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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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
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).
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.