Accessible Technology

IT Accessibility Progress

The University of Washington has a long history of working to address accessibility issues related to technology. Current efforts build on these earlier efforts. Progress includes the following:


  • The Microcomputer Support Group (MSG) began operations originally under the Academic Computer Center, which was renamed Academic Computing Services, and which eventually merged with administrative computing to become Computing & Communications (C&C). The MSG supported the IT needs of faculty, students, and staff and included consulting on adaptive technology as part of its mission statement. In later years this group evolved into Desktop Computing Services. These groups gradually collected an assortment of assistive technology for testing, training and outreach to other campus labs.


  • Combining consulting, lab and showroom functions, the Adaptive Technology Lab emerged as a unit of Desktop Computing Services housed within its general-access Micro Lab in the Husky Union Building. Several years later it was renamed the Access Technology Lab and is now called the Access Technology Center. A Manager of the ATL position was established in 1992. During this time C&C was renamed UW Information Technology (UW-IT).


  • DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) was founded with funding from the National Science Foundation and continues to receive funding from multiple sources. DO-IT is a collaboration between UW-IT, the College of Education, and the College of Engineering. Although primarily outreach-focused, DO-IT projects have benefited the UW in many ways. In particular, DO-IT has dealt with issues related to assistive technology and accessible IT since it began.


  • The first Introduction to Adaptive Technology course was taught through C&C.
  • DO-IT began creating videos on a wide range of disability-focused topics including assistive technology and accessible IT. From the beginning all DO-IT videos having included captioning and audio description, and have been offered to users in a wide variety of formats to ensure compatibility with user needs and preferences.


  • DO-IT and UW Rehabilitation Medicine received funding to co-direct AccessIT, a project to promote nationwide the use of IT for students and employees with disabilities in educational institutions at all academic levels. An AccessIT Knowledge Base was initiated as a searchable database of questions and answers, case studies, and promising practices regarding accessible IT. This useful collection continues to be updated as part of an expanded DO-IT Knowledge Base.
  • The Web Accessibility website was launched as part of the Computing and Networking site.


  • The AccessibleWeb@U user group was established by C&C. Members meet monthly and engage on an electronic discussion list. All activities are focused on improving the accessibility of UW web pages. It fosters ongoing discussion about accessible website design, policy, and practice.
  • C&C began incorporating web accessibility into its HTML courses.


  • Research in academic departments such as Computer Science and the Information School began to be supported by the ATC and worked to provide solutions in mobile computing, web accessibility, and increased production of tactile graphics. This work is ongoing.


  • DO-IT, in partnership with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, received NSF funding for the AccessComputing alliance which, among other things, promotes nationwide the development and use of accessible IT.
  • DO-IT conducted a nationwide NSF-funded Capacity-Building Institute (CBI) on web accessibility in Seattle.
  • An ongoing dialog between DO-IT, the ATC, and UW External Affairs began.



  • DO-IT conducted a campus-wide NSF-funded CBI on IT accessibility.
  • The UW Information Technology Accessibility website was launched by UW-IT to guide faculty and staff in developing and procuring accessible IT. The new site used content from the old Web Accessibility site, adding substantial new content relating to methods, resources, and procurement.


  • UW External Affairs staff visited the ATC and a higher level of engagement between DO-IT, the ATC, and UW External Affairs began.


  • A core group of campus webmasters began using Siteimprove to test the accessibility of their websites.


  • The renewal fee for Siteimprove was secured from campus units and the ATC.
  • In January/February a working group of web managers evaluated how to track accessibility of websites.
  • In June a joint External Affairs/UW-IT task force, chartered by Vice Presidents Kelli Trosvig and Randy Hodgins, launched the UW Website Accessibility Project to develop an ongoing plan for promoting Internet accessibility and establishing best practices for use throughout the University of Washington.
  • Launched the video IT Accessibility: What Campus Leaders Have to Say, featuring then UW President Michael Young and other university presidents, chancellors, and IT leaders discussing the importance of IT accessibility on college campuses.


  • Launched the second video in the IT Accessibility series, this one titled IT Accessibility: What Web Developers Have to Say.
  • Accessible Technology Services launched an extensive effort to educate the campus community on web accessibility. Over 100 campus contacts were made in 2013 via email, telephone, and in-person meetings. In addition, staff made hundreds of additional contacts in educational settings such as guest lectures on campus and conference presentations on the regional and national level.
  • A Request for Proposal (RFP) was announced for a campus-wide captioning vendor, and Automatic Sync Technologies was ultimately selected.
  • IT Accessibility Task Force submitted 2013 annual report (PDF) to project sponsors.


