Accessibility: Making Essential Technology Available to Everyone

Accessible software is good for everyone, not just people with disabilities.

Keeping that in mind, and to remain true to our commitment to diversity, our approach to accessibility is strongly related to universal design. Universal design means creating products that are usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations.

While OCIO has always been committed to accessibility, we took our commitment to the next level in 2013, when we hired our first OCIO Accessibility Analyst, Pete Bossley (now Director of the OSU Digital Accessibility Center). Three years later, accessibility efforts are going strong, spearheaded by Associate Director of Enterprise Applications Managed Services Kathy Braidic and our new OCIO Accessibility Analyst, Rahim Abdi.

“Our goal is to make technology accessible to all people, whether they have a disability or not,” said OCIO Accessibility Analyst Rahim Abdi. “If a product isn’t currently accessible, we often can work with the service owner (whether internal or external); for external vendors, we include contract language that will ensure an accessible product is available to us in the future.”

While Rahim is new to our team, Kathy and Pete have been working to set up processes for the last few years. Ongoing goals for the service include:

  • Evaluating new systems or software either prior to contract and purchase by OCIO/ODEE, or during our design/build process;
  • Evaluating software already used in OCIO/ODEE to assess the level of accessibility and identify deficiencies that need to be addressed;
  • Working with vendors and our own teams to make existing products accessible; and
  • Raising awareness within OCIO/ODEE so people understand how we define accessibility and know about the resources available to ensure our systems are accessible.

The team has already put an accessibility hotline in place (for end users), which routes tickets to the team through the IT Service Desk. We also have an accessibility lab, which will soon begin offering open consulting on a regular schedule so you can stop by and get answers to your accessibility questions. As more and more people are asking for accessibility assistance (which is GREAT!), the team is transitioning to using JIRA to track requests. This will increase transparency and allow internal clients to track the progress of their request.

The Workday project offers an exceptional opportunity for the team, as Workday is committed to working with Ohio State and other higher education institutions to make their HR, Finance, and Student Information System (SIS) products accessible. The team has already started collaborating with Workday, and are looking forward to building a strong relationship with Workday.

Remember one key point – as you move forward in developing or buying new products, consider accessibility early in the process.  If you begin with accessibility in mind, you’ll get a better product in the end, and you’ll be fulfilling our legal obligation.