August 2018 – CMS update

This month we are focusing the CMS update on self-paced CMS training.

Canvas course

We are excited to announce we have a new option for CMS training available on the university’s learning management system, Canvas.

The training can now be found in the “All courses” area of Canvas and is open to anyone with an active AccessID.

Browse for the “Web Communications” course.

Canvas course screenshot

The training will evolve over time

This is only the first step in the online CMS training platform. We will over time be adding more areas for accessibility, emails, events, forms, images, etc.

If there is an area that you feel would benefit from online training, please email

In-person training is still available

In-person training is still available by signing up at: We try to offer group training every few months especially as new units start interacting with the CMS or other university tools for the first time.


Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2017, Detroit

Thursday, May 18, 2017

6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Bamboo Detroit

1420 Washington Blvd, Suite 301, Detroit, MI
$5.00 /per person

Event description

Back for the fourth year, Global Accessibility Awareness Day Detroit is a day to gather together to learn about digital accessibility and how to make the web more accessible for everyone. Events will be held around the world to raise awareness about web accessibility.

This year’s event is jointly hosted by Refresh Detroit and Ladies That UX Detroit.

Who is this event for?

If you’re working on the web, creating, developing, or designing websites or content for others to use, this event is for you! Or if you want to learn how we can work together to make the web accessible to everyone, we’d love for you to attend.

For our event, we’ve invited two local experts to talk about the importance of planning for accessibility in your design project and how to use an automated accessibility testing tool.


6:30pm to 7:00pm: Welcome, food, refreshments, and networking
7:00pm to 7:10pm: Introductions
7:10pm to 8:20pm: Presentations
8:20pm to 8:30pm: Announcements and thanks to sponsor
8:30pm: Time to leave


Design Before Code: Thinking About Accessibility from the Ground Up 
Caitlin Geier, UX Designer at Deque Systems

Think about accessibility when designing: don’t wait till it’s coded!  Caitlin will offer accessibility tips for designers so that time will be saved in development.

Introduction to aXE
Matt Isner, JavaScript Developer at Deque Systems

Learn how to check the accessibility of your web projects with aXe, a free Chrome extension and open source JavaScript accessibility testing engine.


Caitlin Geier


As a UX designer, Caitlin’s work with accessible design flourished once she began working for Deque. She is passionate about understanding the users she’s designing for.

Caitlin continually strives to incorporate accessibility elements into her work in order to ensure that all users can benefit from inclusive design.

Matt Isner


Matt specializes in teaching development teams to plan, test, and code for accessibility and has helped orchestrate large remediation efforts of complex enterprise applications.

He is intrigued by the idea of the computer system as an expression of human neurobiology, and champions the notion that accessible web content is better understood by both humans and computers.


Deque Systems is a leading provider of web and mobile accessibility software and services. Our mission is digital equality, and the Deque team consists of leaders and innovators in accessibility and testing tools development.

We strive to provide practical accessibility solutions that reflect real-world development environments, and we work with a broad range of clients to not only fix their inaccessible content but to integrate accessibility into their existing design and development processes through the use of automation and training. Not sure about your site’s accessibility? Check it with aXe.

Next Web workers meeting – March 20, 2015 – Accessibility

RAVPDo you manage a school/college/departmental website that represents the university? This meeting is for you.

Come share your successes, failures, questions and lessons learned with other Web workers from around campus.

This meeting’s agenda includes:

  • Matt Ouellett from the Office of Teaching and Learning will be facilitating a group discussion to create a Web accessibility working document
  • Round table

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to share their experiences.

March 20 at 10:30 a.m. in the Simon’s Room, 144 Purdy Library

RSVP is not required but suggested.

Changes to the footer and impact area

This morning we made a change to the WSU Impact area and footer on I wanted to write a quick post to explain the change.

The Problem

The WSU Impact area was designed for items that are longer standing than regular news, often lasting a few months and impact the institution as a whole. Over the past year we’ve added things to that area because there was no other spot on the homepage for them. The items we added are forever standing and will not change over time. We filled up the WSU Impact area quickly and it made the page feel unbalanced.

The Solution

We ended up adding a second row to the footer for these forever standing items that will always be connected to the university and need a presence on the homepage. They include WDET, URC and the voluntary system of accountability. This now gives us enough room to promote things that impact the university every few months that regain the goal for the WSU Impact area.

In addition, we added a link to the “Accessibility” section of our site. Although this area is mainly related to physical building accessibility we will be expanding it in the coming months to include web and digital accessibility issues and resources.

