Accessible Technology

UW Accessibility Highlights

UW Accessibility Facts

In 2012-2013, over 1100 UW students registered with our Disability Resources for Students office. It is estimated that these students represent about 30-40% of students with disabilities enrolled on our campus. These students:

  • Include those who are blind or have visual impairments, are deaf or hard of hearing, have physical disabilities, have learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia, or have psychiatric, cognitive, or other disabilities.
  • Interact with IT in a wide variety of ways, sometimes requiring custom configurations or access through alternative input or output devices.
  • Join a growing body of non-disabled students who similarly challenge the boundaries of
    traditional technology by accessing dynamic Web, multimedia, and software applications using handheld and other mobile devices.

Historical Highlights

The University of Washington has a long history of working to address accessibility issues related to technology. Current efforts build on these earlier efforts. Highlights include the following:

1984
The Microcomputer Support Group (MSG) began operations originally under the Academic Computer Center, which was renamed Academic Computing Services and which eventually merged with administrative computing to become Computing & Communications (C&C). The MSG supported the IT needs of faculty, students, and staff and included consulting on adaptive technology as part of its mission statement. In later years this group evolved into Desktop Computing Services. These groups gradually collected an assortment of assistive technology for testing, training and outreach to other campus labs.
1990
Combining consulting, lab and showroom functions, the Adaptive Technology Lab emerged as a unit of Desktop Computing Services housed within its general-access Micro Lab in the Husky Union Building. Several years later it was renamed the Access Technology Lab and is now called the Access Technology Center. A Manager of the ATL position was established in 1992. During this time C&C was renamed UW Information Technology (UW-IT).
1992
DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology) was founded with funding from the National Science Foundation and continues to receive funding from multiple sources. DO-IT is a collaboration between UW-IT, the College of Education and the College of Engineering. Although primarily outreach-focused, DO-IT projects have benefited the UW in many ways. In particular, DO-IT has dealt with issues related to assistive technology and accessible IT since it began.
1993
The first Introduction to Adaptive Technology course was taught through C&C.
1993
DO-IT began creating videos on a wide range of disability-focused topics including assistive technology and accessible IT. From the beginning all DO-IT videos having included captioning and  audio description, and have been offered to users in a wide variety of formats to ensure compatibility with users’ needs and preferences.
2001
DO-IT and UW Rehabilitation Medicine received funding to co-direct AccessIT, a project to promote nationwide the use of IT for students and employees with disabilities in educational institutions at all academic levels. An AccessIT Knowledge Base was initiated as a searchable database of questions and answers, case studies and promising practices regarding accessible IT. This useful collection continues to be updated as part of an expanded DO-IT Knowledge Base.
2001
The Web Accessibility website was launched as part of the Computing and Networking site.
2002
The AccessibleWeb@U user group was established by C&C. Members meet monthly and engage on an electronic discussion list. All activities are focused on improving the accessibility of UW Web pages. It fosters ongoing discussion about accessible website design, policy, and practice.
2002
C&C began incorporating Web accessibility into its HTML courses.
2005
Research in academic departments such as Computer Science and the Information School began to be supported by the ATC and worked to provide solutions in mobile computing, Web accessibility and increased production of tactile graphics. This work is ongoing.
2006
DO-IT, in partnership with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, received NSF funding for the AccessComputing alliance which, among other things, promotes nationwide the development and use of accessible IT.
2006
DO-IT conducted a nationwide NSF-funded Capacity-Building Institute on Web accessibility in Seattle.
2006
An ongoing dialog between DO-IT, ATC, and UW External Affairs began.
2007
With NSF funding, DO-IT created its first of many videos on assistive technology and accessible information technology. Multiple publications were also created.
2008
DO-IT conducted a campus-wide NSF-funded Capacity-Building Institute on IT accessibility.
2008
The UW Information Technology Accessibility website was launched by UW-IT to guide faculty and staff in developing and procuring accessible IT. The new site used content from the old Web Accessibility site, adding substantial new content relating to methods, resources, and procurement.
2009
UW External Affairs staff visited the ATC and a higher level of engagement between DO-IT, ATC and UW External Affairs began.
2011
A core group of campus webmasters began using SiteImprove to test the accessibility of their websites.
2012
The renewal fee for SiteImprove was secured from campus units and the ATC.
2012
In January/February a working group of Web managers evaluated how to track accessibility of websites.
2012
In June a joint External Affairs/UW-IT task force, chartered by Vice Presidents Kelli Trosvig and Randy Hodgins, launched the UW Website Accessibility Project to develop an ongoing plan for promoting Internet accessibility and establishing best practices for use throughout the University of Washington.
2012
Launched the video IT Accessibility: What Campus Leaders Have to Say, featuring UW President Michael Young and other university presidents, chancellors, and IT leaders discussing the importance of IT accessibility on college campuses.
2013
Launched the second video in the IT Accessibility series, this one titled IT Accessibility: What Web Developers Have to Say.
2013
Accessible Technology Services launched an extensive effort to educate the campus community on web accessibility. Over 100 campus contacts were made in 2013 via email, telephone and in-person meetings. In addition, staff made hundreds of additional contacts in educational settings such as guest lectures on campus and conference presentations on the regional and national level.
2013
An RFP was announced for a campus-wide captioning vendor, and Automatic Sync Technologies was ultimately selected.
2014
An additional accessibility specialist was hired; much of his time is spent working with UW technology developers and IT companies that provide products the UW uses.
2014
Wording was developed regarding knowledge and skills in accessible IT to be listed as a required or desired qualification in open job description listings for UW technology staff and supervisors within UW-IT were encouraged to use it. Details are available on Managing for Accessibility.
2015
A staff person within UW-IT Accessible Technology Services (ATS) was designated to routinely review UW websites for accessibility and reach out to website owners. Site owners were encouraged to consult the Accessible Technology site as a resource, use standard UW templates that have accessibility built-in, and consider using SiteImprove to monitor their sites for accessibility problems. Additional support and training was also provided to existing SiteImprove users.
2015
Hosted an IT Accessibility Capacity-Building Institute for Washington state colleges and universities to identify challenges that need to be addressed, promising practices, and recommendations for future efforts.
2015
On May 1, published the University of Washington IT Accessibility Guidelines and accompanying IT Accessibility Checklist.
2015
ATS and Disability Resources for Students (DRS) tested, piloted and then co-funded a license for SensusAccess, an online service that converts documents from inaccessible formats (e.g, scanned image PDF) to a more accessible one. The service is now offered as the UW Document Conversion Service and is available to all UW students, faculty, and staff. It is actively promoted by DRS and is widely used by students with disabilities for independently addressing their urgent document conversion needs.
2015
The IT Accessibility Task Force gave input regarding accessible IT that was incorporated into a new ADA brochure for campus that is now distributed through the UW Risk Management Office and through various campus units.
2015
Created the video Captions: Improving Access to Postsecondary Education with targeted funding through ATS to complement the earlier videos on IT accessibility.
2015
UW-IT approved funding for ATS to undertake a project to provide free captioning to high impact, high risk videos campus-wide.
2016
In May ATS hosted an IT Accessibility Capacity-Building Institute for UW staff and faculty. Several IT Accessibility Liaisons were recruited from the audience.
2016
Developed the Procuring Accessible IT web page in collaboration with UW Procurement Services and UW-IT. The page includes specific steps for addressing accessibility in the procurement process and includes recommended language for technology-related RFPs.
2016
In May, Task force members conducted a Front End Technology community of practice and hosted activities for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) that included an Access Technology Center open house. ATS staff members also continue to support a promotional website (nomouse.org) and a #nomouse campaign to increase awareness about the importance of ensuring that websites can be operated with the keyboard alone.
2016
The IT Accessibility Task Force presented to the
 UW Bothell campus an Accessible IT Capacity Building Award for promoting the accessible design of IT and universal design of instruction both on-site and online. Recipients of these awards are groups of people at the UW who, together, have promoted the procurement, development, deployment, and use of IT that is accessible to faculty, staff, students, and visitors with disabilities.

