Missouri State University: A Promising Practice in Building Accessibility into Mainstream IT Policies
When a college or university addresses the accessibility of its information technology (IT), one of the challenges it faces is elevating the issue beyond the focus of disability-related special interests and into the realm of mainstream institutional policy. Missouri State University has risen to this challenge and has built universal access solidly into the university's website policy.
The MSU Web Policy clearly defines official versus unofficial websites and provides guidelines for each. All websites, including unofficial sites (e.g., personal and recognized/bona fide organizations), must comply with guidelines regarding copyright, usage of MSU seals and logos, and commercial activity. Official websites must additionally comply with guidelines regarding appropriate use of web space, domain names, outsourcing, privacy, registration of distributed web servers, and universal access.
The inclusion of universal access within the university's overall website policy lends credibility to accessibility issues and allows for the establishment and implementation of university-supported conformance timelines, support efforts, and enforcement mechanisms. Each of these implementation elements is described within the MSU Web Access Action Plan. According to the Action Plan, support for web accessibility is provided within the university's existing web support infrastructure, and the Action Plan specifically identifies the relevant responsibilities of the web coordinator, instructional designers, instructional technology support specialists, technical trainer, disability support coordinator, and others. The role of students in the plan is also noteworthy: Student workers are hired to review web pages for accessibility and/or participate on the Web Access Compliance Team. Student involvement is important because it instills in the future workforce an appreciation for and knowledge of technology accessibility issues.
Also, although the accessibility of MSU's computer technology is not specifically addressed within the university's other Information Technology Policies, the Web Policy includes a statement of commitment to accessibility of IT in general:
The University also makes certain that eligible students, faculty, and staff with disabilities can effectively access this web content in University environments, such as computer labs, classrooms, offices, and work environments, to the extent that it is reasonable.
For additional promising practices with respect to IT in postsecondary education, see the following AccessIT Knowledge Base articles: