Letter to the President: A Promising Practice in Promoting Technology Accessibility

DO-IT Factsheet #1200

Postsecondary education institutions play key roles in assuring a future world where information technology (IT) is accessible to people with disabilities. Not only must they provide accessible IT environments for their students and employees, but they can also produce a future workforce of accessibility-aware scientists and engineers. To date, postsecondary institutions have generally fallen short in both of these areas, though many individual students, faculty, and staff have taken valiant steps toward addressing their institution's systemic accessibility problems. In order for accessibility efforts to be giant steps of an entire academic institution, rather than small steps of a few individuals, that institution's administration must support and even lead the effort.

In September of 2000, presidents from twenty-five research universities in the United States expressed their support for systemic change by signing an open letter to President Clinton agreeing to take a number of important steps to expand research and education on the accessibility of information and communications technologies. By signing the letter, the presidents committed their institutions to work to

The entire text of the letter is available online: An Open Letter on Accessibility from Research University Presidents [1].

During this same time frame, two similar letters to President Clinton were also circulated and signed. In the first, CEOs of high-tech companies [2] pledged their support in creating and marketing accessible products and services. In the second, U.S. corporate executives [3] pledged to increase the employment opportunities for people with disabilities, specifically by promoting the recruitment, hiring, and promotion of candidates and employees with disabilities.

It is difficult to measure what impact these pledges have had and will ultimately have on the accessibility of information technology at these and other educational institutions. However, this pledge of commitment offered by twenty-five postsecondary presidents is a positive symbol of hope and progress.

For additional information about the higher education institutions and IT you may also wish to view the video IT Accessibility: What Campus Leaders Have to Say [4] in which university presidents, chief information officers, and other information technology (IT) leaders discuss the importance of IT accessibility on college campuses.