Washington State IT Accessibility Capacity Building Institute (2020)

An outline of Washington State.

This publication shares the proceedings of the Washington State 2020 Information Technology (IT) Accessibility Capacity Building Institute (CBI), which was held online on December 14, 2020. A catalyst for the CBI was Washington State Policy #188 on Accessibility, which was first published in 2016 and serves to ensure that IT procured, developed, and used by state agencies, including public colleges and universities, is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. UW-IT’s Accessible Technology Services (ATS) at the University of Washington (UW) hosted the event for individuals representing a variety of stakeholder groups engaged in their postsecondary institution’s IT accessibility efforts. Attendees included

  • 47 individuals representing 22 postsecondary institutions,
  • 15 people who serve as their institution’s Policy #188 Coordinator, 
  • People whose job titles and roles varied greatly, and fell into one or more broad areas that include information technology, disability services, assistive or accessible technology services, instructional design, instructors, and library services,
  • Individuals who attended similar CBIs hosted by the UW, including the first two-day face-to-face event on November 29-30, 2016 held on the UW Seattle campus (see also the Proceedings of the 2016 CBI) as well as individuals who did not. 

The 2020 IT Accessibility CBI provided opportunities for attendees to share strategies, successes, and challenges related to their IT accessibility efforts over the last five years.

These proceedings may be useful for people who 

  • participated in the current or earlier IT Accessibility CBIs,
  • have been identified as their institution’s Policy #188 Coordinator,  
  • are developing policy and processes to support compliance with Policy #188 and its associated standard, or 
  • are addressing similar IT accessibility issues at postsecondary institutions nationwide.

About the CBI

The Washington State IT Accessibility CBI provided a forum for Washington State postsecondary schools to share strategies, successes, and challenges related to their IT accessibility efforts, and to explore specific areas of effort and identify needs and opportunities for statewide collaboration. The overall objective of the event was to increase the capacity of participating institutions to provide an IT environment that is accessible to students, employees, and visitors with disabilities. 

The CBI included presentations as well as large and small group discussions. Participants from multiple institutions shared promising practices and successful endeavors in accessible IT. In small working groups, participants discussed efforts, challenges, opportunities, and next steps for collaboration. In this CBI

  • all attendees contributed to its success,
  • participants shared diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise, and
  • new ideas evolved from discussions.

The agenda for the CBI and summaries of the presentations are provided on the following pages.

 

Agenda

9:00am – 9:10am
Welcome and overview of the event (Sheryl Burgstahler, UW)

9:10am – 9:20am
Overview of Policy #188 (Sue Langen, Office of the Chief Information Officer)

9:20am – 10:50am
Short presentations from participating institutions

11:00am – 11:30am
Small group discussions about efforts, challenges, opportunities

11:30am – 12:00pm
Small groups report out, large group discussion, next steps for collaboration

Presentation Summaries

Following are notes captured from each of the presentations. A link to each presenter’s slides is available at the conclusion of each summary. 

Welcome and Overview of the Event 

By Sheryl Burgstahler, Director, Accessible Technology Services and Policy #188 Coordinator, UW

For years we have discussed IT accessibility, and the University of Washington had already started hosting state-wide collaborative meetings when state Policy #188 – Accessibility was announced in 2016. At that time we brought together staff with various roles that included IT,  procurement, and disability services at postsecondary institutions across Washington State to share ideas regarding policies and practices related to the procurement, development, and use of accessible IT. Early meetings were dominated by trainings, policy, and practice creation. Gradually, they have featured increasing numbers of participants sharing their expertise, practices, and experiences regarding efforts towards compliance with Policy #188 in an effort for others to benefit from lessons learned.

Overview of Policy #188

By Sue Langen, Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), Washington State
OCIO PowerPoint Slides

Washington State Policy #188 – Accessibility was developed by a cross-agency workgroup in response to a request from the Governor’s Accessibility Workgroup. The policy was anchored in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a longstanding federal law that ensures the civil rights of people with disabilities in public offerings, including those that involve IT. It was also informed by civil rights complaints and resolutions of the U.S. Office of Civil Rights that pointed to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA as an acceptable standard for measuring IT accessibility. 

