November 3, 2015

Born Accessible

Access conceptBorn accessible is a term that refers to documents and information that are created in formats using the four basics of information accessibility right from the start.  Born accessible means that a document, website, book or presentation doesn’t have to be converted or adapted to be accessible but rather is created in accessible formats to meet the needs of users.  With a little training, born accessible strategies are easy to incorporate using existing technology.

Here at the University of Montana, the accessibility policy recognizes that “…equal and effective electronic and information technology access is the responsibility of all University administrators, faculty, and staff.”  In order to make sure University employees are able to work in accordance with the policy, staff training and technical assistance are made available.  One such course focuses on the creation of born accessible Word documents.

In this course, participants learn to use the built-in Word features to create accessible documents which include headings, images with alternative text, self-describing links, and correctly formatted lists.  Documents created using the formatting features in Word are easily readable by screen readers and easy to interpret for those who use assistive technology.  Not only is a born accessible document accessible to assistive technology users, but it is also easier to read for everyone.

Fundamental to a born accessible document is organization.  A document that includes headings and well organized content is more useful for any potential reader which is one principle of universal design, a philosophy that advocates for universal access as a benefit to any potential user.

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