Washington IT Accessibility in Higher Education (2016)

In the students with disabilities panel, Hannah holds the mic to Blake's assistive technology.

Proceedings of the February 2016 IT Accessibility in Higher Education Capacity Building Institute (CBI)

This publication shares the proceedings of IT Accessibility in Higher Education, a capacity building institute (CBI) held in Seattle, Washington on February 11 – 12, 2016. Attendees included disability service professionals, individuals with disabilities, and information technology (IT) professionals from across Washington State. These proceedings may be useful for people who

  • participated in the CBI
  • want to ensure that people with disabilities have access to postsecondary education
  • would like to access resources and explore strategies to help make their campus IT more accessible
  • have promising practices to share with others

This event was sponsored by UW Accessible Technology Services at the University of Washington (UW), a UW-IT (University of Washington Information Technology) unit that supports both the Access Technology and DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Centers. These centers are dedicated to empowering people with disabilities through technology and education. They promote awareness and accessibility to maximize the potential of individuals with disabilities and make our communities more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive.

The DO-IT Center strives to

  • increase the success of people with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers
  • promote the application of universal design to physical spaces, information technology, instruction, and services
  • freely distribute online content, publications, and videos for use in presentations, exhibits, and the classroom
  • provide resources for students with disabilities, K-12 educators, postsecondary faculty and administrators, librarians, employers, parents, and mentors

The Access Technology Center (ATC) focuses on ensuring students, faculty, and staff with disabilities have access to technology—including computers, software, and special equipment—that supports them in accomplishing their work. ATC staff help individuals select and use assistive technology and supports a showroom with numerous products, including

  • speech and braille output
  • screen magnification
  • alternatives to the keyboard and mouse
  • speech recognition software
  • tools to make reading and writing easier and computer use more comfortable
  • the capacity to create documents in e-text and braille

The show room includes a collection of accessible science equipment such as automatic stirrers, tactile measuring devices, and talking calculators. The ATC provides braille embossing and tactile graphics for the UW community.

ATC staff promote the development and use of accessible technology products by

  • encouraging student computing facilities to include assistive technology
  • offering courses, delivering presentations, and conducting ATC tours for UW classes and other groups
  • working with campus units to prepare materials in accessible electronic formats
  • assisting department web developers in designing accessible websites and applications
  • supporting a central resource to provide guidance to technologists and administrators at the UW and beyond

About the CBI

A participant speaks into a microphone from his table.

The IT Accessibility in Higher Education CBI provided a forum for sharing interventions and strategies that promote accessibility of IT at colleges and universities. Attendees, in teams of two—a disability service professional and an IT professional from each school—came from postsecondary educational institutions across Washington State. Many attendees had disabilities themselves. In total, over fifty participants were in attendance.

The CBI provided a forum to share expertise, practices, suggestions for future collaborations, and funding ideas. Broad issues discussed included

  • Ensuring the accessibility of websites; Word, PDF and PowerPoint documents; and learning management systems (LMSs)
  • Captioning videos
  • Developing accessible online learning courses
  • Providing assistive technology
  • Promoting universal design and accessible IT
  • Exploring legal obligations for creating and using accessible IT
  • Considering accessibility in IT purchases
  • Engaging IT vendors in accessibility improvements
  • Exploring opportunities for future statewide support and collaboration

The CBI was comprised of presentations, panel discussions, and group discussions. In small working groups, participants responded to the following questions:

  • What barriers do you face on your campus related to IT accessibility?
  • What strategies can you implement on your campus to encourage accessibility of webpages, videos, and documents?
  • What specific steps, both short term and long term, can you can take to increase accessibility on your campus or to encourage others to do so?
  • How can we address the needs identified in the small group discussion? How might we collaborate to support one another?

In this CBI

  • all participants contributed to its success;
  • experts in all topic areas were in the audience; and
  • new concepts evolved from discussions.

CBI participants shared their diverse perspectives and expertise. The agenda for the CBI and summaries of the presentations are provided on the following pages.

CBI Agenda


Two participants discuss the issues together.

Wednesday, February 4

7 – 9 pm                                

Thursday, February 5

8 – 8:30 am
Breakfast and Networking

8:30 – 9 am
Welcome, Introductions, and Goals
Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

9 – 10 am
Overview of IT Accessibility Issues
Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

10:15 – 11:15 am
Web Accessibility: Designing Sites that Work for Everyone
Terrill Thompson, University of Washington

11:15 am – 12 pm
Document Accessibility
Dan Comden, University of Washington

12 – 1 pm
Lunch and Discussion
What barriers do you face on your campus related to IT accessibility?

1 – 1:30 pm
Report Out from Lunch Discussion
Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

1:30 – 2:15 pm
Video Accessibility
Doug Hayman, University of Washington
Panelists: Kerri Holferty, Craig Kerr, Karen Ehnat, and Krista Greear.

