Digital Access & Inclusion
Access for Everyone
Accessibility is important at UMass Boston and the entire community strives to insure fair and equitable access to information for everyone, including those with visual, hearing, or other impairments. Of course, this applies to curricula and course materials for our students, but it also includes information of all kinds meant for students, faculty, and staff. As educating people about accessibility and providing accessible and inclusive materials to the UMass Boston community is critical to its success, IT Accessibility Coordinator Matt McCubbin and Senior Instructional Designer Linda Sudlesky have worked on a project since early 2021 to do just that. A newsletter, now known as Digital Access & Inclusion, has been published online and distributed regularly to the campus community since its debut in January 2021. Its purpose is to provide information about accessibility in order to empower others to maintain an inclusive academic environment.
The inspiration for the newsletter came out of conversations Matt had with IT Client Services Assistant Vice Chancellor John Mazzarella early in the pandemic when most people were working remotely. Many had questions pertaining to accessibility and it was thought a newsletter would be a great way to address them. Linda Sudlesky heard about the idea and wanted to help, and the newsletter’s editorial team was born.
When reviewing the newsletters from the first one through the current edition, it is noticeable how they’ve gotten progressively more informative and sophisticated. While they’ve always had important practical content, such as how to make online meetings more accessible, they now include valuable resources and connect readers to other accessibility communities. Global Accessibility Awareness Day has been celebrated with links to its various events. Other links connect to sites outside umb.edu to articles that consider accessibility from more social and cultural perspectives.
A continuing feature in the newsletter is the announcement of when virtual “office hours” are being held. Matt and Linda schedule a couple of hours each month to be reached via Zoom or a similar app to address any accessibility-related questions people may have.
A milestone was reached this summer when the newsletter went out with a new banner carrying its new name, Digital Access & Inclusion. Linda said, “It’s good that the newsletter is developing its own identity, to be more recognizable. From my perspective it makes it feel like it’s becoming more of a staple at the university instead of being another message sent by IT News,” referring to how it was previously delivered.
Matt discussed what he believed the main purpose of the newsletter is and the changes he’d like to see in future editions. “Certainly one of the goals is to encourage staff and faculty to create accessible content themselves, but I would love to get guest content from other departments. We’re very feedback and community driven. We want to hear from our staff and faculty what they would like to read about, what questions they have.” So, consider this an invitation to contact Matt to discuss what you’d like to see in the next edition of the newsletter.
Ultimately, just the fact that the Digital Access & Inclusion newsletter is a regular feature at UMass Boston is a credit to the university. It's an integral part in showing how everyone is valued and included here at UMass Boston, especially people with disabilities such as visual, hearing, or other impairments.