The initial policy was published by the OCIO in 2016, updated in 2017, and then in 2019 with updates to the list of covered technologies and to WCAG 2.1 as the new standard. 

The Statewide Technology Policy Process involves multiple steps with various stakeholder groups. Initially a workgroup is formed, generally with at least one representative from higher education. The workgroup drafts a policy that is reviewed by agency CIOs, including those in higher education. After it is edited with this input, the policy is brought to the OCIO Technology Services Board (TSB) Policy and Portfolio Subcommittee, which is composed of representatives from a wide variety of stakeholder groups. If the Board recommends approval, the state CIO adopts it, and the policy goes into effect, subject to final approval from the full TSB.

The next review for Policy #188 will be in Summer 2021, which is in line with WCAG 2.2 adoption. The list of resources on the policy page will also be updated; recommendations for additions can be sent to ocio.policy@ocio.wa.gov. Individuals can also request to join a state agency Community of Practice related to Policy #188.

Bellingham Technical College

By Mary Gerard and Marni Mayer
Bellingham Technical College PowerPoint Slides

We have been using Siteimprove to check for accessibility. We also had an accessibility consultant scan our pages and give us a review. Our pages have been mostly accessible, but still have some issues, especially inaccessible PDFs. We began our October, 2020 website redesign with a commitment to addressing input from conducting accessibility reviews and users. We are also building accessibility reviews into ongoing website maintenance processes. We have developed a robust, cross-campus accessibility team to lead ongoing accessibility reviews and we continue to realize accessibility progress across campus. We have also increased faculty and staff training opportunities. Our biggest challenges include those associated with dispersed information dissemination and support, as well as a lack of a trainer and other dedicated staff for accessible IT efforts. We continue to promote accessibility as a first step in campus initiatives that result in digital content and administrator buy-in.

Bellevue College

By Betsy Zahrt Geib
Bellevue College PowerPoint Slides

Our college participates in Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit organization that leads America's largest network of community colleges working to become strong engines of student and community growth. Program efforts include universal design for learning (UDL) practices as part of professional development for faculty. We are also pushing for more open educational resources (OER) and making sure those resources are accessible. We would like to hire a specific OER librarian and create an OER rubric for faculty that includes accessibility. 

A lot of our faculty have had an uphill battle with creating online courses. We have been hosting online e-learning, including accessibility, support. We also have funding to offer peer-to-peer online course quality reviews, with specific standards related to UDL and accessibility. These reviews help individual instructors, but also help us see what is most important to include in future professional development offerings. Furthermore, we offer an Accessibility 101 course for faculty, and we are hoping to include Cidi Labs add-on, which offers templates that can be used to develop accessible content. We plan to develop a process for tracking faculty development.

Challenges to our accessible IT efforts include faculty burnout, optional professional development, budget limitations, re-organization, and reliance on part-time instructional designers.

The Evergreen State College

By Bridget Irish
Evergreen State College PowerPoint Slides

One of our biggest challenges has been faculty buy-in for using digital tools and practices to ensure IT accessibility. However, the pivot to remote learning in Spring 2020 resulted in an increase in the number of faculty using Canvas from 104 in Winter 2020 to 194 in Spring 2020. A massive campus-wide collaborative effort was made to provide a series of trainings and support for faculty new to Canvas and all faculty teaching remotely, which included support from academic technologies, access services for students with disabilities, the learning and teaching center, media services, student services, and other faculty support units. These groups collaborated to make sure tools (including Canvas, Microsoft 365, and Zoom) and teaching practices were accessible and usable.

