Capacity building institutes (CBIs) bring people together to collaboratively identify solutions to specific problems. Participants may come from across disciplines, departments, and/or institutions. The Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) Center at the University of Washington has hosted CBIs with multiple stakeholder groups to explore problems and solutions regarding the success of individuals with disabilities in college and careers. Although they are typically provided on-site, they can be adapted to delivery using digital conferencing software.

The AccessComputing project—a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded collaboration between the DO-IT Center, the University of Washington (UW) Department of Computing Science, and the UW Information School—has worked with university partners to organize CBIs that bring together campus stakeholders to identify, implement, and institutionalize policies, practices, and procedures that lead to more accessible computing and IT courses, resources, and services. Throughout each CBI, participants increase knowledge and skills and develop strategic plans to make their campuses, departments, and/or activities more inclusive of individuals with disabilities.

A CBI builds the capacity of each member of the group and their respective units to identify and solve identified problems as well as to explore ways that other individual and organizational stakeholders can contribute to such efforts. CBI evaluations have provided strong evidence that, after the event, people who may not typically work together are more eager to collaborate on expanding collective knowledge and developing strategies to address common issues.

During each CBI,

  • all participants contribute to its success,
  • speakers participate in group discussions,
  • experts in all relevant topic areas participate,
  • participants give presentations and participate in large and small group discussions,
  • some predetermined professional development is presented and new content is delivered as the meeting unfolds, and
  • participant interests are expressed and expertise is made known.

AccessComputing staff members encourage campus leaders to host CBIs for their campuses or organizations. The planning process can start by setting goals for the event. Some guidelines for conducting CBIs are provided in the following paragraphs. Additional guidance can be found in DO-IT’s comprehensive publication Building Capacity for a Welcoming and Accessible Postsecondary Institution.


Campus leaders and stakeholders should identify the overall goals and objectives of their CBI (teaching about accessibility, making computing fields more welcoming to people with disabilities, etc.). These goals may include the following:

  • To develop an action-oriented community amongst individuals invested in disability-related topics.
  • To help representatives from a wide variety of stakeholder groups create institutional change toward a more welcoming and accessible campus.
  • To ensure that information technology (e.g., technology associated with websites, computer labs, distance learning courses) is accessible to students, faculty, and staff with disabilities.
  • To encourage faculty to teach about disability, accessibility, and universal design in their courses.
  • To make student service units (e.g., a career center or computing lab) welcoming and accessible to students with disabilities through the implementation of universal design (UD).
  • To increase faculty ability to teach students with disabilities by implementing universal design strategies.


Once goals are established, organizers can determine which stakeholders they need to invite. Participants may either be experts or otherwise engaged in areas related to the CBI’s goals. This may include computing faculty, the disability service office, other student-focused offices such as veterans services or tutoring centers, information technology staff, researchers interested in disability and inclusion, and individuals with disabilities. Ensure that announcements or registration forms are accessible and include information about requesting accommodations.

Activities and Logistics

Past CBIs have lasted anywhere from a half day to two and a half days. An agenda can be developed based upon the goals and stakeholder interests. Sample agendas are included below. Activities may include a keynote presentation, panel discussions of students with disabilities or accessibility experts, short presentations from attendees on their areas of expertise, large and small group discussion, hands-on activities, and working groups that draft resources or plans for implementing changes within their organizations.

Sample CBI Agendas

Presented below are agendas that were used in two CBIs, one at a postsecondary institution and one at a conference.

