Increasing Inclusive Design and Accessibility

April 16, 2024 | 4 minute read
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Oracle collaborated with Teach Access and Clemson University to present on the session ‘The Importance of Introducing Students to Inclusive Design at the SC Ed Tech Conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in October 2023.  The presentation was by Monica Gaines from the Oracle Accessibility Program Office, Mindy Kolin from Teach Access and Dr Julian Brinkley from Clemson University School of Computing.  The presentation provided information on inclusive design and the impact on student and how accessibility can benefit industry.  The SC EdTech conference is South Carolina’s largest educational technology conference.  Its primary goal is to bring educators, administrators, technology professionals, college faculty and staff, public and academic librarians, business and industry trainers, industry representatives, and policy makers together to think, discuss, listen, and learn the best strategies to plan for and use educational technology in our schools.

 

Teach Access is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization collaborating with education, industry, government, and disability advocacy organizations to address the critical need to enhance students’ understanding of digital accessibility as they learn to design, develop, and build new technologies with the needs of people with disabilities in mind.  Teach Access envisions a fully accessible future in which students enter the workforce with knowledge of the needs of people with disabilities and skills in the principles of accessible design and development, such that technology products and services are born accessible.

 

Oracle has been a sponsor of Teach Access for several years.  This presentation highlighted the advantages of teaching K-12 students about accessibility as well as inclusivity by utilizing the successes of teaching accessibility in higher education to better prepare students for entering the workforce with necessary skillsets. 

 

In Fall 2022, Teach Access surveyed its growing membership, partners, and networks about the state of accessibility within their organizations.   Some of the results:

  • Over 86% of those surveyed reported that they anticipate the demand for accessibility skills to increase.
  • 2 out of 3 respondents reported that their products are less accessible than they want and that they must invest in on-the-job training for employees.
  • Only 2% of respondents reported that it’s easy for their organization to find candidates with accessibility skills.

You can read more in the Teach Access Accessible Technology Skills Gap White Paper.

 

Inclusive design ensures that the future designers of technology understand the importance of accessibility and how to broadly support diverse user needs. It's important to introduce students to inclusive design because of the following:

  • Promotes empathy and understanding
  • Encourages problem-solving skills
  • Supports diversity and equity
  • Prepares for future careers

 

What is Inclusive Design?

Inclusive Design is the design of an environment so that it can be accessed and used by as many people as possible, regardless of age, gender, and ability.  In other words, it is a process for creating a design that can be used by a diverse group of people in different ways. Using inclusive design is important because:

  • Digital technology is more usable when it is built for inclusion and accessibility.
  • Inspires innovative products, e.g., closed captioning, sidewalk cutouts.
  • Create things (products or services) that are usable by everyone to the greatest extent possible.
  • Increase access to a broader market, some of which make it a requirement.
  • Work with a wide range of people with unique skill sets.

 

Incoming computer science students at Clemson School of Computing in South Carolina are interested in learning about accessibility when introduced to the topic but few enter the university with significant prior exposure to this topic.   Based on Teach Access student surveys, students are eager to register for Teach Access programming and have stated they wished they learned about accessibility earlier.

 

The Clemson School of Computing introduced discussions of accessibility into three required courses with the goal of exposing more students to this important topic. As educators of the world’s future technologists these efforts can make a practical difference in the accessibility of tomorrow’s technologies.  Students are highly interested in learning more about the topic upon being introduced to it, but most have not previously considered the needs of persons with disabilities and their roles as computing professionals.

 

Teach Access’ initial focus has been to introduce accessibility and inclusive design curriculum for universities.  The logical next step is to reach a broader audience by also introducing these concepts into K-12 curriculum as well.  The role of k-12 educators in accessibility:

  • K12 is a critical time in point in childhood skills development and learning and is a perfect time to introduce core accessibility concepts.
  • At a minimum, computer science, technology, and programming courses should include accessibility as a core topic.
  • Even simply discussing the underlying causes of disability goes a long way towards fostering empathy.

 

Oracle is a thought leader in accessibility through product development, teaching and advancing progress in the accessibility landscape. Our content provides beyond the baseline. In the industry, we share best practices and knowledge, offering a rich platform with materials, both internally and externally. Oracle co-chairs the W3C Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, leads discussions on standards definition, best practices, and innovations at industry conferences.

 

Partnering with organizations such as National Federation of the Blind and Teach Access we amplify impact in the industry globally so that others will follow in our success.

 

See also:

Oracle Accessibility Program

https://www.oracle.com/corporate/accessibility/

 

The Redwood Experience

https://redwood.oracle.com/

 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/

 

ARIA Authoring Practices Guide (APG)

https://www.w3.org/WAI/ARIA/apg/

 

Inclusive Design Research Centre

https://idrc.ocadu.ca/

 

NFB National Convention

https://nfb.org/get-involved/national-convention/past-conventions/2023-national-convention

 

Oracle honors National Disability Employment Awareness Month and World Standards Day https://blogs.oracle.com/cloud-infrastructure/post/honor-disability-employment-month-standards-day

Oracle D&I Editorial Team


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