The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) provides many forms of outreach each day in its work with students and faculty regarding academic accommodations. Beyond these daily forms of outreach, however, SSD invites members of the NU community to request visits or presentations from SSD staff at departmental meetings, firesides, and other events, and to inquire about accessibility audits.

Current Outreach Focus

SSD is committed to accessibility in all forms, which includes accessible technology (e.g., making websites accessible to students using adaptive equipment and software). Toward this end, SSD has partnered with Student Affairs Information Technology (SAIT), Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT), and WebComm to evaluate and enhance the accessibility of Northwestern's websites. Working together, often in the context of our Web Developers Accessibility Working Group, we are building a body of knowledge and best practices, which has resulted, among other things, in NUIT's development of an accessibility statement and SAIT's and SSD's authoring of web accessibility guidelines for content providers. We are also working with Purchasing Resource Services to assist with the implementation of guidelines for purchasing accessible software applications University-wide. All of these and related endeavors honor the Division of Student Affairs' strategic themes of furthering student learning and advancing social justice.

Accessibility Audits

SSD and SAIT are now offering to the wider Northwestern community what we call "accessibility audits." These are informal in nature and at the request of the individual department. The goal of these audits is to disseminate some of the core concepts of accessibility and to help you, your development team, or the vendor fix any potential issues in order to be compliant with WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C).

Ongoing Accessibility Audit Partners

Previous requests for accessibility audits have come through the following areas:
  • Division of Students Affairs
  • Student Enterprise System (CAESAR)
  • WebComm
  • NUIT TSS Communications
  • NUIT Academic and Research Technologies
  • VidyoDesktop (external vendor) for Internet 2 Net+ Consortial Effort

General Accessibility Audit Process

  1. Identify a few of your most important web pages or technologies on which you would like accessibility input.
  2. Describe any initial steps you've made to verify that the technologies in question are accessible.
  3. Contact Student Affairs help to request an accessibility audit through SAIT and SSD. We will meet with you to review your site/technology and share insights and recommendations. 
  4. Once you have incorporated this initial feedback, SSD and SAIT may ask students with disabilities who themselves use adaptive technology to test with your revised site.
    • Most who have gone through this process report student feedback to be the most beneficial demonstration of the actual usability of their sites.

If you are interested in more information or would like to schedule a visit from an SSD representative, please email ssd@northwestern.edu. To request an internal accessibility audit through SSD and SAIT for particular web pages or web apps, please email sa-help@northwestern.edu.