Accessibil-IT: Identifying An Accessibility Leader

California Community Colleges Accessibility CenterRecent legal outcomes have identified the expectation for higher education institutions to identify a college representative to oversee information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility issues.

The expectation is that such a person would provide leadership in the area of ICT accessibility and guide the college in creating an accessible environment for students with disabilities.

What is not always clear, though, is how this person may accomplish these tasks of meeting ICT accessibility requirements across the institution.

Finding A Champion

When Temple University initiated a university-wide IT accessibility program, the executive director for special projects, Paul Paire, identified that the “greatest success factor at Temple was having a CIO be a strong leader on the effort.” College departments and programs can often focus on their immediate business or academic needs and may not consider the larger impact of such choices on the institution.

Because web and IT products can impact many aspects of a college’s business operations as well as student-facing services, having a strong leader serving at a senior administrative level can resolve potential conflicts and develop strategies to meet institutional goals. Such a leader can help bring together departments that may not be directly related, but whose decisions may impact students and the greater campus community.

Institutional Support

While a leader can provide organizational guidance and direction, such a person cannot address ICT accessibility across the college singlehandedly. An emerging model is to identify a senior administrator (e.g., CISO, CTO, compliance officer, etc.) as the college’s accessibility “champion,” but then dedicate a staff member within IT to focus on the more technical aspects of accessibility. This allows for the accessibility champion to consider institutional policy level issues while at the same time having a dedicated subject matter expert to investigate accessibility standards, assistive technologies, and educational technologies.

Successful ICT accessibility programs also develop broad institutional support involving both an accessibility champion as well as participation from faculty, staff, and other administrative groups. Temple University’s model designated individuals within different college departments and tasked these people with accessibility responsibilities. This helped to disseminate the best practices across the institution to meet accessibility goals.

Another model to consider is the formation of an IT accessibility committee that includes representation from various parts of the institution. This offers the opportunity to identify potential accessibility barriers, develop accessibility solutions, and gain input from different parts of the college. Participation could include members from IT, DSPS, library services, the college’s web team, academic senate, and procurement/business services. Such a model can help inform a college’s accessibility leader regarding emerging accessibility issues and potential solutions.

Colleges and universities have pursued a variety of ICT accessibility strategies involving the creation of committees, modification of job responsibilities, and provision of accessibility training. Central to such accessibility solutions is the identification of a senior administrative leader who can bring together different departments and create an institution-wide approach to ensuring access for students with disabilities and the greater campus community.

IT Accessibility Workshop

The IT Accessibility Workshop is coming in July! Registration is still open for this free, day-long event on Tuesday, July 25, at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. Topics will include the relationship between Section 504 and Section 508, understanding WCAG 2.0, Level AA, how to evaluate web content for accessibility, and strategies for PDF documents.

Please remember the CCC Accessibility Center also conducts monthly IT Accessibility Office Hours intended to share information on web and IT accessibility best practices. Join our email list to receive notices of these monthly webinars.


Sean Keegan is Interim Director of
the California Community Colleges Accessibility Center


 

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