2:30 – 3:15 pm
Panel: Student Perspectives
Panelists: Kayla Wheeler, Anna Marie Golden, Erika Teasley, Hannah Werbel, Blake Geyen

3:15 – 4:00 pm
Working with Vendors
Hadi Rangin, University of Washington

4 – 5 pm
Policies, Task Forces, Advisory Boards, Other Administrative Issues
Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

Friday, February 6

8 – 8:30 am
Breakfast and Networking

8:30 – 9:00 am
Accessibility of Distance Learning
Sheryl Burgstahler, University of Washington

9:00 – 10:00am
Partner Activity
Participants from each institution will work together to identify specific steps, both short term and long term, they can take to increase accessibility on their campus or to encourage others to do so.

10:00 – 10:45 am
Report Out

10:45 am – 12 pm
How can we address the needs identified in the small group discussion? How might we collaborate to support one another?

12 – 1 pm
Lunch and Continued Discussion
Evaluation of CBI

Presentation Summaries

Sheryl Burgstahler presents on accessible distance learning.

Overview of IT Accessibility Issues

Presenter: Sheryl Burgstahler

In order for IT to be considered accessible to and usable by people with disabilities, it must afford those individuals the opportunity to acquire the same information, interactions, and services as people without disabilities. People with disabilities must be able to obtain and use information presented as fully as people without disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and courts of law have resolved civil rights complaints with respect to IT access for individuals with disabilities at more than a dozen postsecondary institutions in the United States. How can these resolutions help guide other campuses in making IT (e.g., websites, videos, online learning) accessible to students, faculty, staff, and visitors with disabilities?

Resolutions to these OCR complaints suggest that institutions of higher education consider

  • conducting accessibility audits and developing corrective action strategies
  • developing and disseminating an accessible IT policy
  • creating IT accessibility standards
  • providing training and education
  • developing procurement policies and procedures
  • developing and publicizing grievance procedures
  • addressing accessibility within already developed, procured, and used IT, including websites, learning management systems, classroom technologies, and purchased software

The UW has come a long way in spearheading efforts related to making IT accessible since 1984, when IT accessibility support was embraced by the Microcomputer Support Group under what became Computing and Communications (and is now called UW-IT). In 1990, the Access Technology Lab opened, providing access to assistive technology, and, in 1992, the DO-IT Center received National Science Foundation funding to provide complementary, nationwide efforts through the DO-IT Center. A UW accessible web user group started meeting regularly in 2002, the UW hosted a nationwide IT accessibility CBI in 2006, and UW-IT began using SiteImprove to test the accessibility of campus websites in 2011. Since 2012, efforts at UW have increased with the creation of an IT accessibility campus-wide task force, the launch of a proactive initiative to test website accessibility, guidelines for purchasing accessible IT, and options for captioning videos.

UW-IT continues to grow and create more tools, resources, and procedures about accessibility. In the ideal state that we strive for, we would have

  • a campus-level task force with annual reports
  • a guidance website
  • standard accessible web page templates
  • IT accessibility consulting/testing services
  • accessibility included on IT development and support teams
  • collaboration between vendors and UW staff for creating and purchasing accessible software and technology
  • IT accessibility courses offered
  • accessibility included in general IT training
  • accessibility included in IT job postings
  • an IT accessibility leader in each campus unit
  • captions promoted as a best practice
  • grant writers encouraged to include accessible technology in grant outcomes
  • accessibility-awareness activities and products
  • IT accessibility CBIs conducted for UW and beyond
  • grants secured to supplement and expand the reach of IT accessibility efforts
  • leadership related to IT accessibility in professional organizations and publications
  • students with disabilities as accessibility testers

Although the UW is not doing all of these things currently, the UW-IT Accessibility Task Force engages in ongoing activities and makes recommendations regarding the enhancement of online resources, the promotion of accessible IT, and iteratively improves policies and procedures. UW is working to promote accessibility within a context of universal design, usability, and an inclusive culture. Accessible Technology Services serves as a resource, catalyst, and community-builder to empower an infrastructure that supports accessible IT.

Web Accessibility: Designing Sites that Work for Everyone

Presenter: Terrill Thompson

When we’re creating digital content such as web pages or online documents, we may envision our typical user as an able-bodied person using a desktop computer. In reality, users utilize a wide variety of technologies to access the web, including assistive technologies, mobile devices, and more; everyone has different levels of ability when it comes to seeing, hearing, or using a mouse or keyboard. Since the World Wide Web was invented, HTML has included the option to add alt tags to describe the content of images and other accessibility features. WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, second version) aims to bring all web content up to an accessible level so that all users have equivalent access. WCAG 2.0 follows four main principles; information should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Each of these principles is defined by more specific guidelines, and those are further defined by specific success criteria, each assigned Level A, AA, or AAA, with Level A success criteria including the most critical issues for accessibility. Level A success criteria are fairly easy to meet but not quite as important as Level AAA. In resolution agreements and legal settlements, the U.S. Department of Justice and the OCR have accepted WCAG 2.0 Level AA as a reasonable target to ensure websites are accessible.

