Why Utah Valley University Surveyed Their Faculty (INFOGRAPHIC)
Utah Valley University’s (UVU) Inclusion Initiative action plan was formulated from the institution-wide goals of being inclusive with students of all backgrounds, engaged through collaborations, and serious about excellence. Without question, these goals included making sure students with disabilities had equal opportunities throughout every path they chose at UVU. With the help of the special assistant to the president (who is in charge of inclusion measures and policies across UVU), the Office of Accessibility Services created a platform to increase accessibility across the campus.
Working from the top down, UVU established a comprehensive and campus-wide Inclusion Initiative, highlighting important goals and milestones they hoped to meet in the coming years. To hold each university department accountable, they also established an accessibility committee made up of people from across campus with the responsibility of making sure the campus (including the websites and technology on campus) is progressively becoming more accessible.
In an effort to understand and analyze the current environment on campus, the Office of Accessibility Services conducted a campus-wide faculty survey, digging into the faculty’s knowledge on course accessibility. Of the 500 randomly chosen faculty, they received 150 responses, bringing valuable insight into the current situation on the relationship between the administration, faculty, and the disability services office.
The purpose of the survey was to gauge the success of current faculty trainings and faculty thoughts on accessibility. The questions revolved around faculty knowledge on accessible documents, interest in trainings, frustrations with accessibility accommodations, and suggestions for support/services faculty wanted from the accessibility team.
The most notable results are highlighted below:
- Of the faculty who responded, about 87% said they could identify an accessible document
- Of the faculty who responded, more than 50% disagreed they could create an accessible document
- Of the faculty who responded, more than 50% agreed that they would like more training on creating accessible documents
- Of the faculty who responded, around 80% said they felt Accessibility Services is there to support them
- The top three most frustrating/difficult accommodation requirements for faculty were:
- Knowing how to add extra time for exams in Canvas
- Delivering/picking up exams from Proctored Exam Center
- Finding note takers
- When asked what they thought Accessibility Services does well, the majority of faculty felt Accessibility Services did well working with students
- The top three suggestions for Accessibility Services to improve on were:
- Creating bullet point suggestions for faculty to utilize in working with students with disabilities
- Better integration (support/assistance) with Canvas
- Encourage students to work more closely with instructors regarding accommodations
Bringing the survey results to life
There were two important takeaways from the survey conducted by UVU’s Accessibility Services. The first was they realized faculty sought more support and training on accessibility requirements, translating into a bona fide need for more collaboration with faculty. The result was the creation of an accessibility committee that includes faculty members from different departments.
Involving faculty in accessibility meetings has allowed the accessibility team to create content that can be universally understood and not filled with industry jargon that faculty can’t understand. This has also allowed the faculty and accessibility team to stay up-to-date on new technologies that either the faculty is using or the accessibility office is offering. In further efforts to bridge the gap, the accessibility team has also started attending department meetings and speaking directly to faculty.
Furthermore, the survey revealed a dire disconnect between accessibility requirements and new faculty. They found new faculty were still adjusting their curriculums and did not have the training to efficiently convert course requirements into accessible material. The accessibility team saw a clear need for an on-boarding procedure, specifically targeted to new faculty.
As a result, they created online workshops and are continuing to expand and improve training documents for all faculty to reference. Ultimately, the accessibility team realized they needed to do more outreach to faculty to ensure faculty feel supported and unafraid to ask for support when needed.
WCAG 2.0: Bringing Web Accessibility into the 21st Century
The second important insight from the survey was that the accessibility team realized there was a considerable gap in communication between students with disabilities and faculty. Many students with disabilities choose not to disclose or communicate to faculty they need accommodations. Although the accessibility team has not found the perfect solution, they are implementing greater efforts to encourage students to reach out to the office or be more open about their needs.
To encapsulate the team’s efforts to close the gap between Accessibility Services and the campus, the accessibility team has started working with the web development team to make all pages WCAG 2.0 AA compliant.
How UVU is continuing their efforts
At UVU, taking a proactive approach to accessibility means that if faculty feels supported it will lead to greater accessibility in the classroom and online learning environment, simultaneously helping the students.
While the survey provided invaluable insight into the gaps in communication among the university, they’ve realized it’s all about trial and error. The accessibility team is constantly reviewing their accommodations to ensure they are current, as well as improving their message and outreach efforts to faculty.
If you are looking to replicate UVU’s efforts, creating that campus-wide support from the top down will propel your accessibility mission forward.
Greater accessibility on campus will only happen if the accessibility team, the faculty, the administration, and the students are consistently collaborating and supporting each other. The communication element is an essential key to bringing change, otherwise unequal access on campus will continue to be an unfortunate reality.
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