According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 11% of undergraduate students reported having a learning disability. As a company whose mission is to improve lives through learning for all students, that data is hard to ignore. So today, on Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), we celebrate the many accomplishments on our products and within our company framework that have taken place over the past year. Here are a few:
For the third consecutive year we were recognized as Global Certified Accessible by Benetech. This means that we provide “born accessible” digital learning options that ensure that all students, no matter their ability, have the same access to information. Benetech re-evaluated Macmillan Learning’s workflow for creating accessible books, as well as many samples of content across disciplines, and certified our conformance to the accessible EPUB creation guidelines, which are based on WCAG 2.0 AA+ standards put in place by the international standards organizations and the publishing community.
We had some big wins for accessibility on our new digital learning platform, Achieve, including adding audio descriptions to all videos. This allows students with visual impairments better understand what’s happening in the video. Similar to how closed captioning helps students to understand what’s happening on the audio in a video program, an audio description is essential to understanding visual information like charts, graphs, diagrams, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues. In addition to bringing our content more in line with WCAG, it reflects the accessible environment students have become used to on sites like Netflix.
We continue to share best practices about our work in accessibility. Our Content Standards and Accessibility team, led by Rachel Comerford, has presented on more than a half dozen panels over the past year sharing what we have learned about accessible ebooks, incorporating accessibility into workflows, and alt text best practices. Macmillan Learning’s accessibility website is also regularly updated with best practices as well as an open source library of materials that were created in partnership with Tech For All. “We continue to share best practices about our work in accessibility because we want to advance the industry, not just ourselves,” said Macmillan Learning President Susan Winslow.
We’ve changed the way we hire employees with disabilities by making it even easier for them to request an accommodation. When you click on “view current job openings” on our careers page, we have an accessibility note at the top of the page offering contact information to request an appropriate accommodation. In addition, we’ve taken some extra steps to make sure that our candidates are aware of their accommodation options by adding in a note in all of our scheduling emails and email confirmations.
Susan Winslow explains, “These are the kinds of advances we can make when we put our collective minds to approaching accessibility not just as a series of requirements to meet, but rather as interesting and important problems to solve.”