Using accessible tools and design strategies will help make all web content more accessible. Using accessible themes in WordPress and Drupal is an easy way to spread accessibility across campus and utilize necessary accessibility features such as keyboard accessible drop-down menus and proper headings. ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) can be used to analyze accessibility, and it communicates the interface elements to users and designers. Canvas and similar learning management systems need to be made accessible and used accessibly; faculty need to learn about headings and alt text and the right questions to ask about accessibility.

For more information about web accessibility, check out these resources:

Document Accessibility

Presenter: Dan Comden

A document is written, printed, or electronic matter that provides information or evidence. Ignoring video and audio, which are two important but fundamentally different types of files, typical types of documents used on campus are Word, PDF, Plain Text and Rich Text, PowerPoint, and HTML. We need to ensure that all information given to students is accessible.

Evaluating over a hundred courses over a year at the UW, we observed over 5,000 documents were used, and over 100,000 pages from those documents were shared through our learning management system. Through all of these, the percentage of documents that were accessible was very low. On average, only about 11% of Word documents included headings, one of the most important structural accessibility features in Word. For PDFs, one of the most important features of accessibility is text selectibility so that text-to-speech software can make sense of the document. Most quarters, about 70% or more of the pdfs used were text-selectable. Yet, an average of only 26% of PDFs had bookmarks or tags and less than 8% had both bookmarks and tags.

It is important to focus on headings, lists, alternative text for images, and the language choice for all documents. Headings provide easy navigation of the information for anyone approaching the text. Lists need to be labeled and are a good way to provide structured information to the reader. Alternative text for images allows someone who can’t access the image visually to get a description of the content within an image and allows image content to be searched. Selecting the language provides information to a speech synthesizer. When exporting your document to PDF, make sure you check for accessibility with Acrobat’s accessibility checker. Scanned PDFs create significant accessibility problems, as they are often just an image rather than text and lack the structure provided by tags. Inaccessible PDFs often need additional software to read, which delays delivery to students.

HTML will always be the most accessible way to convey information, followed by structured Word documents. How do we encourage faculty to use accessible documents? How do we train faculty to create them? These are ongoing questions. The following websites provide tools for making your website accessible:

Working with Vendors and On-Campus Developers

Presenter: Hadi Rangin

UW-IT has been working with vendors for many years to encourage them to increase the accessibility of their products. These vendors include Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Instructure, Moodle, Ebsco Publishing, Elsevier, Ex Libris, BB Collaborate, Qualtrics, Elucian, and many more. We have received very positive responses from companies, indicating that this sort of collaboration can result in positive changes.

We continue to strive to increase designers’ and developers’ knowledge of accessible design so products that they develop are accessible out of box. The goal is to be able to purchase a product with an accessible design rather than buy a product and address accessibility issues later. Unfortunately, accessibility is rarely included in IT design, implementation, and quality assurance; consequently, many products entering the market are either inaccessible or haven’t been tested for accessibility.

Sometimes vendors provide Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) forms, which is a vendor-generated statement that provides relevant information on how a vendor’s product or service claims to conform to Section 508, IT accessibility standards used by the federal government. Many VPATs emphasize the vendors’ commitments to accessibility without providing a clear description of whether the products are accessible. Purchasers may not be savvy enough to recognize this distinction. Consequently, these products are purchased and deployed on our campuses without being fully tested for accessibility.

Some universities, including the UW, promote the consideration of accessibility as part of the product testing and evaluation in the purchasing process. In these cases, products are tested independently for accessibility and shortcomings are identified. But what should we do when there is no viable alternative for the product being purchased? Should a lack of accessibility be a deal breaker? It all depends on the necessity of the product and the availability of an accessible alternative.

We believe a critical part of the solution to be collaboration. It is important to bring the purchasing department and vendors together to come up with an accessibility plan. A full accessibility/usability evaluation should be performed, issues should be identified and prioritized based on their severity, and a plan should be incorporated into the contract. The contract should specify clearly what issues will be addressed and what the consequences are if the vendor fails to deliver. It is best when the respective campus department leads the collaboration and takes responsibility for following through with the contract. When evaluating a product, it is important to focus on usability rather than technical aspects of the product. Examples of good questions to ask are

  • Can users accomplish particular tasks?
  • Can users post to a particular forum/thread?
  • Can users determine how much time is remaining for their quiz?

To learn more about how accessibility can be considered in the procurement process, read the resource Procuring Accessible IT at www.uw.edu/accessibility/procurement.

Accessibility of Distance Learning

Presenter: Sheryl Burgstahler

While we’ve focused on what IT staff need to know regarding accessibility, now we will look at what staff and faculty need to focus on to make their classes welcoming to and accessible by students with disabilities. These professionals typically do not develop their own learning management system (LMS), website, or technology, but rather use what is already out there.

