accessible does not require a lot of time – one easy change is to use the built-in style settings in Word to make documents easier to navigate – but there are resources available to make getting started easier.

Technologists with Purdue’s Innovative Learning team work with instructors to help them learn how to create their own accessible documents, including helpful tips and one-on-one consultations.

Caption your videos – for free!

Did you know that instructional videos created in Video Express rooms – Purdue’s self-service video recording studios – are now eligible for closed captioning at no charge.

Videos uploaded to Kaltura via a Video Express room have the option to include captions from Cielo 24, a company that specializes in captioning educational videos.

Find out more about Video Express free captions.

Get to know the Disability Resource Center

Purdue’s Disability Resource Center works with students to ensure access to curricular and co-curricular offerings. The center is a resource for students, faculty and staff and its staff is available to discuss individual questions or concerns. The goal is creating an inclusive environment by design.

The Disability Resource Center complements the work of the Assistive Technology Center in providing guidance for those who teach students with disabilities, and center staff members also are available to provide department or individual training on more inclusive approaches to course design.

Know Purdue’s standards

Purdue’s Office of Institutional Equity works across the University to ensure equal access to everyone – both on campus and online. In 2017, the office updated its standards for Electronic Information, Communication and Technology Accessibility, which lays out accessibility standards for electronic materials, whether websites or digital documents (such as email and Blackboard).

The office uses Compliance Sheriff to conduct random accessibility audits on Purdue-affiliated webpages – and will provide feedback and guidance to help improve accessibility. 

Make your voice heard

Notice a physical barrier on campus that is limiting accessibility? Have concerns about accessing course materials? Have campus construction projects or technology changes made it harder to get around campus or do your job? The Office of Institutional Equity has an online form to submit accessibility issues or concerns. Submissions can be anonymous.

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998,

Last updated: May 10, 2019