Capacity Building for Accessibility at Carnegie Mellon University

8:00am – 9:00am           Registration, participant surveys, and continental breakfast

9:00am – 10:00 am           Welcome

  • Keynote Presentation: Including People with Disabilities in Computing Fields: Why and How

10:00 am – 11:00 am        Digital Accessibility and Disability Resources at CMU: Overview from the Digital Accessibility Committee

11:00 am – 11:15 am        Coffee break

11:15 am – 12:15 pm        Panel: Perspectives from the Ground

12:15 pm – 1:00 pm          Lunch with guest speaker

1:00 pm – 2:30 pm            Accessibility Research at CMU

  • “Robotics and Mobile Apps for Accessible Navigation”
  • “Assistive Wheelchair-Mounted Robot Arms”
  • “NavCog: Cognitive Navigation Assistant for People with Visual Impairments or Blindness”
  • “Making Accessibility”
  • “Better Accessibility via Crowds and Machine Learning”

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm            “Exploring Individual and Community-Level Approaches for Mitigating Unconscious Bias” 

3:30 pm – 3:45 pm            Tea break

3:45 pm – 4:45 pm            Open Floor Discussion

4:45 pm – 5:00 pm            Wrap up, surveys, and close

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm            Lab Tours and Demos

  • Demo of NavCog: Cognitive Navigation Assistant for People with Visual Impairments or Blindness
  • Personal Robotics Lab Showing Both ADA and HERB
  • DevLab Tour


What to Teach about Accessibility at SIGCSE 2019

1:30 pm – 1:45 pm            Welcome

1:45 pm – 2:15 pm            Integrating Accessibility into Introductory CS Courses

2:15 pm – 2:40 pm            Accessibility and Web development

2:40 pm – 2:55 pm            Break  

2:55 pm – 3:20 pm            Teaching Accessibility in Capstone and Accessibility Courses       

3:20 pm – 3:30 pm            Break  

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm            Examples of Accessibility in Software Engineering, HCI, and Information 

4:00 pm – 4:45 pm            Breakouts: Form Interest Groups Around Subject Areas: What Would it Take to Incorporate Accessibility into Your Class? 

4:45 pm                            Closing

Additional examples of agendas can be found in Proceedings from Previous Capacity Building Institutes.

Discussion Questions

Questions for small groups could include those that follow:

  • What are your institutions’ challenges in increasing the participation of students with disabilities in computing?
  • How can we include topics of accessibility in computing curriculum? What courses at your institution might benefit from such topics?
  • What can be done at your institution to make computing classes and departments more accessible to students with disabilities?
  • Considering the barriers that were discussed, what solutions might your institution implement to overcome these? How can these plans be further developed? How can we encourage your institution to adopt these sorts of plans?
  • How can we continue to work together to promote the participation of people with disabilities in computing and the inclusion of information related to disability, accessibility, and universal design in the computing curriculum at your institution?
  • What stakeholders at your campus can you engage with to achieve the goals and ideas you’ve identified at this CBI?

Short Presentations from Experts

To build a collaborative environment, invite attendees to deliver short presentations related to the goals of the CBI and consider inviting experts to give presentations. Having experts present on their work sparks discussion, helps attendees learn about the work of others at their institution, and builds community. After soliciting volunteers, organizers can arrange presentations by theme. Share the AccessComputing Knowledge Base article Tips for Delivering an Accessible Presentation in early communications with presenters.

Panel Discussions

A panel of students with disabilities can help stakeholders develop an understanding of the barriers that students with disabilities encounter and highlight examples of institutional practices that can remove these barriers. Panelists should be encouraged to talk about accessibility issues within their courses, broader experiences in academia as a person with a disability, specific accommodations, and positive and negative experiences with instructors. See the AccessComputing Knowledge Base article Hosting a Panel of Students with Disabilities: A Promising Practice in Raising Awareness of Disability Issues for more guidance in facilitating a panel discussion.


Handouts, videos, books, and other supplementary materials can be used throughout the meeting to guide discussions or bring in additional perspectives on discussion topics. AccessComputing has an extensive collection of videos and resources that campuses have utilized during CBIs. Print materials should be provided in accessible alternative formats when requested. More information is available online for creating accessible documents. Videos shown should be captioned and, ideally, audio described. For more information, consult our resource on making videos accessible

Daily and Final Evaluations

Throughout a CBI, collect feedback from participants. Immediate feedback from short, daily evaluations can be used in real time to shift the agenda and discussion to meet the needs of the participants. Below are some sample questions for daily evaluations:

  • What did you like about today’s session?
  • What could have improved today’s sessions?
  • What key things do you want to make sure we accomplish by the end of this collaborative meeting? 

