Team of the Month 11/2021: Accessible Website
WU Vienna is the first university in Austria whose main website has been awarded the official, independent Web Accessibility Certificate Austria (WACA) in bronze, thanks to a cross-departmental team from the units IT-Services, Marketing & Communications, and Gender & Diversity Policy.
There are approximately 1.7 million people with a temporary or permanent disability living in Austria (source: Statistics Austria). For example, around 320,000 people in Austria (4% of the population) are severely visually impaired, i.e. have an ocular disease in an advanced stage according to the WHO’s definition. As a responsible university, WU is aware of its social responsibility when designing online spaces and aims to make the information it provides on the web accessible to everyone. The WU website was awarded WACA certification in August 2021.
The “accessible website” project, with the aim of obtaining the Web Accessibility Certificate Austria (WACA), was started by a working group including Andreas Krasa, Stefan Schleifer, and Florian Kreuz from IT-Services, Christopher Posch from Marketing & Communications, and Sonja Lydtin, her maternity leave substitute Jessica Wulf, and Bianca Bazala from the Gender & Diversity Policy office.
“One of the major challenges was that WU’s web presence is extremely heterogeneous,” says Stefan Schleifer, IT-Services. “The WU website consists of tens of thousands of pages, hundreds of different content elements, and is the work of several hundred editors. We had to make a considerable number of technical improvements – for example, adjusting colors, contrasts, or font sizes – but we also had to optimize content markup for screen readers: special reading programs for people with impaired vision.”
In addition, special instructions for editors have been written up, and the topic of accessibility has been integrated into all training courses on the use of our central content management system (CMS). After all, accessibility is not a one-time fix, neither on the technical nor on the editorial level, but an ongoing process. The slightly higher effort on the editorial side pays off. Accessible websites offer a high added value not only for people with disabilities. Better structuring, improved readability, and more easily understandable content are helpful for everyone.
You can find more tips for barrier-free studying and working on the website "Barrierefrei, aber wie?" (German only).
Team of the month
Research and teaching are the key areas of a university’s work, and the most visible. However, the work of the administrative staff is also very important for making sure that a university can operate smoothly and successfully. The members of our administrative staff may not be as highly visible as our researchers, but it’s their commitment that provides our researchers and teaching staff with crucial services like a powerful IT infrastructure, state-of-the-art library services, effective support services for faculty and researchers, tailor-made in-house training programs, or personal support in running the day-to-day operations of an institute – all of this requires careful planning and organization. To bring some of these people into the spotlight, we are naming a Team of the Month 6 times a year to introduce selected members of the administrative personnel and reward them for their important achievements in specific projects.