Faculty often get overwhelmed by universal design and accessibility; they see it as just another thing they need to make time for in their busy schedules. Applying specific tools and strategies they need to use ensures content is accessible from the beginning, which is easier than retrofitting classes after they’ve already began. For faculty, it is important to share what makes a course to accessible; what are some strategies and resources; what legal mandates are in place; and what creates a welcoming, accessible, and usable environment for all potential students.

Accessible means a class or product is usable to the same level by all students. While accommodations are important, we can minimize retrofitting for specific students by implementing universal design in planning the class. In the first online class I ever taught, a class on adaptive technology for people with disabilities in 1995, my co-instructor and I made it as accessible as possible to showcase that it was possible for any student to engage in an online course. I still take this approach in an online class I teach about accessibility and compliance of online education.

While educators may not have a choice in what LMS they use, they do have the choice to create accessible instructional materials and teaching strategies. Educators should consider if everyone can gain knowledge, if everyone can interact with others, and how everyone can demonstrate their knowledge. The first step towards this is creating an accessible syllabus with structure and key information, including a statement on accessibility and disability-related accommodations.

A great place for educators to start is DO-IT’s publication, 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course, found at www.uw.edu/doit/20-tips-teaching-accessible-online-course. Further guidance and resources can be found at DO-IT’s AccessDL website at www.uw.edu/doit/programs/accessdl.

Panel Presentation Summaries

Panel: Video Accessibility

The panel on video accessibility was facilitated by Doug Hayman of UW and included four technology and accessibility specialists: Kerri Holferty, Craig Kerr, Karen Ehnat, and Krista Greear. Panel members answered the following questions:

How do you fulfill captioning and other technical accommodation requests?

  • We use the vendor REV; they charge one dollar for each video minute. The upside of a service like REV is, unlike some services, we keep ownership of the video and captions, and they take less than a day to create captions. However, it takes about 5-8 hours of in-house work to time the captions to the video—a lot of us have very small offices where this is not a sustainable practice.
  • We try to be proactive by finding out what videos faculty are using before classes begin. We encourage faculty to get their videos captioned themselves.
  • While we try to notify all instructors before the quarter that we need their materials to be accessible, instructors often don’t open their email until the first day of class. Sometimes we don’t hear about a video not being captioned until after the fact from the student or their interpreter. We always feel like we’re playing catch up.
  • With YouTube, you can upload and share videos with computer-generated captions, but you need to edit the captions to make them accurate.
  • There are some apps that some instructors use to create videos, and a lot of them aren’t accessible or can only be accessible for a large fee. We are trying to teach faculty about what tools are available for captions.
  • We use Panopto’s captioning service which is imbedded into the system. It costs two dollars a video minute, but it’s done quickly and you can download the transcript.
  • We host captioning parties. We invite faculty, staff, and students to sit together, learn how to caption, and complete a number of videos in one day.
  • We are currently looking for a captioning service that we could use statewide at all higher education institutions.

Do you provide training to professors for accessibility or captioning of videos?

  • We provide short, clear instructions for how to turn the captions on!
  • We’ve started a new accessibility team, and part of what they do is lead trainings on how to create accessible videos.
  • Training on Canvas includes captioning. We also have a workshop on creating accessible captions on YouTube.

Does your campus provide captioning beyond accommodation requests?

  • We’d like to do more, but we don’t currently have the time or manpower; however, our e-learning program received a stipend to make all videos and text accessible. All e-learning faculty learn to caption.
  • Sometimes we have faculty who request all of their materials to be accessible. We are also working with the office of the president to make all of our outward facing videos accessible.
  • We have to balance need and resources. In 2015, we had one deaf student in a class where the professor utilized a flipped classroom; it cost $10,000 dollars for one month making materials accessible to this student.
  • By teaching faculty that captions can make videos more accessible for more than just students with disabilities, we have piqued more interest in it. Captions help ELL students, students who want to search the video, and a variety of other types of students.

Have you ever had copyright issues with captioning?

  • Accommodation laws trump copyright laws. We often go through the library to get copyright permission and do our due diligence in receiving permission.
  • Captioning shouldn’t create copyright- concerns because we aren’t affecting the content of the video. However we do speak to the copyright librarian if necessary.

Have you ever had to get audio description as an accommodation?

  • We have been lucky enough that most videos have given a full enough narrative in the dialogue of the video. We often work with the student and the professor to decide if we need to provide audio description and how much.
  • We have a service to provide audio description, but the student has to view the video in the library. We’ve also had a professor provide an alternative video option for a student when we couldn’t get the audio description. Obviously neither of these situations are ideal.
  • We recommend Able Player, developed by the ATS of the UW, as a great accessible media tool, since it can show captioning and audio description.

How does live captioning or CART work?

  • Someone using a shorthand system types everything at a very fast pace. The service we use is QuickCaption.