The final CBI evaluation should capture the demographics of the attendees, assessments of individual sessions and activities, future action items, and feedback on the CBI as a whole. Examples of questions to include are listed below:

  • What aspects of the meeting were the most and/or least useful to you?
  • Do you have suggestions for making a future meeting like this more useful?
  • Tell us about one specific step you plan to take, when you return to your institution, to promote increasing the participation of individuals with disabilities in computing.


Costs associated with CBIs may include space rental fees, marketing, materials, sign language interpreters and/or captioning, food, printed materials, and travel for any participants coming from outside your institution.


Participants should leave the CBI with action items, new partnerships, and resources. It is important to provide time for attendees to think critically about what steps they and their department, institution, or organization can take toward improved accessibility and greater inclusion.

Build time into the CBI to allow participants to set actionable goals and develop steps that will result in tangible and sustainable change. Include time in the agenda for small group discussions and activities that address future projects and collaborations. One possible outcome is for participants to implement a Community of Practice (CoP) at their institution or within their campus unit. A CoP is a group of individuals who share common concerns and interact regularly to identify problems in their field, propose changes, plan activities, share resources, and discuss topics of mutual interest. AccessComputing hosts several nationwide CoPs for diverse groups of stakeholders. Missouri Southern State University implemented a successful CoP on their campus.

Organizers and participants can contribute articles to the AccessComputing Knowledge Base about their activities. The Knowledge Base, a collection of hundreds of articles that address disability-related issues, is continually growing to include answers to common questions (Q&As), case studies, and promising practices regarding accessibility of technology, college, graduate school, and computing careers for individuals with disabilities.

After the CBI, develop proceedings of the event that include the agenda and summaries of presentations and panel discussions. Distribute them and post them on your website. These proceedings can be utilized by CBI attendees, campus stakeholders who were unable to attend the CBI, or individuals at other institutions interested in the goals of the CBI.

Lessons Learned

For individuals who wish to conduct a CBI at their institution, past CBI organizers suggest the following:

  • Invite representatives from a variety of stakeholder groups to the CBI to ensure that multiple perspectives are presented and that there is a wide range of expertise among participants. Consider inviting representatives from faculty, the disability service office, other offices that work with students such as veterans offices or tutoring centers, information technology staff, researchers interested in disability, and individuals with disabilities.
  • Include the voices of people with disabilities. Invite attendees in the field that have disabilities and involve people with disabilities in the planning stage of the CBI. Panels of students with disabilities are one way to include a diverse representation of people with disabilities.
  • Encourage participants to set actionable, measurable goals during the CBI that will make your organization more welcoming or accessible to students with disabilities. Follow up after the CBI to ensure that participants take action on their goals.
  • Ensure that meetings are accessible. Be sure that speakers verbalize information presented in visual format and use a microphone. Those asking questions from the audience should use a microphone or speakers should repeat their questions into the microphone before responding.
  • Draw speakers from the audience. This is a way for participants to hear a variety of perspectives and continue to engage with speakers throughout the event.
  • Include brainstorming and discussion sessions during the meeting. Some discussions can be in small groups and others can engage the entire group. Notetakers should capture participant ideas for proceedings and for reference in developing action plans or disseminating information.
  • After the meeting, develop proceedings that summarize presentations and discussions that took place at the CBI. Post the document on a website and otherwise disseminate so that a larger audience can benefit from what took place at the meeting.
  • Maximize the impact of the CBI by disseminating information about the event and looking for opportunities to publish articles in journals, campus publications, and newsletter articles. Submit a press release to campus and local newspapers. 


AccessComputing staff have extensive experience organizing CBIs in a variety of settings. Consult with AccessComputing to get advice on topics to cover, agendas, evaluation, and follow up after the event.

Listed below are additional resources, many developed in collaboration with AccessComputing project partners and individuals with disabilities.


Short Publications


DO-IT Knowledge Base Articles