26 Digital and / or Web Accessibility Initiatives

Digital Remediation of Thesis Writer’s Toolkit

We received an eCampus OEX grant to accessibly remediate an online resource called the McMaster Thesis Writer’s Toolkit. Previously, this student-authored toolkit was created using design technology that is now out-of-compliance for accessibility standards as it contained infographics and other digital features that are inaccessible. We worked with accessible design experts to conduct an extensive accessibility audit of the toolkit and collaborated on the remediation of more than forty images, plus other full updates of the resource to WCAG 2.2AA compliance. The revised pressbook can be accessed on the Grad Studies’ Writing Resources Webpage or directly through eCampus Pressbooks.

Contributors: Andrea Cole, School of Graduate Studies

Digital Accessibility in the Faculty of Health Sciences

The Faculty of Health Sciences Communications Department is dedicated to providing high quality inclusive and accessible digital content. We completed a thorough overhaul of our social media channels, taking a proactive stance to reduce barriers, recognizing the critical importance of accessibility. As part of this initiative, new processes were implemented to ensure all social media content – text, video, graphics, images, etc. – are created with accessibility and inclusion in mind, and reviewed to ensure they follow best practices. For example, text does not include inaccessible language (e.g., “see,” “watch,” “listen,” etc.), all videos have closed captions added and placed within each platform’s “safe zone,” alternative text is concise and used for each image or graphic posted and all text included in a graphic is replicated in the caption or alternative text.

Contributors: Shayla Vize, Brandon Kaiser and Latasha Deleo, Communications Department, Faculty of Health Sciences

Enhanced Resource Accessibility (Digital and Print)

During Summer 2023, the Student Success Centre (SSC) and Student Affairs Tech Team (SATT) collaborated to make the SSC’s digital tip sheet resources more accessible through providing multiple ways for students to access information. This project was inspired by conversations with SSC career counsellors and their interactions with students.

Improvements were designed to meet the following goals:

  • Enhance the print function available on all SSC digital resources to provide an alternate way to access the information based on their needs and preferences.
  • Implement best practices for formatting to ensure digital resources retain branding and accessibility when printed.
  • Create new opportunities for staff to share resources during interactions with students (appointments, events, pop-ups).

Contributors: Jessica Vinluan, Communications and Outreach Officer, Student Success Centre, Jeffrey Low, Marketing and Communications Strategist, Student Success Centre, Elizabeth DiEmanuele, Manager, Marketing and Communications, Student Affairs, Mike Sowerby, Manager, Information Technology, Student Affairs Tech Team, and Hussein Mukri, Applications Developer, Student Affairs Tech Team

Equity and Inclusion Office Web Accessibility Project

After the remediation of all content creation-level errors by Nusrat Mir, Accessibility Projects, the content creators in the Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO)  have been provided with training and tools to ensure compliance, upskill where relevant to ensure websites are remediated if they have fallen out of compliance with support from the Accessibility Projects Coordinator and Web Accessibility Specialist, Clark Ciprk, at University Technology Services. Nusrat has also been supporting the content creators with ongoing maintenance to ensure there are little to no errors across all EIO sites.

The EIO is committed to ensuring accessibility is implemented and in mind at the outset as a way to ensure document and media uploads do not pose compliance challenges. For support in maintenance, and testing which must be conducted throughout the year, please reference Web Accessibility 101 – Introduction (created by Nusrat Mir) on an ongoing basis.

Contributors: AccessMac Program, Equity and Inclusion Office 

Examining the Accessibility of Educational Technology Tools

As part of our ongoing work in ensuring that the platforms we use are accessible and in partnership with the AccessMac program, the MacPherson Institute hired a person with lived experience to examine Avenue to Learn as well as the Course Outline Library to evaluate the accessibility of those platforms using some commonly used accessibility software. Our suggestions for improvements have been shared with the vendors and we are working closely with them to get these changes implemented as soon as possible.

Furthermore, a collaborative IT Governance project with UTS and the Libraries was undertaken to evaluate our existing video content management platforms. This endeavor involved establishing an auditing process to assess the accessibility of these tools, conducting audits for each platform, and providing recommendations for updates. Additionally, it emphasized the importance of consistent and regular auditing as an integral part of platform administration.

