WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: WebAIM-Forum Digest, Vol 73, Issue 21


From: Sean Keegan
Date: Apr 19, 2011 4:03PM

> Policies drive activities.

That is certainly a valid perspective, but I would submit that there is also
a financial component that is doing a fair amount of the "driving". I have
seen several different higher education institutions (and systems) enact
policies without the financial support necessary to actually enact change.
As a result, little progress is actually made toward any significant
improvement to accessibility. When questioned, there are lots of policies
to reference, but those are somewhat hollow in terms of any real gains to
accessibility (so called "508-policies" are my favorite example amongst
higher ed institutions).

I think Allen's original 4 ideas are an excellent starting point, but would
suggest that there is something that needs to happen before step 1 of
"setting organizational policy". There is a need to incorporate high-level
administrative support and allocate specific funding for such an endeavor.
Without this support, both administratively and financially, it becomes a
massive challenge to cross between the multiple schools, divisions, and
departments that exist within higher ed institutions and introduce training
resources, new procedural workflows, relevant E&IT support, etc. After
visiting a number of different college campuses as well as now being in
private higher ed, I cannot underscore the importance of having this
involvement. You can spend a lot of time working on accessibility related
issues, but without high-level administrative support it becomes very
challenging to move outside of your specific group.

> Think about the various procedural things that might need to be
> addressed, and build those in to policies also. Think about authority,
> accountability, and responsibilities.

This is where having the high-level support is really useful as it provides
the opportunity to interact with parts of the higher ed institution that may
not even be aware of accessibility specific issues. For instance, having
conversations with the procurement office as to what the purchasing
procedures could be in order to ensure the acquisition of accessible E&IT is
one strategy. However, this also requires a review as to procurement's
purchasing policies and how those are impacted by state or federal law.
While this certainly takes time, it will also result in additional financial
requirements to ensure training and familiarization of new procedures, not
only within the purchasing department but throughout the institution.

> Do you have any examples of what this type of office looks like?
> What about the job titles? How many people should be part of such

Ultimately, how such a department or group manifests itself will depend on
the climate and culture of the higher ed institution. I have seen a few
campuses (albeit on the smaller side) where the impetus to improve
accessibility came from the faculty instead of the campus administration or
a specified department. In other cases, I have seen such an accessibility
office become an entity that is linked to the ADA/504 department along with
increased funding and personnel resources due to the increased scope. In
other instances, it was the campus IT group who took on web and information
technology accessibility.

If organizing under the "business-side" of an institution, I would submit
that you are looking at someone at an associate vice-president level (or who
reports directly to such individual). Alternatively, if organizing under
the "academic side" of an institution, this could be an assistant provost
level. In terms of the number of people, for a medium-large sized
institution (and with appropriate funding!), I think it could be done with a
director and at least two additional people to assist with training,
outreach, consulting with other entities, etc. The office would not be in
the role to "make everything accessible", but to provide guidance and
direction to content authors, gatekeepers, etc. as to how to use, create, or
procure accessible solutions (I'm basically reiterating what everyone else
has said).

Take care,