Columbia Basin College

By Vicki Walton
Columbia Basin College PowerPoint Slides

For captioning we have used Canvas Caption Hub and 3Play Media. One of our biggest accomplishments has been figuring out how to link Canvas Hub with our account for 3Play Media, which helps us keep up with the demand for captioning. For document remediation, we have found that Adobe Acrobat DC Pro is not the best remediation tool. We recently purchased CommonLook PDF and Office as plug-ins to help with PDF remediation. We also created a form that must be completed by those who plan to purchase software in order to make sure all purchased products meet Policy #188 standards. We test proposed purchases using a variety of assistive technology and make sure software creators have a VPAT and are taking accessibility seriously.

Clark College

By Zach Lattin
Clark College PowerPoint Slides

Our biggest accomplishments include the following:

  • In 2016 we immediately got to work on procurement policy and procedure.
  • We have implemented Whatcom Community College’s Accessibility Compliance Tracking tool for Policy #188 inventory and plan.
  • We host regular meetings with in-house development teams, including a WCAG reading group.
  • We have filled a faculty accessibility position focused on faculty training and document and course remediation.

An example of a success in our procurement accessibility workflow is the purchase of Symplicity, a program for incident reporting. The first tool considered did not meet accessibility standards, so we selected a second choice, Symplicity, which is a much more accessible product.

Our challenges include outdated language on waivers in our procurement procedures, a lack of bandwidth to work with vendors and college stakeholders to remediate products, and major accessibility issues within CTCLink, a centralized system for colleges.

Whatcom Community College

By Ward Naf

Outside companies and our faculty are starting to be more receptive to the need for accessibility. More software purchases are accessible and more vendors welcome feedback on accessibility. All staff who want to acquire software must fill out a form so that I am included in the purchasing conversation to make sure we request a VPAT, and I can work with the company directly to make sure the software purchased is accessible and to help them make their software more accessible. 

Shoreline Community College

By Amy Rovner
​Shoreline Community College PowerPoint Slides

We have created a campus-wide accessibility workgroup and have received three years of funding from Shoreline’s Strategic Action Plan program. We have now captioned 2600 videos, audio described 338 videos, and reviewed 49 classes through our Accessible Instructional Materials project, remediated documents, and created accessible templates. My biggest accomplishment has been getting faculty talking about the need for captions on videos.

We are now dealing with the need for more funding, a redesign for our purchasing workflow, the need to consider accessibility from the beginning, how to manage accessibility with freeware, and how to manage accessibility in our current shift to full online learning. We have learned these lessons: Our work must be a cross-campus collaboration, top level buy-in is a must, we must fight for funding, and it is important to find campus champions and collaborations with other campuses.

Community Colleges of Spokane

Holli Devereaux
Community Colleges of Spokane PowerPoint Slides

Our successes include an accessibility issues presentation to Community of Colleges Spokane (CSS) All Admin and All Colleges meeting, a VPAT requirement for IT purchases, a celebration for Accessibility Champions in Weekly CCS Communications, assignment of a IT Project Manager as the IT Accessible Technology Coordinator, a project to train all IT staff on accessibility, accessibility training for intranet content creators, procedures for quarterly accessibility website audits, and a new accessibility designer for eLearning. Our biggest challenge relates to addressing needs as a result of the pandemic—our Access 360 Committee members have been stretched thin and we have lost funding and allies due to budget cuts. We have learned that people want to do the right thing but often do not have time. Accessibility must be presented as a matter of social justice and equity; adding Ally to our Canvas has helped faculty and staff. More training is needed as well for all faculty and staff in the areas of student services, disability services, and marketing.

Western Washington University

By Max Bronsema, Carly Gerard, and David Engebretson Jr.
Western Washington University Presentation Slides

We have succeeded in including accessibility into our systems which has improved procurement workflow and centralized video captioning efforts. Our biggest challenge has been working with vendors on making sure student-facing software is accessible—vendors are often difficult to work with and can be slow at making their products accessible. We also deal with seeing the same accessibility issues within content repeatedly—we offer trainings for faculty and staff, but they may need refreshers to make sure accessibility errors do not continue. We also offer an accessibility guide for content creators. We have learned that, while software testing tools identify some accessibility barriers, it is also important for people to test digital products as well and that clear communication across all departments is important to make sure IT is accessible and usable campus-wide.  

