Accessibil-IT: Reporting & Documenting Accessibility Barriers

California Community Colleges Accessibility CenterFeedback can be a valuable opportunity for a college to understand what students, faculty and staff find beneficial and what areas of the campus may require additional improvement. Feedback from individuals encountering web or information technology (IT) accessibility barriers can be critical in providing access in a timely manner and avoiding discrimination complaints.

Most California community colleges have some mechanism available from their public-facing websites allowing visitors to contact the institution’s “webmaster” or a member of the web team. What is not always clear, though, is what process a person with a disability is expected to follow when encountering an accessibility barrier on the college’s website. Does the webmaster or web team know what steps to take when receiving feedback about an accessibility barrier on the site? Will contacting the designated authority produce any actionable results given that it may be the same people responsible for the website’s issues?

Accessibility Web Page

One strategy to help develop an inclusive campus environment is to create a barrier reporting process by which individuals – be they students, faculty, staff or members of the public – can report web and IT accessibility issues to campus officials. Often called a grievance or complaint resolution process, a starting point is to create an accessibility web page that outlines how to report an accessibility barrier and to provide multiple contact methods available to the reporting individual. Information that colleges should consider incorporating on this accessibility web page includes:

  • How to submit a complaint
  • The institution’s responsible representative
  • General process and/or timeline for responding
  • Multiple methods for reporting an issue

Colleges can add a hyperlink in the footer of the main website template that directs users to this accessibility web page. The CCC Accessibility Center offers several examples that college can use as a starting point for developing their own accessibility web pages for reporting barriers.

Tracking & Responding To Complaints

In addition to creating this accessibility web page, it is necessary to document how college staff members are expected to respond. A recent state audit of three California community colleges identified a significant limitation in the monitoring of website accessibility was a lack of documentation regarding a feedback and resolution process specific to website and IT accessibility barriers. The state auditors found that not having a documented process or the tracking of accessibility barrier reports led to an inability to demonstrate that a college had responded in an appropriate and timely fashion.

While a college may follow an informal process, documenting the internal steps expected of college staff can help clarify roles and responsibilities as well as ensure that reporting individuals receive a response that addresses the accessibility barrier and provides an opportunity to engage with the online resource.

Resources For Colleges

The CCC Accessibility Center created several documents that may help colleges with defining a documented accessibility complaint and reporting process as well as the appropriate procedures to follow. These documents include a text-based template (docx) identifying key responsibilities and the procedural steps to follow upon receipt of an accessibility barrier report. The Accessibility Center also created various process flow charts (pptx) based on the text template to provide a visual workflow from the initial barrier report to investigation to resolution. These are draft documents intended for colleges to modify and edit as appropriate to their local institutional needs.

There is often a focus on web and IT accessibility standards as the determining factor as to whether a college is accessible. Colleges need to be aware that these standards alone do not satisfy our institutional obligations of ensuring non-discrimination for members of our campus communities with disabilities. When accessibility errors do occur, it is critical that there be an interactive process that allows for students, faculty, staff and members of the public to report these barriers and obtain relief. Creating and documenting a model in which college staff can receive feedback regarding accessibility barriers and then act accordingly can help promote an institutional culture of access as opposed to a generic application of technical standards.

Want To Learn More?

Join us on Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 1 p.m. to continue the conversation at the CCC Accessibility Center’s next IT Accessibility Office Hours webinar. The discussion will focus on the recent state audit findings and the steps colleges can take when creating an accessibility barrier reporting process.

Have Questions?

Have an accessibility question? Need a quick accessibility review? The CCC Accessibility Center Help Desk is now available for all CCC staff to ask questions and find answers regarding web and IT accessibility topics. We welcome your feedback on this new resource and encourage you to submit questions today!

For more accessibility information visit the CCC Accessibility Center at CCCAccessibility.org or follow the CCC Accessibility Center on LinkedIn.


Sean Keegan is Director of
the California Community Colleges Accessibility Center


 

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