Panel: Student Perspectives

Five students—Kayla Wheeler, Anna Marie Golden, Hannah Werbel, Alicia Teasley, and Blake Geyen, who have diverse disabilities—shared the types of technology they use and what ensures that they have access.

What technology do you use on a regular basis?

  • Surface tablets are lightweight and have a small keyboard, making them easier to use and carry around for some individuals with mobility impairments.
  • Sticky Keys, a feature included in Microsoft products, allows me to hit multiple keys at once with only one finger, because it continues to “hold” the key down after it’s pushed. This feature allows me to use normal keyboard shortcuts and other simple keyboard functions.
  • E-readers, like the Nook, Kindle, and even the iPad, are great for reading PDFs of textbooks and class readings, so I don’t have to carry a large number of heavy textbooks.
  • As a deaf student, I use my Surface tablet for real time captioning, and I also use a note taker in class so I can focus on the captions without feeling like I’m getting behind.
  • LiveScribe, a pen that records audio that is linked to written notes, eliminates the worry that I am missing some of the class material.
  • I use a screen magnifier for my laptop or phone and a regular magnifying glass for printed material.
  • I use a voice box to communicate with peers and professors and a word predicting processing system to speed up my typing. I also use Inspiration Map, which allows me to create outlines for my papers and not have to write the entire thing out.

What challenges do you have regularly when working with instructors and peers?

  • While taking math, science, and engineering classes, I can often get lost in graphs and diagrams, and it’s hard to make sense of notes if you can’t follow along. I’ve now worked with professors and my technology to problem solve the situation and find better solutions for figuring out images and graphs.
  • Writing out exams can be a challenge, but I’ve overcome it by using a computer to type test answers and essays.
  • I always have to ask teachers to put on the captioning, and most of them don’t realize you have to edit YouTube’s auto captions to make them accurate. It is difficult to watch the captions and take notes at the same time.
  • I use a note taker so I can pay attention to the professor but still have good notes. However, since the note takers work on a volunteer basis, they sometimes don’t take very good notes or don’t provide notes in a timely manner.
  • Professors often don’t post test information until it’s too late to request the accommodations. They don’t understand how it can take get accommodations.

How comfortable were you discussing your disability with your professor or bringing up your accommodations?

  • If a professor didn’t have updated Disability Resource Services (DRS) information on their syllbus or weren’t open to talking about diversity issues, these were red flags that they probably weren’t understanding about disability or accommodations.
  • I’ve had a teacher announce my disability to the whole class and blame me as the reason we had to change how a test worked. I had to talk to that teacher in private and let them know how they made me feel and how inappropriate it was to share my disability with the class. Often instructors don’t realize what they are doing is wrong.
  • Teachers should be required to take a class on accommodations and disability services. Teachers should also learn that students with disabilities are people, too. Professors often make the wrong decision because they are anxious and unsure in the situation.
  • A lot of teachers just assume DRS will handle everything, but that isn’t always the case; DRS may only step in after a student has tried to work out the problem with the professor. Many newer professors are willing to talk, but sometimes older professors don’t want to change their curriculum for one student.
  • I try to talk to my professor about universal design and how the accommodations needed for me could actually help everyone in the class.

How is group work affected by your disability?

  • I often have to tell my group that we need to collaborate early since it takes me more time to prepare my part for a project. Students usually seem to understand that I need time to use my technology and that we need to meet somewhere that is physically accessible to me.
  • In one of my programs, the work room was up three flights of stairs. I asked for us to meet somewhere else, but the other room assigned to us didn’t have a white board. I always felt like my group held a grudge against me because I couldn’t reach our original workroom.
  • I’ve had partners assume I won’t do any of the work in a group project. I’m willing to do just as much or more work than other partners.

What’s your biggest wish?

  • If you want to learn how a student with a disability can take your class, ask him or her rather than assuming you or someone else knows what the student needs.
  • Don’t assume one student speaks for all other students with a disability.
  • It would be good if faculty and staff understood that accessible technology exists and that students use it. For example, if they are providing a PDF file, there needs to be a text-selectable, tagged, accessible version of that PDF.
  • Instructions should be more specific with web reading. I have had teachers who just tell me to search for the information, but many resources are not easily accessible to me. Someone who is sighted can find the information much quicker.
  • I wish the automatic captioning on YouTube was more accurate. I have friends who can just search on YouTube and teach themselves with educational videos; if videos are not captioned, I have to go to the tutoring center or the professor to access the same content.
  • I wish all schools used the same technology tools. There are a myriad of different systems, software, and learning management systems, each with their own accessibility issues. Just taking the time to learn each different tool and find out how to make it work for me is tedious.
  • I wish faculty, instructors, vendors, and staff were educated on accessibility.
  • I wish instructors made sure all homework is accessible before it is given to the students.

Working Group Discussions

Participants are discussing strategies in working groups.

Notes related to specific questions discussed in small groups are presented below.

What barriers do you face on your campus related to IT accessibility?

