Welcome to our new accessibility series! This month, we’re looking at web accessibility at LabXchange across four blog posts. We’ll cover accessibility in product design, inclusive language, accessibility in web development, and accessible design. In this post, we’ll introduce LabXchange’s overall accessibility strategy. We’ll also hear from our head UX/UI designer.
Each month we highlight different aspects of LabXchange and the Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education project (RDEISE). (Previously, we’ve covered the project’s inception, introduced our graduate fellows and the faculty steering committee, and recently went behind the scenes for an exclusive look at the project's learning designers.)
Historically, the study and practice of science have been inaccessible to many groups and individuals - women, individuals with disabilities, and individuals with limited financial means, just to name a few.
At LabXchange, we are dedicated to making science education more accessible. We aim to understand and respect our global learning community’s evolving needs and perspectives. As part of the Harvard University community, we seek to conform to the university’s Digital Accessibility Policy. The policy is based on The World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1, Level AA Conformance (WCAG 2.1 Level AA). We strive to surpass these minimum required standards and to serve as leaders in this space.
LabXchange Head of Content Dr. Martin Samuels describes our accessibility strategy across workflows as follows. “Each team is committed to accessibility, but each team applies a unique perspective and set of values to ensure that the learning resources we create are accessible. When writing scripts for new resources, our subject matter experts and learning designers focus on explaining concepts as clearly as possible, with as little jargon as possible. They apply scientific concepts to real world examples to make them tangible and meaningful. The writing and editing team ensures that each resource includes high-quality alt text, extended descriptions, and/or transcripts. The development team ensures that all our learning resources are screen reader compatible, and that interactive elements are accessible to all. The graphic design team ensures that the images are all colorblind-friendly.”
To start off, we spoke to our head UX/UI designer, Tess Gadd, to learn more about accessibility in product design.
A: Accessibility in product design means making products and services available to more people who would have previously been cut off from using them. Traditionally, accessibility is focused on people with physical disabilities, but when done comprehensively, it also helps users who are data-poor (i.e users who lack access to high-speed internet), users in noisy environments, ELL (English language learners), and others.
A: Per Harvard University Digital Accessibility Policy, LabXchange has to be WCAG 2.1. AA compliant at a minimum. But as in all aspects of LabXchange, we don’t want to do the bare minimum. We want to bring high-quality STEM education to everyone. This means that we strive to go above and beyond the expected standards to give all users equitable experiences. We don’t just provide alt text on infographics - we also include extended descriptions. We don’t just create video transcripts - we also create descriptive video transcripts with added detail. Additionally, all our content is super lightweight and can be accessed with minimal data bandwidth.
A: To make sure we think about accessibility at each touchpoint in the LabXchange journey, we have six dedicated accessibility champions across different teams. Their role is to stay up-to-date with the current web accessibility standards that affect their team, and to communicate those updates to their team and the broader organization, as well as to document these updates.
Subscribe to our newsletter for future blog posts, in which we’ll profile other teams working behind the scenes of the Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Science Education project.