  • An additional accessibility specialist was hired; much of his time is spent working with UW technology developers and IT companies that provide products used by the UW.
  • Wording was developed regarding knowledge and skills in accessible IT to be listed as a required or desired qualification in open job description listings for UW technology staff. Supervisors within UW-IT were encouraged to use it. Details are available on Managing for Accessibility.
  • IT Accessibility Task Force submitted 2014 annual report (PDF) to project sponsors.


  • The IT Accessibility Task Force met monthly to discuss IT accessibility policy, practices, and promotion.
  • A staff person within UW-IT Accessible Technology Services (ATS) was designated to routinely review UW websites for accessibility and reach out to website owners. Site owners were encouraged to consult the Accessible Technology website as a resource, use standard UW templates that have accessibility built-in, and consider using Siteimprove to monitor their sites for accessibility problems. Additional support and training was also provided to existing Siteimprove users.
  • Hosted an IT Accessibility CBI for Washington State colleges and universities to identify challenges that need to be addressed, promising practices, and recommendations for future efforts.
  • On May 1, published the University of Washington IT Accessibility Guidelines and accompanying IT Accessibility Checklist.
  • ATS and Disability Resources for Students (DRS) tested, piloted, and then co-funded a license for SensusAccess, an online service that converts documents from inaccessible formats (e.g., scanned image PDF) to a more accessible one. The service is now offered as the UW Document Conversion Service and is available to all UW students, faculty, and staff. It is actively promoted by DRS and is widely used by students with disabilities for independently addressing their urgent document conversion needs.
  • The IT Accessibility Task Force gave input regarding accessible IT that was incorporated into a new ADA brochure for campus that is now distributed through the UW Risk Management Office and through various campus units.
  • Created the video Captions: Improving Access to Postsecondary Education with targeted funding through ATS to complement the earlier videos on IT accessibility.
  • UW-IT approved funding for ATS to undertake a project to provide free captioning to high impact, high risk videos campus-wide.
  • IT Accessibility Task Force submitted 2015 annual report (PDF) to project sponsors.


  • The IT Accessibility Task Force met monthly to discuss IT accessibility policy, practices, and promotion.
  • Developed the Procuring Accessible IT web page in collaboration with UW Procurement Services and UW-IT. The page includes specific steps for addressing accessibility in the procurement process and includes recommended language for technology-related RFPs.
  • The IT Accessibility Task Force presented an Accessible IT Capacity Building Award to the UW Bothell campus for promoting the accessible design of IT and universal design of instruction both on-site and online. Recipients of these awards are groups of people at the UW who together, have promoted the procurement, development, deployment, and use of IT that is accessible to faculty, staff, students, and visitors with disabilities.
  • ATS initiated a study to compare options for captioning, e.g., paying for the service or using online methods to create captions.
  • IT Accessibility Task Force submitted 2016 annual report (PDF) to project sponsors.

May 2016

  • In May ATS hosted an IT Accessibility CBI for UW staff and faculty. Several IT Accessibility Liaisons were recruited from the audience.
  • In May, Task Force members conducted a Front End Technology community of practice and hosted activities for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) that included an Access Technology Center open house. ATS staff members also continue to support a promotional website ( and a #nomouse campaign to increase awareness about the importance of ensuring that websites can be operated with the keyboard alone.

July 2016

  • July 1, approval was granted to hire an additional staff member in ATS to increase proactive campus-wide efforts, especially in increasing the number of accessible PDFs.

September 2016

  • In September, ATS initiated a project funded by UW-IT to provide free captioning for high impact videos across campus and an application process for requesting the free captioning.
  • September 30, the Director of ATS was named coordinator of UW efforts to comply with the new Washington State Policy #188.

November 2016

  • November 29-30 ATS hosted a Washington State IT Accessibility Capacity-Building Institute for WA state colleges and universities to share ideas and identify collaborative opportunities in addressing requirements of Washington State Policy #188, which requires that IT procured, developed, and used by state agencies be accessible to people with disabilities.

December 2016

  • In December, ATS hired an accessibility specialist to lead campus-wide efforts to improve the accessibility of digital documents, especially PDFs.


  • The first meeting of IT Accessibility Liaisons took place February 2; going forward they will occur three times per year.
  • Edits were submitted for UW Administrative Policy Statement 2.3 to incorporate Policy #188 requirements.
  • Increased IT accessibility training opportunities through UW-IT’s Learning Technologies, especially with respect to the accessibility of websites and PDFs.

February 2017

  • Initiated pilot to remediate all PDFs at UW-Tacoma.
  • Initiated free online training on PDF accessibility for IT Accessibility Liaisons through

March 2017

  • ATS and IT Accessibility Task Force updated UW IT Accessibility Guidelines.