  • We need to shift from a culture of accommodation to a culture of accessibility.
  • It’s important to have accessibility policies published so everyone knows about them; however, it is very hard to enforce these rules. We hope that if we can at least catch a few of them, it will encourage others to be accessible.
  • Money is often a barrier to accessibility, whether it is for purchasing new resources or the amount paid for staff and faculty. Captioning and other accommodations can cost a large amount of both money and time.
  • Who’s in charge of changing the climate and making sure everything gets accessible? What responsibilities belong to the instructor, the IT department, or the disability office?
  • Procurement needs to be included in the conversation to make sure we don’t purchase inaccessible  technology and software.
  • We never have enough time or expertise to get the tasks done that are needed.
  • We need more champions within our faculty senate and the federation to address accessibility issues in high-level meetings. We need to take on some collective responsibility for training faculty and making sure all classes are accessible.
  • People get burned out always talking about accessibility. When a faculty member has to deal with 42 other problems throughout the day, they don’t want to deal with one more. We need to convince faculty to buy in with respect to accessibility.
  • Unless we let vendors know the issues, they will never know how to make better, more accessible tools. Vendors need to realize that accessibility is important from the designing stages of their tools instead of retroactively.
  • Websites and campuses need to be accessible beyond just classes; if someone can’t find the information they need online, he or she won’t apply for the program or search for more information about our school.
  • We need to make sure all faculty have Acrobat Pro so they can make their PDFs accessible.
  • We miss so much great talent when we don’t include students with disabilities. Faculty are so quick to defend themselves or say “This doesn’t apply to me; I don’t have a student with a disability.” We need to shift to a culture of acceptance and recognition of the talents of all people out there.

Participants from each institution will work together to identify specific steps, both short term and long term, they can take to increase accessibility on their campus or to encourage others to do so.

  • We need to plan with the intention of including accessibility from the very beginning of all IT design.
  • We should make a commitment to universal design and recruiting more stakeholders across campus to promote this effort.
  • We will take advantage of the new DO-IT publication, 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Distance Learning Course, to make our own distance learning courses accessible. We need to start training faculty and make sure accessibility is included in every step of designing and teaching a course. We can even create our own version of the 20 Tips publication specific for our own faculty.
  • We will allow feedback for all courses so students with disabilities can provide input on ways to make a class more accessible. We can ask what professors do to make class feel more welcoming and include students in online courses.
  • We should model universal design at all of our campus meetings, including the provision of captioning, microphones, accessible name tags, and procedures for asking for accommodations.
  • We already have a group of faculty who are interested in accessibility; we hope to create a taskforce and create a set of procedures for all instructors to use to make their classes more accessible.
  • We’d like to replicate a student panel on our own campus to show faculty and instructors why accessibility is important and put a face to the problems we’re talking about. We could include the panel on a professional development day or during orientation week.
  • We want to make sure all websites across campus are welcoming to and accessible by students with disabilities. We could create a basic template for faculty to use on Canvas, as well as instructors for creating accessible PDFs and discussion boards. We hope to have an entire district redesign within the next two years.
  • We will continue to spread awareness about universal design and target student services staff. We will host captioning parties and spread information on creating accessible syllabuses and all other documents.
  • We plan on talking with the procurement office to make sure we have rules about accessibility when making purchases with vendors.
  • We want to start with the lowest hanging fruit and just make sure every image on our school website has alternative text.
  • We need to differentiate between accessibility and inclusion; do we want to create a culture of inclusion or merely legal compliance?
  • For our masters in online teachers program, we will add an accessibility aspect and require lessons on the importances of designing accessibly.
  • We willreate an initiative to make sure all online classes are accessible. We will include partners and disability services, take advantage of new tools, lead by example, develop a good plan, and be patient with faculty and instructors.
  • We want to create partnerships with other projects across campus, including the Pathways Project, a new CRM Software Program, and other projects that need to include accessibility.
  • We want to revamp spring quarter workshops to include accessible documents and captioning.
  • We want to collaborate with other schools across Washington State to create a pact and share tools about accessibility.
  • We will create criteria and instructions for captioning all types of videos. We want to start with the 100 level courses to start with the broadest impact and create a strategy for making sure all faculty get on board.
  • We can show faculty how to use JAWS, zoom-text, DNS, and Kurtzveil on Canvas.
  • We plan to use DO-IT checklists on all aspects of our campus to make sure we are using universal design across campus and online.
  • We will discover the most efficient way to get captioning done and look into Panopto captioning.
  • We will establish an online platform where faculty can share promising practices and students with disabilities can give feedback and share what they’d like to see in class.

How can we address the needs identified in the small group discussion? How might we collaborate to support one another?