Contributors: MacPherson Institute

Faculty of Science MacSites Website Migration for Improved Accessibility and Security

The SciTech team from the Faculty of Science partnered with Media Production Services to migrate our main website portfolio of over 20 websites to the MacSites platform. This migration addressed ongoing security and accessibility concerns as the MacSites team and template is committed to delivering an accessible experience to all users. Through an iterative feedback process to address accessibility concerns, the platform has also been improved since completing our initial migration. In addition to the template itself, the SciTech team has created accessibility training in partnership with Nusrat Mir from the Equity and Inclusion Office and Kate Brown, from the Office of the Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning, that is contextualized to the MacSites environment. Training is required to access the platform and this commitment to creating accessible content is supported by Maureen MacDonald, the Dean of Science.

Contributors: Faculty of Science, SciTech Team, Media Production Services and Equity and Inclusion Office

Faculty of Social Sciences Updates

The Faculty of Social Sciences will be working on a revitalized website migration for 2024-2025. The migration of Social Sciences websites to the MacSites platform will help the Faculty ensure the new website meets AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) standards while adopting what is quickly becoming an institutional web-publishing standard. This work is ongoing and will enhance the useability and accessibility of websites across all departments in Social Sciences.

Contributors: Nick Marquis, Learning Technologies Consultant, Faculty of Social Sciences on behalf of the Faculty and several leads distributed across all departments

 MacSites Website Platform

Our department (Media Production Services) created and maintains the MacSites (macsites.mcmaster.ca) website platform. MacSites is a custom WordPress platform that powers a high number of websites at McMaster. Our Team has committed to providing websites that are accessible to the widest possible audience.

As a part of our work cycle, we began publishing release notes in 2022. These release notes contain a section dedicated to the AODA work completed with each MacSites update. This work ranges from colour contrast fixes on web elements to automated detection (and removal) of empty headings. Feedback from clients and partners determine the priority level for work items. After each release, all sites are re-scanned using PopeTech to ensure new errors haven’t been introduced. We also use PopeTech to ensure that as our page count grows, our error density continues to decrease.

Contributors: Simon Oakley and Melanie Phillips, MacSites (Media Production Services)

New Faculty of Health Sciences Faculty Website

In 2023, the Faculty of Health Sciences launched a new faculty website  as the cornerstone of a digital transformation. Based on stakeholder surveys and user data, the faculty’s website was transformed to be a leader in AODA and accessibility, reach target audiences, be mobile-first and highlight education, key news and put equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigenous reconciliation at the forefront.

A focus on community building and continued access was layered into the website highlighted by the News & Events section. Intake forms were developed for both news and events that prioritize the need to include alt text and captions for all images and videos uploaded to the site. This small effort helps maintain a high accessibility standard for the Faculty website, while increase the awareness of website accessibility best practices within the Health Sciences community.

Contributors: Circe Luna Cordeiro, and Taylor Miatello, Faculty of Health Sciences Communications

Student Accessibility Services (SAS) Chat Bot Project

Student Accessibility Services (SAS) launched a chat bot on its website in August 2023. This new service, providing access to essential information and resources 24 hours a day, was designed to accomplish the following goals to support students with disabilities:

  • Wayfinding: help students find what they’re searching for quickly and efficiently.
  • Reduce the number of email interactions from full-time staff to free up some time for other tasks to assist students more efficiently.
  • Triage student requests upfront so students can receive immediate assistance.

Contributors:  Student Success Centre: Elizabeth DiEmanuele, Catherine Martin, and Duwa Javed, and Student Accessibility Services: Mei-Ju Shih

Website Accessibility in the Faculty of Health Sciences

As part of the FHS Web P  roject, which aimed to move more than 100 FHS websites to MacSites, a rigorous review process was implemented to ensure all new websites were AODA compliant and accessible. This included editorial and technical reviews, conducted through manual examination and software recommended by McMaster University’s Accessibility Hub. These reviews were shared with website owners, and provided findings and requests to edit elements that were inaccessible or not AODA compliant. The editorial review focused on explaining why certain page elements were flagged, aiming to educate users on AODA compliance and accessibility. For example, “Assistive devices cannot detect text on an image, please ensure all text is replicated somewhere on the page or as alternative text.” Websites were not made live until they passed these reviews. Within the 2022-23 Academic Year, 102 accessible and AODA compliant websites were launched .

Contributors: Faculty of Health Sciences Communications Department and Faculty of Health Sciences Computer Services Unit (CSU)

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The Annual Accessibility and Disability Inclusion Update Copyright © 2022 by McMaster University. All Rights Reserved.

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