Editor’s Note: Housing Guide, campus attacks; digital accessibility

Making our web content more accessible. Also: special issues about Valentine’s, dorms; news about attacks on campus and NYFW.

Alex Tey, Editor-in-Chief


Editor's Note

February 19, 2022
Editor’s Note is a weekly newsletter from WSN’s Editor-in-Chief that brings you the week’s top stories — and the stories behind the stories.
Hi everyone!

Since last week’s Editor’s Note, we’ve put out two (!) Under the Arch special issues — the Valentine’s Day Issue on Monday and the 2022 Housing Guide on Friday. We’ve also been hard at work covering New York Fashion Week.

Until classes start again on Tuesday, consider taking some time to catch up on our coverage of NYU and New York City. We hope you enjoy the long weekend — we definitely need it.
Illustration by Charitssa Stone
The Housing Guide
Our annual Under the Arch Housing Guide is your source for information on NYU’s various residence halls. We’ll help you decide which dorm you want to live in this fall (or whether you want to live in a dorm), and we tell you what we wish we’d known before moving in.

Plus: where NYU falls short on housing accessibility, the "unpalatable reality" of dining halls, and why this RA quit.
Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela
The Valentine’s Day Issue
On Monday, we published our first-ever Valentine’s Day special issue. Inside: dating at NYU Florence, your responses to our Valentine’s Day survey, my argument for the <3 emoticon, a collection of dating horror stories and an unexpected relationship between classmates.

“Valentine’s Day, in its essence, is an occasion to embrace, celebrate and share love, whether you’re spending it with that special someone or celebrating on your own,” UTA Publishing Editors Caitlin Hsu and Sydney Barragan wrote in their letter from the editors.

Read the issue on the web or as a PDF.
Photo by Justin Park
New York Fashion Week
Vivian Stockley, our Beauty & Style Editor, on WSN’s NYFW coverage:
This week, hundreds of designers debuted Fall/Winter 2022 collections at New York Fashion Week. WSN writers and photographers covered events across the range of aesthetics, influences and design philosophies that are shaping contemporary fashion.

The Black in Fashion Council showroom highlighted emerging Black designers, Christian Juul Nielsen embraced a casual, festive atmosphere at the launch of his colorful new collection, and emerging brand Melke emphasized sustainability in a presentation inspired by historical castles and nature.

Claudia Li drew on childhood memories to create a quirky, unconventional collection, while Tiffany Brown Designs presented a rather questionable series of faux-leather creations.

View all of our NYFW F/W 2022 coverage here.
Photo by Manasa Gudavalli
More top stories
Four NYU students in the past two weeks have been attacked while walking on NYU’s Washington Square Campus, according to an email on Thursday from campus safety chief Fountain Walker. But one of the victims, who described the attacks as anti-Asian hate crimes, told WSN that Campus Safety initially downplayed his assault — at least until he posted about it on social media.

Here’s a guide to the various film streaming libraries that you can enjoy free through NYU.

Tisch senior Jeric Brual competed in the “Jeopardy!” National College Championship in an episode that aired Tuesday. (Brual finished third in a quarterfinal game.)

This week’s house editorial calls on NYU administration to act on an SGA resolution proposing that the university collaborate with the MTA to provide discounted transportation fares for NYU students.

The depictions of teen sexuality in “Euphoria” are irresponsible and reflective of a growing trend of normalized exploitation in media, Sunny Sequeira writes.
Digital accessibility at WSN
Something I’m trying to do with this newsletter is give you insight into aspects of WSN that would normally be invisible to our audience. This is about one of those things, but it’s also kind of the other way around — about an issue that’s been overlooked by WSN in the past.

Digital accessibility is about making websites easier to read, navigate and use for everyone, regardless of individual abilities. Web pages that aren’t designed with accessibility in mind can be essentially illegible to people with certain disabilities — for someone with decreased vision, for example, it’s difficult to understand an image-heavy article that doesn’t have alt text for a screen reader.

While improving digital accessibility makes the biggest difference for people with those kinds of impairments, it also ends up leading to moderate across-the-board improvements to user experience while making a significant difference for some people. “While accessibility is necessary for some groups to use the web, it is beneficial for everyone,” as NYU’s digital accessibility guidelines put it.

Here’s one example of an accessibility issue on certain types of pages that we recently addressed in our newest special issues (the Housing Guide and the Valentine’s Day Issue mentioned above). Take the fall 2021 edition of Fringe, for example — an well-produced issue with beautiful web design, but the section headers are images, not text.

We didn’t have a specialized web design team at the time, and the best way we could come up with to make the headings match in the web and PDF versions was to upload them as images. Most readers wouldn’t have noticed the difference if I hadn’t pointed it out, but others wouldn’t have been able to understand the layout of the page at all. Because we didn’t want to compromise on aesthetics, we unintentionally compromised on accessibility.

Going forward, we don’t need to compromise there anymore. Our new web staff came up with a solution for the fonts, and we’re also more accessibility-minded than we used to be. Now that we made this simple-sounding change to how we display headings, these landing pages work more consistently across different browsers and devices, are easier to find with a search engine, load faster on slow connections, better reflect our design team’s vision — and can be understood by more of our audience.

Accessibility wasn’t the only reason we made that change, but it’s still an example of how paying attention to digital accessibility harms no one, helps most people a little and helps some people a lot.

Of course, that’s not the only accessibility issue on our site. Another thing we’re working on is consistently adding alt text to our images so that people who use screen readers can access the visual information they impart. We’re also going to make sure hyperlinks aren’t linked on just one word — this is easier to click than this is, especially for those with decreased motor abilities. (Both of those links just go to the WSN homepage, by the way — avoiding vaguely described links is another accessibility goal we have in mind.) 

Making improvements like these requires changes to our workflow — they might be minor, but it still takes some time to adjust. Still, the effort is worth it. There are ethical, moral, and in some cases (though not ours) legal obligations to implement accessible web design, but I think that in our case, the journalistic obligation is enough. As journalists, we love to talk about spreading the truth to as many people as possible, but it doesn’t mean much if we’re not doing it in ways that everyone can access.

There’s definitely more for us to improve that’ll take longer to solve than headings and alt text — so if you have criticisms, comments or suggestions, especially if accessibility issues impact you directly, you can reach me at [email protected].

That’s this week’s Editor’s Note! Until next Saturday,

—the editor

Alex Tey
[email protected]

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