Grassroots initiative to improve accessibility of campus websites


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“It’s the right thing to do.”

That’s what Kate Russell, senior experience analyst with Hesburgh Libraries, says about the Campus-Wide Website Accessibility Initiative started last fall. The campus grassroots effort will make the University’s more than 600 websites more accessible for the blind, deaf, physically challenged, cognitively challenged and others. The initiative is led by Russell and Erik Runyon, technical director, Marketing Communications, and includes 25 other employees.

When Hesburgh Libraries relaunched its website in the fall of 2017, Russell decided to look deeper into improving the accessibility of all campus websites. “I always cared about the issue,” she says, “but I never really had a real chance to pursue it beyond sharing some pointers in Conductor training sessions.”

She knew Runyon, her former colleague, would be a good advocate as well. “Kate and I had been talking about campus website accessibility for five years,” says Runyon. “In the fall, we made it a more personal goal.”

Russell met with Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves to discuss the goals of the initiative. He referred Russell to Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications Paul Browne and the since-retired vice president for information technology and chief information digital officer, Ron Kraemer. “They have been very supportive of our grassroots movement, and offered to help us as they could,” says Russell.

The goals of the Campus-Wide Website Accessibility Initiative are to increase awareness of the need for website accessibility, educate website content providers to ensure accessibility of content and strive toward full accessibility of all University websites.

Making the web accessible to the disabled is a federal and even global effort. The Notre Dame group reviewed the World Wide Web Consortium’s standards for web accessibility and developed a list of 13 guidelines that each campus website should follow.

Guidelines include:

  • Providing appropriate alternative text for images
  • Captioning or providing transcripts for videos
  • Formatting headings, lists and other structural elements to aid keyboard navigation
  • Ensuring users can complete and submit all forms 

Accessibility will improve the user experience for all who visit campus websites, Russell notes.

The group has developed a website ( that offers resources, guidelines and pertinent information to help content providers and web developers make the University’s websites more accessible. They also plan to increase awareness through workshops and special events. To learn more or get involved with the initiative, visit the website or contact Russell,