Washington State University

By Wendy Steele
Washington State University PowerPoint Slides in PDF

Our accomplishments include the following:

  • Increasing administration and staff awareness and support by having more discussions and providing plans for addressing electronic and information technology (EIT) accessibility at Washington State University (WSU).
  • The establishment of the cross-campus IT Accessible Technology Committee and the inclusion of EIT accessibility as part of various other committees/councils across the WSU system.
  • Requiring a WSU online web accessibility training for all web content developers and designers. Participants must renew this online training annually.
  • Providing faculty and staff more online materials, tools, virtual trainings, and on-demand sessions on how to make and ensure digital content and technology are accessible.
  • Proactively incorporating web accessibility standards into the development of the new University web design templates, and ensuring these templates remain accessible when used across different web CMS platforms (WordPress, Umbraco, Drupal, etc.).
  • Providing Centralized Captioning Services for ensuring that the massive increase of University virtual meetings, webinars, conferences, and events have live/real-time captioners, and ASL interpreters are provided upon request and/or proactively.
  • Disability, EIT accessibility, Universal Design, and Universal Design Learning becoming part of University Diversity and Equity discussions, trainings, and certificates.
  • Providing computer and hotspot loan options, drive-in Wi-Fi locations, and some campus facilities, so students, staff, and faculty can more easily access distance delivered courses.

Our challenges include the following:

  • Having most face-to-face courses move to an online environment with little notice in response to COVID-19.
  • Students not having adequate access to WI-FI and computer hardware when courses moved to distance delivery.
  • Having limited resources, finances, and support dedicated to ensuring EIT accessibility.
  • Effectively training and supporting faculty and staff during a pandemic, without overwhelming them with digital accessibility requirements.
  • Moving to a new virtual proctoring service two weeks before the semester began.
  • Not having live/real-time captioners available for synchronous noni-classroom events because of a national captioner shortage.

We have observed that faculty have become more aware that having accessible EIT and creating accessible digital materials helps all students. We have learned that it is important to have consistent software tools, be transparent, provide clear communication, continue incorporating accessible technology as a part of other regular trainings, provide faculty and staff with easier access to digital accessibility remediation and checking tools, and process alternatives on hand when current processes are no longer working (e.g., finding captioners).

UW Bothell

By Ana Thompson
UW Bothell PowerPoint Slides

We have been developing a new procurement process in the past year. We want a more centralized process in purchasing IT. Ideally, the request will be submitted and we will create a new “project.” This project will include a cybersecurity IT specialist and IT accessibility writer. For an accessibility review, we solicit their accessibility information (usually a VPAT), validate that the information is correct and do testing, and include accessibility assurances in the contract. If they don’t have a VPAT or if I have any accessibility concerns, I work with the vendor and consult with UW ATS as needed to make sure I can make the best recommendations and assessment possible. We have created a more centralized procurement process and increased involvement and buy-in from stakeholders on the importance of accessible IT, which reduces risk.

University of Washington

By Terrill Thompson
UW Seattle PowerPoint Slides

A primary goal at the University is to build a community around accessibility. We have approached this through our IT Accessibility Task Force, the IT Accessibility Liaisons Network, email discussion lists, monthly web accessibility/usability meetups, and other groups in which members of ATS are active participants (e.g., UW Web Council, Front End Developers Community, Wordpress and Drupal User Groups). We also use a variety of tools to help with measuring and tracking accessibility, including Siteimprove (for websites), Blackboard Ally (for course content in Canvas), YouTube Caption Auditor (for videos), and DocMD (for public documents, currently being pilot tested). We also use 3PlayMedia for captioning and SensusAccess as a means for individuals to automatically convert documents to alternate formats quickly.

We have a great team, including Sheryl, Terrill, Dan, Hadi, Anna Marie, and Gaby, who each have specialties in making content accessible across the UW campus. We provide consulting and training services, captioning for high impact videos, and remediation for high impact PDFs.

