Global Accessibility Awareness Day

For most of us, it’s second nature to look up a website or use an app on our smartphone. We swipe, tap, and click without a second thought. But for some, this isn’t the case. Many people encounter barriers while using technology to perform basic tasks that many of us take for granted.

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). GAAD started in 2011 when Joe Devon challenged his fellow web developers to start taking web site accessibility seriously. Now GAAD is an annual event that takes place on the third Thursday of May. It’s a day to celebrate current work in digital accessibility, as well as share ideas on how we can continue to make websites more inclusive And while we’ve come along way in creating technology that works for all people, regardless of any disabilities or limitations, we’ve got a long way to go.

Accessibility at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech has committed to making our technology accessible to people with disabilities. This includes University systems, websites, electronic documents, and educational and training materials. If you aren’t aware of our campus-wide effort, please visit the Michigan Tech accessibility website to learn more. You’ll find the university policy and resources to help you make your documents and materials accessible.

If you would like to get involved, please join our Accessible Technology Working Group (ATWG)! We have members from all areas of campus. Our sub-groups collaborate on how we can address current accessibility challenges and promote an inclusive teaching and learning environment.

Assistive technology in our everyday lives

Most of us use assistive technology every day and don’t realize it. Do you wear eyeglasses or contacts? You’re using assistive technology.

You’ve probably used accessibility features, too. Take video captions, which were created for the deaf community. It turned out that people with partial or full hearing loss weren’t the only ones who benefited. Captions have helped people who are learning secondary languages. Ever turned on closed captioning while streaming a movie at home? Being able to read the dialogue on screen is useful if you can’t have the volume turned up. Maybe you’re on the treadmill at the gym, watching a screen on the wall and can’t hear the audio. Maybe you’re a non-traditional student, holding your sleeping infant while trying to do work in your online course.

Ways to get involved

While GAAD’s focus is on web accessibility, you can still get involved, even if you aren’t a web developer. Today is a great day to take time and try and put yourself in the place of someone using technology with a disability. Try one of these:

  • Pull up a web page and try to use it without a mouse. Discover first-hand the obstacles that many who have physical limitations go through when they are on the web.
  • Zoom in on your screen. Many need to enlarge the view to read the text. How does it change your experience?
  • Use a screen reader. What if you couldn’t see the screen at all? There are free screen readers you can try (NVDA, Voiceover for Mac). Mac OS and Windows have features built into their operating system. “Viewing” a web site changes when you need to rely on a piece of assistive technology to help you read it. Are you able to access all the content you could if you were seeing it?

GAAD has a list of other ways you can participate if you’d like to learn more. If you create content for the web, check out Michigan Tech’s accessibility resources. Please reach out to someone on the ATWG or our Accessibility Coordinator with any questions.

When we make the web and technology accessible, it benefits everyone. It’s one step forward to a more inclusive world. We all have an important role to play, and it can start with us here at Michigan Tech. Join us!


Protect your accounts with an extra layer of security

Everyone at Michigan Tech has used two-factor authentication (2FA) for their Michigan Tech accounts. You may know it better by its name—Duo. But did you know that the benefits of using 2FA reach far beyond your accounts at Michigan Tech?

If a website offers two-factor, we recommend you enable it. Read more below about how it helps protect your information.

Control in the Palm of Your Hand

Wouldn’t it be nice if all your accounts could let you know when someone new is trying to get into them? Even better, wouldn’t it be terrific to make a stolen password useless to others? Were you tricked into revealing your password through a phishing scam? Rest easy, your account is safe! That’s essentially the control that 2FA—also known as two-step verification, two-factor, or login approval—gives to you. And, it only takes about two minutes to set up and two seconds to use. That’s a lot of power for very little effort!

Two-factor authentication is one of the easiest and most available approaches to protecting online accounts.

How does it work?

Once you’ve activated two-factor authentication on an account, then you login to that account with your password, an authorization check will come to your smartphone or another registered device. Without your approval or current code, a password thief can’t get into your account.

Is it difficult to set up?

2FA is becoming more widely available and easier to use. Typically, you’ll either install a mobile security app on your smartphone and use that to handle the authorization checks for accounts, or you could use the text/phone call method if you can’t install a mobile app. For international travelers, the mobile app also generates a code so that a data or cellular service connection isn’t required for this second step. A physical token is another option. It’s a device with a single button that generates a passcode. It’s small enough to put on your keychain and works in place of a smartphone app.

Can I adjust the frequency of the checks?

In many cases, yes, although some accounts may require the verification for specific transactions or functions. You may want to have the extra verification every time you log in (e.g., Michigan Tech BANWEB), or you might be comfortable requesting the verification only when an access attempt comes from a computer/device other than the one you originally permitted when you set up 2FA—such as personal email account you typically only check from one laptop and one smartphone.

Which accounts should I protect with 2FA?

Why wouldn’t you protect all of them where it’s available? But, start with those that are most critical to your identity and livelihood. Here are some suggestions:

  • Email accounts: “Forgot password” reset requests typically send instructions and links here, so protect this account to make sure you keep control of resetting your account passwords!
  • Financial accounts: Protect your money!
  • Social media accounts and website management accounts: Protect your brand!
  • Online shopping accounts: Protect usage of your stored credit card information!

Resources

Share these resources with end users or use them to inform your awareness strategy.

Video Resources

This post is part of a larger campaign designed to support security professionals and IT communicators as they develop or enhance their security awareness plans. The campaign is brought to you by the Awareness and Training Working Group of the EDUCAUSE Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC).


Be an Avenger and protect yourself like a superhero!

Michigan Tech IT Fish mascot shows off Thanos' Infinity gauntlet glove

Don’t let Thanos wipe out half of your data or steal your identity. Arm yourself for the Endgame with the knowledge hidden in these online security Infinity Stones.