Robinson Provides Training on Creating Accessible Information for MRTQ Staff

CCIDS Research Associate Bonnie Robinson, M.Ed., (pictured above) recently developed and delivered a training on creating accessible materials for 14 Maine Roads to Quality (MRTQ) staff members.  Robinson has over a decade of experience in web accessibility and creating accessible information, including accessible document design. She served on the University of Maine’s Accessible Information Committee from 2007 to 2011 and is currently a member of the university’s Web Advisory Committee.

Robinson noted that lawsuits have been brought against a number of universities around the country by students unable to access course materials posted online for their classes. Target Corporation, Amazon and Domino’s Pizza have also been sued for inaccessible websites by individuals with disabilities.

Robinson emphasized the importance of creating materials with accessibility in mind. “Aside from the federal laws that ensure equal opportunity and require access for people with disabilities,” she said, “it also makes good sense to make your websites and materials accessible. You can never predict who will want to access your information or how they will access it. The person might be using a computer, cellphone, tablet, or some type of assistive technology such as a screen reader or text-to-speech software.”

MRTQ, CCIDS and the Maine Afterschool Network are partners in the MRTQ Professional Development Network; a coordinated early childhood professional development system that supports professionals to provide high quality, inclusive early childhood programs. Robinson’s expertise in creating accessible information was requested to help build the partners’ capacity to develop accessible resources and instructional materials.

During Robinson’s training, MRTQ staff received a broad overview of the basic elements of creating accessible information (i.e., fonts – style and size; document structure; use of alternative text for images, charts and graphs; descriptive link text; color contrast; and providing transcripts or captioning for multimedia). “Incorporating these elements of accessibility into a document or media project in the beginning,” said Robinson, “creates a more seamless transition to an accessible PDF, import to a publishing program for additional work, or export to a website.”

“I learned an incredible amount from Bonnie’s presentation,” said one training participant. “I didn’t know how much I didn’t know! I have to practice more and keep learning. I appreciate Bonnie’s commitment to and passion for this topic, which shines through – she opened my eyes!”

Robinson will provide additional technical assistance to MRTQ staff as they implement these best practices in creating accessible materials as part of their information dissemination strategy.