April 2017

  • ATS hosted UW’s IT Accessibility CBI on April 27th.

June 2017

  • ATS created initial database for accessibility audit and remediation plans for IT campus-wide.
  • On June 30th, the IT Accessibility Task Force Annual Report, including plans for next year and “UW IT Accessibility 1/1/2016 – 12/31/2016” as appendix, was submitted to Task Force sponsors.

August 2017

  • Marketing & Communications updated accessible UW branded templates for documents, events, and presentations.
  • August 1st, Policy #188 coordinator attended Policy #188 Accessibility Coordinator Summit, Olympia, WA.

September 2017

  • ATS delivered a 3 Play Media webinar on captioning.

October 2017

  • The Foster School of Business updated their primary websites to be more accessible to visitors with disabilities.
  • October 6-7 The director of ATS shared UW efforts regarding accessible IT and the DO-IT Center at conferences and with new DO-IT Center in Singapore.
  • October 12 ATS presented to Portland State University administrators on IT accessibility strategy.
  • October 13-17 ATS and Disability Resources for Students (DRS) staff delivered presentations at Accessing Higher Ground conference in Colorado.
  • October 25 ATS hosted an IT Accessibility Liaisons meeting, with a focus on efforts at UW branch campuses.
  • Developed efficient central processes for identifying inaccessible PDFs, converting them to another more accessible format and/or remediating them (perhaps with consultants), and training staff responsible for posting PDFs. Shared efficient workflows and costs for using a consulting company in reducing the use of PDFs and in remediating of PDFs at IT Liaisons meeting.
  • The IT Accessibility Task Force worked to ensure that complaint-reporting processes are effective for identifying high-risk IT accessibility problems.

November 2017

  • The IT Accessibility Task Force presented an Accessible IT Capacity Building Award for promoting the accessible design of IT and universal design of instruction both on-site and online.
  • ATS detailed the formal plan for training various stakeholder groups.
  • The Procurement Office, in collaboration with ATS, further addressed IT accessibility in procurement work flows.
  • ATS developed system for keeping track of activities and plans for training various stakeholder groups that will be updated and shared with IT Accessibility Task Force in an ongoing manner.

December 2017

  • Explored Ally for campus-wide data collection and accessibility promotion for online instruction.


  • Interns at the Community College Research Institute (CCRI) in the College of Education were trained on document accessibility.
  • The IT Accessibility Task Force used Salome Heyward’s report to improve/expand IT accessibility mandates, services, processes and collaborations and further align with legal mandates.
  • UW Bothell updated its IT accessibility plan.
  • Task Force members are represented on Ally launch team.
  • Received ongoing funding to caption high-impact, high-use videos as a UW-IT service.
  • Task Force members helped Special Olympics leaders make their website accessible and caption videos.

January 2018

February 2018

  • New “Learning Technology” workshops devoted to accessible documents and web pages were created by ATS.

March 2018

  • March 13-15 ATS represented the United States at an Ed-ICT International Network event held in Israel on postsecondary education and information and communication technology for students with disabilities.
  • March 19-23 ATS delivered presentations and hosted a booth at the CSUN conference on technology and persons with disabilities in which accessible IT efforts at the UW were shared.

May 2018

June 2018

ATS secured permanent funding to caption high-impact, high use videos and remediate PDF files.

  • ATS hosted a one day Washington State CBI on accessible online learning.


July 2018

  • Completed the purchase of Ally for campus-wide data collection and promotion of accessible design of online instruction; made plans and implemented training and support activities.
  • ATS attended the Siteimprove hackathon at Western Washington University to develop ideas for possible event at UW.
  • The director of outreach and marketing group for student government received IT accessibility training.

August 2018

  • The Administration and Planning Web Team received training on web accessibility.
  • UW Bothell developed a Canvas course on accessible online learning and the Task Force members will review its suitability for Seattle or Tacoma campuses.

October 2018

  • ATS represented the United States at Ed-ICT International Network events held in Germany on postsecondary education and information and communication technology for students with disabilities.

December 2018

  • ATS hosted a one day UW Accessible IT CBI.


January 2019

February 2019

  • Accessible Technology Services (ATS) hosted a half day IT Accessibility Liaison meeting focused on Ally launch.
  • The IT Accessibility Task Force presented an Accessible IT Capacity Building Award to University Libraries for their efforts to make IT information resources accessible to all faculty, staff, and students at the University of Washington, including those with disabilities.

May 2019

June 2019

  • ATS represented the United States at ED-ICT International Network events held in Great Britain on postsecondary education and information and communication technology for students with disabilities.