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A celebratory graphic of a 5 with an accessibility icon, a keyboard and colorful shapes. Text next to it reads "DAO celebrates 5 years"

This month, the Digital Accessibility Office is celebrating five years at UNC-Chapel Hill. What better way to kick off the celebration than with five fun facts about the Digital Accessibility Office (DAO)?

The DAO supports the University’s commitment to ensuring that digital resources are accessible to all users. The DAO provides a range of services and resources to help the UNC community create and maintain accessible digital content. Here are five fun facts you might not know about the DAO and how that translates into making Carolina a more digitally inclusive place.

1. Fosters the Digital Accessibility Liaison program

When the Digital Accessibility Office (DAO) launched in 2019, one of its primary goals was to build awareness of digital accessibility across campus. It was a challenge for a small team at a large University — only four staff to UNC’s 13,000 employees and 31,000 students. To extend its reach and foster peer-to-peer advocacy, the DAO created a community of practitioners known as the Digital Accessibility Liaisons (DAL).

Cartoon of three people video conferencing. A paper airplane flies around them.

Liaisons advocate for digital accessibility within their own department. They are volunteers from all types of roles across campus with an interest in learning more about digital accessibility and a passion for sharing that knowledge with colleagues.

The liaisons receive training and guidance from the DAO and share best practices and tips with their colleagues. The program also creates a network for liaisons to talk and learn from each other.

Currently, there are 200 members of the Digital Accessibility Liaisons Microsoft Team.

2. Offers live, on-demand and custom training

There’s a lot to know about digital accessibility, so the DAO offers training on topics like web accessibility, document remediation, social media accessibility, procurement and more. In 2023, the DAO conducted 40 live training sessions with more than 270 unique attendees.

The DAO also provides on-demand training versions of its two most popular courses, Digital Accessibility Awareness and Digital Accessibility in Course Design. And for quick reference, you can use one of the many guides and checklists on the DAO website.

The DAO is currently creating new and revamped training, so stay tuned for fresh opportunities, especially as we near the Fall semester.

And if your unit has specific needs, the DAO is happy to create a custom training session or speak for a few minutes at a meeting.

3. Helps UNC create and maintain accessible websites

Increasingly, our websites are how prospective and current Tar Heels discover Carolina and all the resources it has to offer. That means websites that don’t work — or don’t work for everyone — are a huge barrier.

To help ensure web content is accessible and usable, the DAO provides accessibility assessments for the University’s websites and web applications. The DAO uses a combination of automated and manual testing tools and techniques to identify and prioritize accessibility issues and provide remediation suggestions.

While the small DAO team can’t manually check the University’s thousands of webpages, there’s a tool that can help. The DAO sponsors Siteimprove, a web governance tool that monitors and reports on the accessibility, quality and performance of websites. Anyone with a UNC-Chapel Hill website can request the DAO add a website to Siteimprove.

Siteimprove helps web managers and developers track and fix accessibility issues and improve their web presence. Since many accessibility issues are also usability issues — like broken links or unreadable text — these tools help improve the web experience for everyone.

A broken image icon
Siteimprove can help find and fix issues like missing alt text and broken images

4. Supports the procurement of accessible software and digital materials

At UNC, all software and digital materials that the University purchases or develops must consider accessibility. This is especially important for campus-wide systems. In fact, if the purchase is greater than $5,000 and the intended user base is greater than 100 people, a purchase contract must include assurances of continued accessibility.

To help ensure Tar Heels can use the software and digital materials the University buys or creates, the DAO has guidelines for working with vendors. In some cases, the DAO can also review and test software and materials for accessibility. The team members provide feedback and recommendations and assist with the procurement process. The DAO also collaborates with vendors and developers to address any accessibility issues and improve the user experience.

And before you think this only applies to software, keep in mind that “digital materials” can mean a wide range of things, including websites, electronic documents, interactive tools and platforms, library resources and more.

5. Encourages a process-based approach to accessibility

Once you learn about making your content accessible, it can feel like a challenge to overhaul an entire course or a huge website. That’s OK. The DAO maintains that accessibility is a process, not a one-time project. Team members encourage making digital accessibility part of your daily work and learning as you go.

Cartoon of a man and woman collaborating digitally. Between their laptops and outstretched hands float settings gears, a lightbulb and a paper airplane.

For example, you can add one accessibility best practice into your daily workflow. Once you’ve mastered it, add another. Or you could use analytics or metrics to help you focus on high-use materials.

And once you’ve started, pencil in the occasional refresher course. Not only do accessibility standards and best practices evolve, you may find that your own work has shifted into areas that have different accessibility needs.

The DAO is a valuable resource for the UNC community and a leader in digital accessibility. The DAO strives to make digital accessibility a priority and a reality for the University and every current and future Tar Heel. If these five fun facts about the Digital Accessibility Office have piqued your interest, explore the DAO’s website and see what else they have to offer.


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