With this change in place the bottom half of the homepage is now evenly balanced and whitespace is evenly distributed. Over time we will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of these links and the WSU Impact area.

Tweaks to the global header and footer

Yesterday we made some changes to the global header. The header looks almost identical, all the changes were under the hood. I have been meaning to make these changes for some time now. Luckily I used this week’s independent study time to get it accomplished. More about that later.

From an on screen perspective the header is now 5px shorter and 960px wide (our new standard) instead of 900. The code was simplified to reduce space and be more descriptive. Last but not least it now works fully in all A-grade browsers and IE all the way back to 5.5. I have also outlined a few other benefits below.

Better Print Support

At some point the print style for the global header just simply disappeared. Not sure what happened but it was just gone. This newest update fixes that. The print header is now black and white with our wordmark and Aim Higher fully readable on top of each page. The top tab doesn’t print and the bottom border is where it is suppose to be.

The only thing that changed in the footer was the removal of the copyright policy link and no longer underlining Wayne State University.

Better Mobile Support

Something completely left out of the old header was support for mobile or “handheld” style rendering. It doesn’t do any mobile detection just yet but any device that does pick up the handheld style will now get a header like the one on the right above.

Using Opera’s small screen rendering you can see a simulation of how it looks on a mobile device. The old header (left) doesn’t accomodate for the small width and forces the user to scroll left/right. The new version (right) linearizes the page, makes the skip links visible and the tab links are now visible by scrolling down.

Fewer HTTP Requests

We reduced the number of HTTP requests that it takes to build the header from 10 to just 5. We did this by creating a sprite of all the images that make up the header. We did have to add two new “real” images though for the wordmark and aim higher to print in black and white. Having fewer HTTP requests will allow the header to load faster on devices with higher latency and makes rendering quite a bit faster. Yahoo has a great explanation about the importance of fewer HTTP requests. As you can see from the graphs above although we increased the file size size overall (just a little) the total rendering time was reduced by almost half.

More technical graphs with the comparison: old header | new header

Using a Sprite

Above is the sprite we used to create the header. A List Apart has a great article explaining sprites. This single image is used to create all the background and styled images that make up the header. It just needs to load and position it in the right spot and the browser does the rest of the work.

Skip to Navigation and Content

Recently testing our site with a screen reader we found our skip links were not functioning correctly. WebAIM had a great article about making the skip links available to people using keyboard navigation so we decided to give it a shot. Above you will see what any of our sites look like if you press the “Tab” key to navigate your way through the page. The “Skip to Navigation” link will come up first, then the “Skip to Content” will show. Basically when the links have :focus they become visible, otherwise they are hidden.

Legacy Code

We tried to support as many legacy situations as possible and fix any issues before hand. But unfortunately we came up with two situations after the fact that we could not account for. The first was users who replicated the main header code but hotlinked to our style sheet. These sites will see an odd shaped header till they update their code. The second is customized headers, some sites used our original code but with overrides in their local css to change the header style. These sites will all be broken till the individual site administrators update their code, there is nothing we can do about custom overrides.

Using the New Header/Footer

If we don’t handle your web site and you want to use the new header/footer you can right away. The code and instrcutions can be found at:

Additional Issues

If you happen to see a site that is looking funky with the new header please take a screen shot and send it to and we’ll look into it.

Accessible building entrance icons added to the flash campus map

To increase awareness of all our accessible entrances on campus, we have implemented some new functionality to our campus map. We have added a toggle switch on the bottom-right side of the map to switch to an accessible entrances view, showing where the entrances are on each building.  There are two new icons in the map key to show Accessible Entrances with and without automatic doors.

Campus Map Togglecampus-map-ada

We have also provided a printable PDF version of the map that you can get from our printable maps page. Or try it out live at

November 12, 2009: World Usability Day – Designing for a Sustainable World

The 5th World Usability Day and the 7th Annual Usability and Accessibility Conference at Michigan State University, will be held on Thursday, November 12, 2009, at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the MSU campus.

Designing for a Sustainable World

Designing for a Sustainable World focuses on how our products and services impact our world. The ‘Cradle to Cradle’ approach is to start the design with the premise of using materials that can fully enter a new life cycle by either going back to nature or going back into the design process as a new product. This holistic approach to sustainable design shows how usability can apply to all of what we do and build.

Please “Save the Date” for this program that will be relevant to researchers, professionals, and students alike. Explore advanced and timely topics of usability, accessibility and human-technology interface design in the sustainable global knowledge economy.

Tours of the MSU Usability & Accessibility Center are included in the day’s agenda.

