I am currently in the home stretch for a summer semester English class. The course, which officially concludes on Monday, finished strong with the assignment of a research paper. It could be on any topic, and while I wanted to challenge myself, I also wanted to make sure I could maintain a solid A in the class, so I chose something pretty close to my heart: the importance of website accessibility.

When choosing website accessibility as a topic, I figured I would be able to breeze through my 10-page minimum. I am literally paid to develop websites and user interfaces, and web accessibility is a topic I try to keep up with whenever possible. However, when I started my research, I realized there are so many aspects of web accessibility I had never considered individually, and the rabbit holes you can go down when researching this stuff are pretty deep.

Originally, my paper was going to be “The Importance of Website Accessibility”, which would cover the pros of having an accessible website, and the cons of foregoing accessibility. It was straight forward, and simple. I think that was the problem. I wanted something with more meat to it, and as I read over the various papers I found during my research, my topic started to change. In the end, I took my original title, and elaborated on it – “The Importance of Website Accessibility in an Increasingly Digital Society: Why the Official Websites of Legally Recognized Businesses Should be Required to Meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as Maintained by The World Wide Web Consortium” – a mouthful, to say the least.

The paper – as I made exceedingly evident in the title – discussed why I believe that the official websites of businesses legally recognized by the IRS (with the exception of Sole Proprietorships) should have to maintain a certain level of accessibility – specifically a level of compliance set forth by WCAG 2.1, which is put out by the W3C.

During the process, I researched current laws, and industry-standard regulations; I currently have fully printed copies of both the American’s with Disabilities Act, Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) and Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508) printed and put into a binder, along with an incredibly long rundown of WCAG 2.1 documentation; I printed out over a dozen peer-reviewed papers and studies, from as far back as 2001, and also put them into a binder, with my notes scribbled in the margins; I even found copies of letters sent from members of Congress to the Department of Justice regarding the matter – those are also in a binder. (Physical copies of everything, for the win!)

The process taught me a couple of things:

  • It turns out that I am actually really passionate about website accessibility (at one point during this process I told my husband I wanted to go to law school so I could eventually focus a practice on website accessibility legislation – for real).
  • This topic, and even a subtopic as granular as I got, deserves significantly more than just 10 pages to do it justice (I ended with just under 12 full pages, before hitting my absolutely deadline to stop writing).
  • Taking a writing-/research-intensive course during a short summer semester is maybe not the best idea I’ve ever had.

I write all of this to say that I am really happy with the work I’ve done, but I recognize that I can continue to improve upon it. My goal for the remainder of this year is to take a step back on my paper, as it’s written, and the sources I gathered, and redo it. I want to rewrite the paper, and take the time to do it the justice it deserves. My goal is to have it completed by the end of the year, so I can publish it to my site in the new year, for everyone to enjoy (or critique – I won’t judge).

As for this current version of my paper, as it was turned in on Wednesday, I will be getting a grade back for that when I go to my final class on Monday. Over the weekend, I get to prepare a short presentation to explain my topic to the class, and then once I’ve done that my fate is sealed. I’ll know my final course grade by Tuesday.

Aside from the research paper, the course consisted of two other papers – a summary/response paper, and an analysis paper. For the summary/response paper I chose to respond to the paper “Like Me: Generation Z and the Use of Social Media for Personal Branding” by Alexandra Vitelar, and for the analysis paper, I chose to analyze two studies on the correlation between social media usage and depression: “Taking a Break: The Effects of Taking a Vacation from Facebook and Instagram on Subjective Well-Being” by Sarah Hanley, and others, and “Social Comparisons, Social Media Addiction, and Social Interaction: An Examination of Specific Social Media Behaviors Related to Major Depressive Disorder in a Millennial Population” by Anthony Robinson, and others.

As with my research paper, I would like to take a step back from these, and polish them a little more, but the eventual goal is to publish these as well.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to in the last three months (though, the first two of those were spent on a different class, this class started in July). I hope everyone has had an amazing summer, and starts the fall off strong. We’re really close to apple cider and pumpkin patches, you just have to hang on a little bit longer!



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