  • Create a better collaboration between IT and disability support services as a baseline for everything we’ve discussed; together, we can support faculty in getting up to speed with accessibility and universal design.
  • Share DO-IT’s resources among faculty and staff on campus and continue to create more resources. Work with other campuses to share these resources to prevent reinventing the wheel.
  • Start monthly meetings and open forums to get information on universal design and accessibility out around campus and raise awareness on the issues.
  • Create a newsletter or email digest on pertinent topics to all conference attendees and continue to meet up online to continue to discuss universal design. Have DO-IT check in with us after the conference to see if we need any more help accomplishing our goals.
  • As we train faculty and staff, reach out to students as well to learn more about accessibility and universal design. Include these topics in orientation and pertinent classes.
  • Change the policies around purchasing; include accessibility in purchasing rules or make sure procurement consults with disability support services before making a purchase. Disability support services could start this connection by establishing a task force and reaching out to procurement.
  • Contribute to the DO-IT knowledge base.
  • Join the community of practice (CoP) and listserv for accessible IT in postsecondary education in Washington. Share resources from conferences and information learned via this CoP and encourage other institutions to share often as well. (See below for more information about the Accessible IT CoP.)
  • Organize a meeting around the Accessing Higher Ground, CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, and other accessibility conferences.
  • Continue the discussion on campus and include departments, administration, and task force members. Collaborate together to create policies, procedures, and make connections statewide to share resources and support.
  • Tackle low hanging fruit first and create a checklist of all the things that need to be done over a two and four year timeline.
  • Plan to come to next year’s CBI and have more time to communicate with each other and work together so create relationships across institutions. This will lead to future collaborations, partnerships, and resource sharing.
  • Create templates and demonstrations to share with IT and support services across our school and other institutions.
  • Partner with each other to draft statements or commitments about IT accessibility.

CBI Participants

All participants from the Washington State Accessible IT capacity building institute.

Stakeholder groups represented in the CBI included

  • student service leaders and administrators,
  • faculty members,
  • students, and
  • professional organizations

The following individuals participated in the CBI.

Tyler Anderson
IT/AV Support
DigiPen Institute of Technology

Claudia Angus
Coordinator of Disability Support Services
Walla Walla Community College

Raymona Baldwin
Assistive Technology Specialist
Bellevue College

Pablo Basilio
Help Desk Supervisor
South Seattle College

Scott Bellman
Program Manager, DO-IT Center
University of Washington

Brianna Blaser
Counselor/Coordinator, DO-IT Center
University of Washington

Carla Boyd
Coordinator and Educational Planner, Special Populations
Wenatchee Valley College

Greg Brazell
Director for Center of Engagement and Learning
Pierce College Fort Steilacoom

Sheryl Burgstahler
Director/Founder, DO-IT Center
University of Washington

Bree Callahan
Director, Disability Resources for Students
University of Washington

F. Jeri Carter
Dean of Student Success
University of Washington Tacoma

Dave Coffey
Instructional Designer
University of Washington

Dan Comden
Manager, Access Technology Center (ATC)
University of Washington

Lyla Crawford
Counselor/Coordinator, DO-IT Center, Spokane
University of Washington

Ian Dahling
HRL Assistive Tech Specialist
Central Washington University

Dale Detton
IT System Analyst
Green River College

Karla Ealy-Marroquin
Multimedia Services Coordinator
Washington State University-Spokane

Karen Ehnat
Director, Center for Disability Services
Everett Community College

Aimee Elber
Manager, Disability Support Services
Spokane Community College

Will Frankhouser
IT Web Developer
Everett Community College

Rebecca Frost
Director of Student Success and Disability Support Services
Whitman College

Anna Marie Golden
Accessible Technology Specialist
University of Washington

Shema Hanebutte
Dean, Counseling, Advising, Access Svs
Tacoma Community College

Dawn Hawley
eLearning Program Specialist
Bellingham Technical College

Doug Hayman
Technology Specialist, DO-IT Center
University of Washington

Andy Heiser
Director of IT
Skagit Valley College

Ken Hodgen
IT Specialist
Walla Walla Community College

Kerri Holferty
Associate Director of Access & Disability Services
Whatcom Community College

Meredith Inocencio
Director, Access Services
The Evergreen State College

Bridget Irish
ITS3 Curricular Technology Support Specialist
The Evergreen State College

Tami Jacobs
Dean of Student Success
Pierce College Fort Steilacoom

Alyssa Jones
Program Office Assistant, Accessibility Resources Department
Bellingham Technical College

Craig Kerr
Director, Services for Students with Disabilities
Edmonds Community College

Clay Krauss
Director of IT
Tacoma Community College

Julie Kunz
Counselor, Disability Access Services
Skagit Valley College

Marc Lentini
Director, Instructional Design
Highline College

Holly Leonard
Disability Support Services Specialist
Grays Harbor College

Beth Lytle
Instructional Technologist
University of Washington

Kelley L. Meeusen
eLearning Coordinator
Clover Park Technical College

Monica Olsson
Disability Support Services Coordinator
DigiPen Institute of Technology

Laura Overstreet
eLearning Faculty Trainer and Psych instructor
Whatcom Community College

