How can our school or district go about developing an accessible information technology policy?
Policies and procedures can be developed to assure that electronic and information technology procured and used in schools is accessible to all employees and students, including individuals with disabilities and their family members. How can an organization begin this process? Considerations for K-12 (preschool through high school) and postsecondary educational entities should include the following:
- Make sure that all stakeholders, including potential students, instructors, and other staff with disabilities, are represented as policies, procedures, and standards are being developed.
- Review what policies and procedures currently exist for the procurement, use, and development of electronic and information technology, and consider how accessibility issues might be incorporated within existing policies and procedures.
- Consider at what level the policy should reside—for example, at the school, district, or state level—and be sure to involve decision makers at the appropriate levels in the policy development process.
- Consult with the school's or district's legal counsel to determine what legal issues apply in this policy area.
- Review policies and guidelines that have been created by other organizations, including those for distance learning courses. Incorporate good ideas into the school's or district's policies and procedures.
- Develop a broad policy statement that commits the school to making all programs, services, and resources accessible to students and employees with disabilities.
- List potential access challenges that students and employees with disabilities may face within the programs, services, and resources offered using electronic and information technology at the school.
- Consider Section 508 standards used by the federal government as a model for the school's or district's standards.
- Assign a person or a department within the school or district to be responsible for updating disability-related program access policies and guidelines and assuring compliance.
- Develop a plan to phase in compliance with program accessibility guidelines for previously developed courses and resources, with a date by which all electronic products will be compliant.
- Disseminate accessibility policy, guidelines, and procedures throughout the school or district. Make it clear that the policy has high-level endorsement.
- Provide regular training and support regarding accessibility issues, policies, and guidelines to educators, students, and other stakeholders.
- Regularly evaluate progress made toward the use of accessible electronic and information technology in the school or district.
- Develop procedures for responding quickly to requests for disability-related accommodations when electronic and information technology that is used in the school or district is not accessible to a student or employee. Applying accessibility policies, procedures, and standards will assure that such requests are kept to a minimum.