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.
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:
- 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.
- 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). uw.edu/itconnect/accessibility/atl
- 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. uw.edu/doit
- The first Introduction to Adaptive Technology course was taught through C&C.
- 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.
- 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. uw.edu/accessit
- The Web Accessibility website was launched as part of the Computing and Networking site.
- 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.
- C&C began incorporating Web accessibility into its HTML courses.
- 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.
- 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. uw.edu/accesscomputing
- DO-IT conducted a nationwide NSF-funded Capacity-Building Institute on Web accessibility in Seattle.
- An ongoing dialog between DO-IT, ATC, and UW External Affairs began.
- With NSF funding, DO-IT created its first of many videos on assistive technology and accessible information technology. uw.edu/doit/video.Multiple publications were also created. uw.edu/doit/resources/brochures
- DO-IT conducted a campus-wide NSF-funded Capacity-Building Institute on IT accessibility.
- 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. uw.edu/accessibility
- UW External Affairs staff visited the ATC and a higher level of engagement between DO-IT, ATC and UW External Affairs began.
- A core group of campus webmasters began using SiteImprove to test the accessibility of their websites.
- The renewal fee for SiteImprove was secured from campus units and the ATC.
- In January/February a working group of Web managers evaluated how to track accessibility of websites.
- 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.
- 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.
- Launched the second video in the IT Accessibility series, this one titled IT Accessibility: What Web Developers Have to Say.
- 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.
- An RFP was announced for a campus-wide captioning vendor, and Automatic Sync Technologies was ultimately selected.
- 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.
- 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.
- Draft wording regarding accessibility was created to include in a document with questions regularly required by vendors to address during the purchasing process.
- Plans are underway to host an IT accessibility capacity-building institute for the UW, involving a wide range of stakeholders to identify progress to date, challenges that need to be address, and recommendations for future efforts.
- Plans are underway to host an IT accessibility capacity-building institute for Washington state colleges and universities. Each institution will include a pair of campus representatives (one representative from disability services and one from IT services), to identify challenges that need to be address, promising practices, and recommendations for future efforts.