Working Group Discussion Summaries

A participant writes down group ideas on a large easel at the Accessible IT CBI.

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

  • Money is often a barrier to accessibility, whether it is for purchasing new resources or the amount paid for staff and faculty.
  • We need a standardized accessibility checklist that is used across campuses. This could be supplemented with clear procedures for tasks, such as working with vendors to purchase accessible product, how to hold accessibility training, how to caption videos, etc.
  • We need more champions within our faculty senate and the federation to address accessibility issues in high-level meetings.
  • Outside partners are often resistant to change or don’t make accessibility a priority. This results in, for example, internships and clinicals that are not fully accessible. 
  • We need a list of quick and easy solutions to start making changes immediately.
  • We need to be more proactive, and we need to reframe the issue as being a campus wide problem, not just in the hands of disability services. The culture around accessibility needs to be changed, and faculty, staff, and administration all need to understand the importance of universal design and accessibility.
  • A support system should be created so that all colleges and technical institutes can bond together to take on the same issues, and more solutions could be found in a shorter time period.
  • No one takes responsibility for accessibility. Someone needs to step up and take it on, possibly creating a centralized hub in IT with one lead manager.
  • My campus doesn’t have accessible software or hardware. I need to figure out what we need, obtain funding, and make this technology available.
  • There needs to be accountability and ramifications for not being accessible.
  • There is a lack of continuous communication, support, and resources. Creating stronger support groups and making sure everyone knows whom to contact with questions would be helpful.
  • Too often, departments make their own purchases without considering accessibility. We need to make all departments aware of the legal issues and have a stake in making an accessible campus.
  • There’s a lack of top down pressure; if we get those at the top involved in accessibility change, then they will help ensure that their employees follow suit.
  • There needs to be a huge push towards getting everyone on campus concerned about accessibility. It isn’t a priority on anyone’s agenda, people don’t understand the impact accessibility can have, and an ongoing historical institutional inertia for all changes, especially for tenured faculty and long-term staff. 
  • In such a broad topic, it can be hard to figure out where to start. A few IT members should be trained on accessibility issues and help others across campus tackle low hanging fruit.

What strategies can you implement on your campus to encourage accessibility of webpages, videos, and documents? 

  • Create a video starring campus leaders to invite more administration and faculty buy-in for campus-wide accessibility. This will help raise awareness and build acceptance.
  • Develop an accessible campus guide to instruct professors and staff as well as start a bigger picture conversation.
  • Collaborate with other schools on a district-wide accessibility push. This can include weekly accessibility tips, strategic IT project planning, and a push for searchable captions to improve everyone’s experiences. 
  • Share resources with other schools.
  • Hold training sessions with stakeholders, including the IT department, disabilities services, marketing communications, and faculty. Teach faculty about web and document accessibility and about the sort of assistive technology their students might use.
  • Create an interdepartmental accessibility taskforce at each college that looks at goals that can realistically be achieved. Track activities and create an annual report.
  • Make sure there is a strong, ongoing relationship between disability services and IT staff. Forming a partnership will put accessibility at the forefront of all IT’s projects and teach members of IT about disability, accommodations, and universal design. Provide training and plan goals together.
  • Hold paid strategizing sessions with students with disabilities to encourage participation and to learn the problems and solutions from the students themselves.
  • Focus on short-term goals and long-term goals separately. Choose what you can fix now by looking at the OCR cases for ideas on what can be changed easily and then plan for the future. Creating a gap analysis is a great way to set the ideal situation and see where you need to close the gap.
  • Send stakeholders to conferences on accessibility, including Accessing Higher Ground and the California State University Northridge Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.

What are some short- and long-term steps you can take to increase accessibility on campus?