Angela Pak
Disability Support Services Program Coordinator
South Seattle College

Karen Park
Sr. MicroSystems Analyst
Seattle Pacific University

Patrick Pow
Vice Chancellor for Information Technology
University of Washington Tacoma

Hadi Rangin
Information Technology Specialist, ATS, DO-IT Center
University of Washington

Robbin Riedy
Assistant Director of Educational Technology and Media
Seattle Pacific University

Amy Rovner​
eLearning Instructional Designer/Facilitator of Accessibility & Online Courses FLC
Shoreline Community College

Chad Schone
Director, the Multimodal Education Center
Central Washington University

David Sprunger
Director of Instructional and Learning Technology
Whitman College

Lori Tiede
Technology Training and Communications Project Manager
Edmonds Community College

Terrill Thompson
Technology Accessibility Specialist, DO-IT Center
University of Washington

Andrew Tudor
Dean, Libraries and Learning Technologies
Wenatchee Valley College

James Umphres
eLearning Coordinator
Grays Harbor College

Kevin Verver
IT Specialist
Shoreline Community College

Mary Kay Wegner
Change Management Director
Bellevue College

Hilleri West
ACHIEVE Instructor/Access Services Accommodation Specialist
Highline College

Liz West
Interim Director of Student Affairs
Washington State University-Spokane

Laquida Williams
Assistive Technology Program Coordinator
Pierce College Puyallup

Gretje Witt
Web Designer
Spokane Falls Community College

Qiong Wu
Web Application Development Lead
Green River College

Communities of Practice

Two participants hold a discussion.

With supplement funding, DO-IT engages stakeholders within Communities of Practice (CoPs). CoPs share perspectives and expertise and identify practices that promote the participation of people with disabilities in postsecondary education.

Accessible IT CoP

This CoP is populated with disability services and IT professionals interested in increasing the accessibility of IT in postsecondary education. Participants

  • exchange information, ideas, and suggestions for future collaboration
  • gain and share knowledge and help identify issues related to IT accessibility in higher education
  • recruit others to participate in the CoP
  • provide content for DO-IT’s searchable Knowledge Base

Universal Design in Higher Education CoP

This CoP is comprised of individuals interested in exploring universal design (UD) and its applications in higher education. Participants on this CoP discuss

  • promising practices for infusing universal design on postsecondary campuses;
  • applying UD to all educational opportunities that include instruction, technology, student services and physical spaces; and
  • specific topics in the book Universal Design and Higher Education: From Principles to Practice and contribute materials to be shared through the Center on Universal Design in Education.

Accessible Distance Learning CoP

Distance learning program administrators and support staff use the Accessible Distance Learning CoP to increase their knowledge about disabilities and make changes in distance learning that lead to more inclusive practices. Members discuss

  • management;
  • staffing;
  • training; and
  • policy issues related to creating accessible distance learning courses and programs.

You and your colleagues can join the CoP by sending the following information to doit@uw.edu:

  • name
  • position/title
  • institution
  • postal address
  • email address
  • name of the CoP

For information about other CoPs hosted by DO-IT, consult www.uw.edu/doit/resources/communities-practice.


The DO-IT website at www.uw.edu/doit contains

  • information about DO-IT projects
  • evidence-based practices that support project goals and objectives
  • resources for students with disabilities
  • educational materials for teachers and administration

DO-IT maintains a searchable database of frequently asked questions, case studies, and promising practices related to how educators and employers can fully include students with disabilities. The Knowledge Base is an excellent resource for ideas that can be implemented in programs in order to better serve students with disabilities. In particular, the promising practices articles serve to spread the word about practices that show evidence of improving the participation of people with disabilities in postsecondary education.

Examples of Knowledge Base questions include the following:

  • Are electronic whiteboards accessible to people with disabilities?
  • Are peer review tools accessible?
  • Are there computer keyboards designed to be used with only one hand?
  • Are touch screens accessible?
  • Do postsecondary institutions have to provide assistive technology (for example, screen enlargement or voice recognition software) to students with disabilities who enroll in distance learning courses?
  • Does a postsecondary institution have to provide specific hardware or software (known as assistive technology) that an individual with a disability requests so that he or she can access information technology used on campus?
  • Does making our school web content accessible mean I cannot use multimedia on my site?
  • How can educational entities determine if their websites are accessible?

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to propose questions and answers, case studies, and promising practices for the Knowledge Base. Contributions and suggestions can be sent to doit@uw.edu.

For more information on making your campus technology accessible and to learn more about accessible learning or universal design, review the following websites and brochures.


Participants type at computers to record their ideas.

The Washington Accessible IT capacity building activities are funded by Access Technology Services at the University of Washington. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the CBI presenters, attendees, and publication authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Washington.

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (toll free voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (FAX)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.
Program Manager: Scott Bellman

© 2016 University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy this publication for educational, noncommercial purposes, provided the source is acknowledged.