In October 2010, thousands of higher education IT professionals converged on Anaheim, California for the EDUCAUSE annual conference. The conference attracts a wide variety of college and university staff and faculty members who are involved in various capacities procuring, developing, maintaining, and using IT on their campuses. I have attended all but one of these conferences since 2002, in an effort to raise awareness of IT accessibility within this population.
In 2007, I founded and continue to chair the EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent Group, which now has 189 members representing approximately 140 unique institutions. For the 2010 conference, this group coordinated an IT Accessibility Center, which featured a "conference within a conference," focused entirely on IT accessibility.
The Center was staffed by accessibility specialists from seven institutions (UW-Seattle, University of Illinois, Stanford University, North Carolina State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Ohio State University, and California State University-Northridge). It included interactive demo stations where attendees could test assistive technologies, participate in accessibility simulations, or simply talk with Center staff about accessibility issues.
The Center also included a theater where twenty-two presentations, offered throughout the conference, covered a broad range of topics.
During the conference a series of six sessions were delivered by chief information officers (CIOs) and senior IT leaders, who shared their accessibility-related experiences, strategies, and lessons learned. These were the Center's best-attended sessions, and participating CIOs spoke earnestly of how highly they valued the opportunity to talk with colleagues on this important issue.
There is still considerable work required before students with disabilities have full and equitable access to the complete range of administrative and academic tools used in higher education. However, the IT Accessibility Center marks a significant step forward in educating and motivating IT leaders to help advance the state of accessibility. To view the conference schedule maintained by EDUCAUSE, visit http://www.educause.edu/wiki/Accessibility+@+EDUCAUSE+2010.