We’ve just about all addressed, or begun to address, web accessibility: reevaluating our presumptions that all of our web visitors can see our lovely photos, read our carefully edited text, hear the narration in our videos, and appreciate the beautifully designed publications in our PDFs.
But what about the other presumptions that are behind virtually every page on the worldwide Higher Ed Web? So much of the language we use, and so many of the web conventions we rely on, are still stuck in the past, and we might be turning people away without meaning to.
The “he or she” in our text that seemed so inclusive not long ago, but still presumes a gender binary. References to diverse population groups that might make some of the people we’re talking about cringe. The pop-up menus that seem so easy to use for picking a state unless you’re from New York or elsewhere in the back half of the alphabet, or for picking a birth year unless you’re older than 25. Even web forms that ask for a First Name and ask for a Last Name, but offer nowhere for a user from a non-Anglo culture to enter a full name that might be three, or four, or five parts, rather than two.
We’ll look at some of the presumptions we’ve learned we needed to fix in recent years, the effectiveness of our attempts to fix them, the changes we could still be making to improve the situation, and some of the areas where we still have a long way to go.
Mark H. Anbinder Mark H. AnbinderWeb Communications Manager
Mark H. Anbinder works in higher ed communications and marketing at Cornell University, spending most of his time on the Campus Life units of Dining, Housing, Faculty Programs, and related areas. He's also co-publisher of an Ithaca-based news and entertainment magazine, and refers to his three pit bulls as "200 pounds of lap dog."