Oregon State University: A Promising Practice in Establishing Information Technology Accessibility Guidelines
Postsecondary institutions nationwide routinely purchase information technology (IT) that is inaccessible to individuals with some types of disabilities. Most wait to consider accessibility issues until after a student or employee with a disability faces an access challenge, an approach that often results in significant time and expense trying to retrofit inaccessible products. Alternatively, some institutions are taking proactive steps at the procurement level to assure that purchased products are accessible to people with a variety of disabilities.
Oregon State University (OSU) is an example of one campus that has taken proactive steps. OSU, under the leadership of its Technology Access Program, developed hardware, software, multimedia and web accessibility guidelines starting in 1998, predating the Access Board's Section 508 Standards. The OSU guidelines closely parallel the Section 508 Standards, but slight differences reflect that the OSU guidelines were specifically developed to fit the specific IT purchasing issues faced at their institution.
Over a period of many years, the guidelines were consolidated and re-purposed with input from a cross-section of OSU constituents. The result is a single set of guidelines presented under the heading IT Accessibility at OSU, along with relevant contacts, resources and tools, and the university's policy on non-discrimination.
Many higher education institutions are now looking to OSU as a model as they develop their own policies, procedures, and guidelines to assure the accessibility of their IT resources.