  • Install Kurzweil, Dragon, and NVDA, as well as other accessible software, in multiple computer labs across campus. 
  • Train staff and faculty on accommodations, accessible documents and websites, and the different accessibility software. Hold a retreat for faculty based solely on accessibility and how to make their courses more accessible. Include instructors who teach online, since it is especially important for their classes to be accessible.
  • Create a high-level task force, including high-level stakeholders, as well as people across departments. Include faculty, and staff from purchasing, library, IT, web, disability services, as well as students. Publish IT accessibility reports in order to track improvements and efforts. 
  • Provide documentation and other resources for staff and faculty to learn about accessibility, universal design, and how to implement both into their courses.
  • Establish a baseline for what is to be expected for accessibility in classes, on campus, and on the web.
  • Run an accessibility checker and use accessibility tools on all college websites and fix current accessibility issues. Invite an accessible technology technician to create more accessible websites and to provide ongoing support to faculty in building better websites.
  • Caption all videos associated with classes and on campus, and make sure only captioned videos are used in class. Caption lectures when they are provided in a video format online.
  • Use social media and collaborate with different groups using Facebook and Twitter, including DO-IT.
  • Create an annual report on campus accessibility to build awareness, measure the progress of goals, and showcase what has been done and still needs to be done.
  • Develop captions, audio description, and transcripts for all e-learning videos.
  • Plan an accessibility audit, and especially make sure your LMS is accessible. Use screen readers to test all websites.
  • Look at tools specifically designed for doing science, technology, engineering, and math online, like math markup languages and tools for doing math and science homework.
  • Find quick accessibility fixes and tackle those first, before looking at long-term goals for accessibility.
  • Look at different ways to find funding for accessibility features and goals, especially for captioning videos.
  • Raise awareness about universal design on campus and promote it as a tool for everyone, not just students with disabilities. Create videos and campus promotions around these goals, and promote a culture of accessibility and diversity awareness. Host an event for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Create accessible policies and procedures to make it mandatory for all staff and faculty to follow accessibility guidelines.
  • Work with a captioning vendor and partner with other schools to meet cost goals and provide all the captioning and accessible video services necessary. 
  • Create more accessibility resources, and make sure they get into the hands of staff, faculty, and students.
  • Make sure campus maps include accessibility features.
  • Make sure class schedules and registration are accessible to everyone, including those using screen readers.
  • Create an accessibility checklist to determine what needs to be done across campus and where priority lies.
  • Partner with other stakeholders from a variety of departments on campus—IT, web, e-learning, library, purchasing, instructors, and others—to create community around accessibility issues.
  • Engage your ADA compliance officer in conversations about IT accessibility.
  • Encourage the faculty senate or council to ask whether faculty have considered IT accessibility, or accessibility more broadly, when they propose a new course.
  • Involve students to create a grassroots effort to promote accessibility.

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

  • Pool together our funding between schools across Washington State to contract with one captioning vendor at a discounted rate.
  • Engage with all of the eLearning directors from the 34 community colleges through the eLearning Council to determine how to ensure online learning is accessible.
  • Create a community of practice (CoP) for accessible IT in postsecondary education in Washington and have a listserve specifically for it. Share resources from conferences and information learned via this CoP. (See below for more information about the Accessible IT CoP.)
  • Meet before the Washington Association on Postsecondary Education and Disability (WAPED) meeting every year to check in on efforts and continue to invite others to meet as well. This year, the WAPED meeting will include a talk by the IT director of University of Montana, who will discuss their resolution to the Office of Civil Rights complaint two years ago. Learn more about WAPED at www.waped.org.
  • Get on the Northwest Managers of Educational Technology (NWMET) conference agenda for the meeting to be held in April in Walla Walla. Learn more about NWMET at www.nwmet.org.
  • Have an IT accessibility constituent group present at EDUCAUSE (www.educause.edu) regional and national events.
  • Connect across social media—Facebook, Twitter, and so on—to create a connected online presence.
  • Hold a one-day meeting before or after Accessing Higher Ground (www.accessinghigherground.org).
  • Negotiate with vendors and work together to get accessible products and services, especially for eLearning.
  • Join the Access Technologist Higher Education Network (ATHEN); learn more at www.athenpro.org/content/mailing-list.
  • Partner with each other to draft statements or commitments about IT accessibility.