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MDCR's New Digital Information Accessibility Coordinator and What It Means for the State of Michigan

By Kilian Guensche, Communications Intern

As we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the obstacles we face have shifted before us yet again. For many, the challenges associated with lockdowns and socially distant lives have been replaced with challenges surrounding reintegrating into social circles and trading back 30 extra minutes of sleep for a morning commute. As discussions continue about what "normal" ought to look like going forward, for some, the most difficult obstacles to overcome are those which we don't see at all.

This is something that Mr. John Estill, MDCR's new Digital Information Accessibility Coordinator (DIAC), knows well.

"The obvious physical disabilities actually represent a very small percentage of the population," he says. "It's the unseen disabilities that we really need to accommodate - to work into our work product. Each person is unique in their needs."

In his new role as the DIAC, John has accepted a call for a central person who is knowledgeable on the intersections between individual disability and access to digital information. As a new resource for guidance on digital accessibility, he will serve as a technical advisor to agencies, provide compliance training, and issue guidance to appropriate agency liaisons. John will also work to strengthen the State of Michigan's digital accessibility practices by coordinating with departments and serving as the statewide subject matter expert on digital accessibility for websites, web applications, video and livestreaming, mobile platforms, and social media published by the state.

One of John's goals for his new position is to create "short, easy, consumable" training segments on topical areas in a video series for state employees to use when desired.

With a new leader spearheading the effort to remove barriers between those with (often invisible) disabilities and the state's digital information, perhaps a "new normal" will emerge for consumers of the state's digital info - a normal in which more people are able to interact more positively with the state's digital publications. For John, this is the precisely the mission:

"The greatest barrier to access is when information is created without accessibility in mind. So, when I can educate somebody and help make their product work better for more people, that's the whole goal."