2020 highlights include the following: We now have an IT Accessibility Rider that is included in contracts for IT, we have roughly 30 active collaborations with vendors, and we hosted an IT Accessibility Challenge from May through October, which helped reach a lot of people who were clueing in to accessibility as we all moved online. Our biggest challenges include working with vendors who can’t or won’t fix their accessibility problems and finding ways to keep up with the growing demand for our services.

Small Group Discussions on Efforts, Challenges, and Opportunities, as well as Next Steps for Collaboration

Issues discussed include the following topics:

  • create partnerships between project managers and vendors to provide deliverables regarding increased accessibility of a digital product
  • work with accessibility challenges of platforms used across campus, including 
  • how to create a consortium of stakeholders focused on getting vendors to make changes that improve accessibility
  • address the fallout from the pandemic, which accelerated the development of some accessibility solutions but also moved many of them to the backburner
  • build out advocate coordination at all levels, so that work can carry on, even as positions change or people come and go
  • increase base funding to do software trials, work on accessibility testing, and address other accessibility issues
  • increase the use of accessibility trackers state wide
  • encourage the state to develop a centralized system to share resources on procurement, development, and use of accessible software
  • continue working on accessibility efforts during the pandemic
  • tighten up the procurement policy at each institution
  • consider using Trusted Tester Training from Homeland Security
  • get the right people in the room to build community around accessible website design.
  • make sure tools are used consistently across campus for accessibility
  • make sure the procurement process stays strong even as people move to other jobs or new hires come in
  • make sure vendors and the buying department both review the accessibility report on software purchases and address issues before purchasing takes place
  • promote a restart of the state Policy #188 task force

CBI Participants

Bellevue College

  • Geib, Betsy Zahrt

Bellingham Technical College

  • Baxley, Joanna
  • Gerard, Mary
  • Mayer, Marni Saling
  • Nelson, Melisa
  • Perera, Curtis W.
  • Wise, Judi
  • Zamora, Andi

Big Bend Community College

  • Steele, Patrick

Clark College

  • Lattin, Zach
  • Sandlin, Tre

Clover Park Technical College

  • Hatch, Meridith

Columbia Basin College

  • Anderson, Donny
  • DeLuca, Lucas
  • Walton, Vicki

Community Colleges of Spokane

  • Devereaux, Holli

Everett Community College

  • Frankhouser, William

North Seattle College

  • Chambers, Kathleen

Olympic College

  • Hayman, Doug

Seattle Central College

  • Ales, Maria

Seattle Colleges

  • Mayer, Jay

Shoreline Community College

  • Rovner, Amy

Skagit Valley College

  • Heiser, Andy

South Seattle College

  • Kolovrat, Rose
  • Nishimura, Beth

Tacoma Community College

  • Coleman, Dale
  • Krauss, Clay
  • Olsson, Monica
  • Williams, Laquida

The Evergreen State College

  • Carpenter, Anne
  • Irish, Bridget

University of Washington

  • Burgstahler, Sheryl
  • Comden, Dan
  • Crawford, Lyla 
  • de Jongh, Gaby
  • Hawkey, Susie
  • Magill, Lynn
  • Moon, Penelope
  • Rangin, Hadi
  • Thompson, Ana
  • Thompson, Terrill
  • Woolner, Elizabeth

Washington State University

  • Steele, Wendy

Western Washington University

  • Bronsema, Max
  • Engebretson Jr., David
  • Gerard, Carly

Whatcom Community College

  • Naf, Ward

Communities of Practice

UW Accessible Technology Services engages stakeholders within Communities of Practice (CoPs). CoP members share perspectives and expertise and identify practices that promote the participation of people with disabilities in postsecondary education. 

Accessible IT CoP

This CoP is comprised of employees of higher education institutions who are actively engaged in increasing the accessibility of IT in postsecondary education, particularly in Washington State. Participants

  • exchange information, ideas, and suggestions for future collaboration,
  • gain and share knowledge and help identify issues related to IT accessibility in higher education, and
  • recruit others to participate in the CoP.

