Accessible University 20th Anniversary: Teaching web and document accessibility with the AU Demo Site


Presented at 1:30pm in Matchless on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.



  • Terrill Thompson, Manager, IT Accessibility Team, University of Washington
  • Gaby de Jongh, Document Accessibility Specialist, University of Washington

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 3-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: Pre-conference


Accessible University (AU) is a demonstration website that features two versions of a fictional university home page, one with accessibility problems, and one without. In this session, presenters will model how AU, freshly updated for its 20th anniversary, is intended to be used for teaching about web and document accessibility. It’s a great opportunity to explore this free, open-source tool, and to learn about a wide variety of common web and document accessibility issues.


Twenty years ago (2002), the National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education (AccessIT) at the University of Washington created Accessible University (AU), a demonstration website that featured two versions of a home page for a fictional university, one with a variety of accessibility problems, and another with all problems fixed. A companion page provided detailed explanations of each problem and solution. Accessible University has been updated twice with funding from the National Science Foundation as part of the University of Washington's AccessComputing project, and in 2015 was moved to GitHub as an open-source project. In the twenty years since its inception, it has provided a key foundation for web accessibility trainings at the University of Washington and elsewhere, and has been used for testing the capabilities of automated accessibility tools. In 2022, the AU demo site is once again being updated with new features that represent common problems observed on today’s web. In this session the presenters will model how AU is intended to be used by playing a "Spot the Barrier" game and discussing each problem and solution. The session will start with web accessibility basics such as headings, alt text on images, meaningful link text, color contrast, and avoiding use of color to communicate information. Then it will gradually build on knowledge gained and explore features such as dropdown menus, accordions, modal dialogs, data tables, online forms, and video. AU also includes a fictional one-page syllabus from an Introduction to Physics course. This document, available in various versions (accessible and inaccessible) in both Word and PDF, is often used in document accessibility trainings. In the second half of this session, instructors will model how to use the syllabus for teaching about accessibility of digital documents.


  1. The AU demo site is flexible and can be used for training audiences with varying skill levels.
  2. Web accessibility issues range from very simple to highly complex. AU provides examples of the full range.
  3. There are huge variations of accessibility within digital documents, even those that look identical.

Disability Areas

Topic Areas

Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized, Web/Media/App Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Terrill Thompson

Terrill Thompson is manager of the IT Accessibility Team at the University of Washington.

Gaby de Jongh

Gaby de Jongh is document accessibility specialist at the University of Washington.


Session overview (PowerPoint)