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University of Texas Accessibility Institute to close.


From: Moore, Michael
Date: Aug 27, 2008 12:50PM


Here is what I have been able to gather from my communications with
friends at the University of Texas.

1. The Accessibility Institute at the University of Texas will be
closed effective August 29th 2008.
2. Proposals to move the work to the College of Information and/or
the College of Computer Science have not been accepted. Although those
institutions are capable of conducting the research there are no
specific funds, faculty, or researcher positions to support this work.
3. The two primary researchers from the Accessibility Institute are
no longer available. The founder and Director, John Slatin, PhD passed
away last spring and Kay Lewis, PhD has accepted another position.
4. The University's IT department has few resources dedicated to
accessibility. Two systems analysts are assigned 15% of their time each
to oversee accessibility for the University's 1M+ web pages.

It is very disappointing that the University has made this decision. The
University of Texas has the stature, funding, reputation, and experience
necessary to attract researchers and faculty needed to continue and
build the Accessibility Institute. All that the University's
administration seems to lack is the interest.

The UT Accessibility Institute through Dr. Slatin was able to exert
considerable influence on the development and implementation of
accessibility standards world-wide. This included the formation of the
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and the WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 as well as the
US Access Board and the Section 508 standards. Although I have
tremendous admiration and respect for John, I do not believe that he
would have been as influential had his advocacy not been backed by the
solid research conducted at the Institute and the prestige of the
University of Texas. The loss of the UT Accessibility Institute is a
loss for the University, the State of Texas, the nation, and the world.
Most importantly it is a loss for millions of disabled people who have
benefited from the research, education, and advocacy that was conducted
through the Institute.

The University runs promotional commercials during sports broadcasts
where Walter Cronkite, speaks about the influence of the University.
"The University of Texas, what starts here changes the world." This was
certainly true of the Accessibility Institute. By closing the Institute,
the University of Texas is signaling that accessibility is not a
priority anymore. I can only hope that this decision does not change
the world.

Mike Moore