Universal Design in Higher Education CoP

This CoP is comprised of individuals interested in exploring universal design (UD) and its applications in higher education. Participants on this CoP discuss

Accessible Distance Learning CoP

Distance learning program administrators, instructors, and support staff use the Accessible Distance Learning CoP to increase their knowledge about disabilities and make changes in distance learning that lead to more inclusive practices. Members discuss

  • management,
  • staffing,
  • training, and
  • policy issues related to creating accessible distance learning courses and programs.

You and your colleagues can join the CoP by sending the following information to doit@uw.edu

  • name
  • position/title
  • institution
  • postal address
  • email address
  • name of the CoP

For information about other CoPs, visit the CoP page on our website.

 

Resources

You can find the full text for Policy #188, information about waivers, and the minimum accessibility standard by visiting the following:

The UW’s Accessible Technology website includes a variety of resources:

  • the IT accessibility policy and guidelines for the UW
  • instructions and tips for making IT accessible
  • resources for creating and procuring accessible IT products

The DO-IT (Disability, Opportunity, Internetworking, and Technology) Center website contains the following:

  • information about DO-IT projects
  • evidence-based practices that support project goals and objectives
  • resources for students with disabilities
  • educational materials for teachers and administration

DO-IT maintains a searchable database of frequently asked questions, case studies, and promising practices related to how educators and employers can fully include students with disabilities. The Knowledge Base is an excellent resource for ideas that can be implemented in programs in order to better serve students with disabilities. In particular, the promising practices articles serve to spread the word about practices that show evidence of improving the participation of people with disabilities in postsecondary education. 

Examples of Knowledge Base questions include the following:

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to propose questions and answers, case studies, and promising practices for the Knowledge Base. Contributions and suggestions can be sent to doit@uw.edu.

For more information on making your campus technology accessible and to learn more about accessible learning or universal design, review the following websites and brochures:

About Accessible Technology Services

This event was sponsored by UW Accessible Technology Services (ATS) at the University of Washington (UW), a UW-IT (University of Washington Information Technology) unit that consists of both the IT Accessibility Team (ITAT) and DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology). The meeting was facilitated by Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, the director of ATS, and Terrill Thompson, manager of ITAT. ATS’s two centers are dedicated to empowering people with disabilities through technology and education. They promote awareness and accessibility to maximize the potential of individuals with disabilities and make our communities more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive.

The DO-IT Center strives to

  • increase the success of people with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers;
  • promote the application of universal design to physical spaces, information technology, instruction, and services;
  • freely distribute online content, publications, and videos for use in presentations, exhibits, and the classroom; and
  • provide resources for students with disabilities, K-12 educators, postsecondary faculty and administrators, librarians, employers, parents, and mentors.

ITAT serves to ensure that UW students, faculty, and staff with disabilities have access to technology that helps them accomplish their work. ITAT staff provide consultation and support to the UW community to help ensure that websites, documents, videos, software, and other technologies are accessible.

They also provide trainings, develop and maintain helpful resources such as the Accessible Technology website (uw.edu/accessibility), and offer captioning and accessibility remediation services for high impact videos and PDFs respectively.

ITAT staff work collaboratively with IT vendors to help them to provide products and services that meet the UW's accessibility standards. In 2020, they collaborated with 30 vendors including WorkDay, Microsoft, Google, Panopto, Zoom, Instructure, and many others.

 

Acknowledgments

The Washington State Accessible IT Capacity Building Institute on Policy #188 was funded by Access Technology Services at the University of Washington. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the CBI presenters, attendees, and publication authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Washington.

Accessible Technology Services
University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842

www.uw.edu/accessibility
www.uw.edu/doit 
206-685-3648 (voice/TTY)
888-972-3648 (toll free voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (FAX)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

© 2020 University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy this publication for educational, noncommercial purposes, provided the source is acknowledged.