For information on how to get involved, please visit

Refresh Detroit Meeting – November 19, 2008 – Website Accessibility in the Real World

Where: Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, Michigan. We will be meeting in Room 103 at the Morris Lawrence Building (map). Plenty of free parking is available adjacent to the building.

When: Wednesday, November 19, 2008, 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Speaker: Mary Donnelly, Senior User Experience Consultant at Evantage Consulting and Cathy McAdam, ACSW


Making the web usable for all visitors is the primary goal of creating an accessible website. The W3C estimates that close to 20% of all website visitors have some form of disability, whether cognitive, visual, hearing, or physical. These disabilities affect how visitors access a website, whether on a computer with assistive technology, laptop, or cell phone.

Learn what website accessibility is, why it is important, and what you as a web professional can do to provide a more accessible website for all website visitors. See how a screen reader views a web page and discover the different methods for testing website accessibility.

Mary Donnelly is a senior user experience consultant with Evantage Consulting. Her extensive experience includes user needs analysis, low and high fidelity prototyping, usability testing, research study design, and heuristic evaluation and assessment.

At the March 2008 EKU Web Accessibility Conference, Mary presented “An accessibility study of an online resource directory geared towards people with disabilities and seniors.”

Mary is an HFI Certified Usability Analyst, a member of the Usability Professionals’ Association, and the Society of Technical Communication.

Cathy McAdam, ACSW, has 20 years experience in rehabilitation medicine as a medical social worker at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan.

In 1999, Cathy started her own company as a consultant focused on advocacy for assistive technology, and provision of career development services. She runs a tutor program for libraries for basic computer skills for Greater Detroit Agency For The Blind and Visually Impaired.

She leads grants focused on assistive technology for people with disabilities to drive systemic change that will permanently improve access to assistive technology devices and services.

Please comment on the Refresh Detroit Web site if you plan on attending. Thanks!

Refresh Detroit Meeting – Acrobat: Features, accessibility, and version 9 – June 18, 2008

Refresh Detroit is a part of the Refreshing Cities organization. They are a group of web professionals whose goal is to promote web standards, usability, and accessibility, and to spread the knowledge of web design in the Detroit and Ann Arbor Michigan areas.

The next Refresh Detroit meeting will be 6:30pm, Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at Ann Arbor SPARK in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. They are fortunate to have Adobe representative Doug Halliday lead the presentation.

Doug will highlight features in Acrobat, including creating PDFs, sharing, forms and usability. He’ll also discuss the new features in the upcoming Acrobat 9 version, due for release in mid-summer 2008. Adobe expert Greg Pisocky will join our meeting remotely to explain the accessibility features in Acrobat.

Ann Arbor SPARK
330 East Liberty Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Doug Halliday is Business Development Manager, Manufacturing, at Adobe Systems Inc. In this capacity, he is responsible for driving customer awareness of Adobe solutions in manufacturing, developing partner relationships and formulating strategies with key customers, particularly in the automotive and heavy equipment sectors.

Greg Pisocky is a Business Development Manager in Adobe Systems’ Corporate Product Management Group. As an accessibility specialist, he advises Adobe’s customers on techniques for developing accessible content for those with disabilities.

Time to celebrate! IE8 will default to standards mode.

In a surprise move yesterday Microsoft announced it has changed its position on the default rendering engine of IE8 from IE7 rendering to the bleeding edge standards mode. This is a HUGE win for web developers across the world, the average user and everyone with a disability.

Making the standards mode “standard” means the web will no longer be forked and actually it will be converging many existing forks into a single unified path. In one sense it will make the web developers life easier in another it will allow the web to advance at a faster pace, everyone will be looking at the same goal.

Those lazy developers I talked about before will have to update their skills or they will be out of a job. It will also be a platform to hold large companies accountable, they no longer have the “broken standards” excuse to fall back on. It will also unify the accessibility options out their, if they are all reading from standard HTML and CSS they can present the page with fewer quirks instead of trying to render the mismatch of IE hacked pages out there.

The decision comes at a time when the web is evolving from adolescence to adulthood. The tools for a useful web focused on the user have been building and this decision will leapfrog the web into a platform which will only enhance what a user can do virtually.

We embrace this decision with open arms and are ready for the challenge to educate future web developers on the need and requirement to use standards not only as a best practice but as a necessity. The standards have been developed for a reason, without them many professions would become dangerous, the web was becoming a dangerous place to code.

Again from all the web developers in the world, thank you Microsoft. Your decision to work with the community instead of dictate will be welcomed world wide.