2016
July 1, approval was granted to hire an additional staff member in ATS to increase proactive campus-wide efforts, especially in increasing the number of accessible PDFs.

2016
In September ATS initiated a project funded by UW-IT to provide free captioning on high impact videos across campus and an application process for requesting free captioning.

2016
ATS initiated a study to compare options for captioning, e.g., paying for the service or using using online methods to create captions.

2016
September 30, the Director of ATS was named coordinator of UW efforts to comply with the new Washington State Policy #188.
2016
ATS increased staff hours devoted to proactively addressing inaccessible PDF and website issues comps-wide.
2016
November 29-30 ATS hosted an IT Accessibility Capacity-Building Institute for Washington state colleges and universities to identify share ideas and identify collaborative opportunities in addressing requirements of Washington State Policy #188 which requires that IT procured, developed and used by state agencies be accessible to people with disabilities.

Future Plans

2016-2017
Accessible Technology Services will continue to enhance the Accessible Technology website to make content more complete, to make it easier for users to find information they are looking for, and to create and post more “how to” pages and videos.
2016-2017
Accessible Technology Services and the IT Accessibility Task Force will continue to pull together stakeholders to address requirements of State Policy #188.
2016-2017
The IT Accessibility Task Force is looking for ways to expand the reach of SiteImprove when possible by (1) shrinking the crawls of inactive sites in favor of crawling new sites whose owners would like to participate and (2) promoting training opportunities to ensure more consistent use of the tool.
2017
The IT Accessibility Task Force and Accessible Technology Services will continue to increase the number of individuals established as IT Accessibility Liaisons, formally agreeing to communicate online, meet about three times per year, and promoting accessible IT in their units. A meeting of IT Accessibility Liaisons is being planned for Winter quarter 2017.