Georgetown’s shift to an online learning environment last spring required an increase in virtual communication through websites, email, and social media—and intensified the university’s focus on accessibility.
Libbie Rifkin, a teaching professor in the Department of English and associate director of Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program, collaborated with a group of administrators across campus to promote accessible ways to communicate digitally. Rifkin currently serves as the first Special Advisor for Disability to the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Rosemary Kilkenny, a role that expands Georgetown’s commitment to valuing disability as an identity and dimension of diversity. “I believe we need to take a proactive approach to promoting accessible communications as part of a truly inclusive culture,” Rifkin says.
Creating lasting change
Building on Georgetown’s past efforts to improve electronic and information technology accessibility, Rifkin and her collaborators sought to disseminate best accessibility practices to those creating communications materials such as electronic documents or social media graphics.
Through accessibility.georgetown.edu, Georgetown can share its electronic accessibility policy, as well as guidelines, fact sheets, and webinars on building accessible websites, course materials, and other communications. The resource, Rifkin says, “forms the basis for our efforts to create lasting change in our accessibility practices.”
“It is crucial that we include people who use screen readers, or need captions for videos, or those who may benefit from plain language, like people with intellectual disabilities,” says Rifkin. “It’s about putting our audience’s diverse ways of receiving and processing information at the center of our communication process and doing this not just because we want to comply with the law, but because we want to make everyone feel welcome, like they belong.“