10 Tips For Successfully Centralizing Your Accessibility Efforts
Updated: April 13, 2020
Establishing a campus-wide accessibility strategy can seem like an overwhelming, endless list of to-dos. From contacting departments, training and hiring staff, identifying procedures, setting standards…might I go on?
Thankfully Rob Eveleigh, Five College EIT Accessibility Coordinator, has become an expert in this subject matter and is here to share his wisdom.
If you thought managing one university’s IT accessibility program was tough, Rob has impressively established a campus-wide IT accessibility program for four of the five colleges in the Five College Consortium. In a webinar entitled, The Road to EIT Accessibility at Four Colleges: A Centralized Approach. Rob shares the following 10 greatest lessons he has learned since starting his journey as the Five College EIT Accessibility Coordinator.
1. Consider conducting a contract inventory
Perhaps you’ve been in this situation…
You have multiple contracts with an array of vendors, each contract filled with legal jargon that maybe you’re too busy to look into at the moment. Before you know it, contract renewal day is tomorrow, and those contracts are missing a crucial clause- an EIT accessibility clause.
Before you panic, or before you are ever put in this situation, there’s a solution to prevent this from happening.
Assign a designated accessibility contract reviewer.
This individual will be in charge of analyzing, renewing and improving contracts with vendors before renewal day. Vendors will then have enough time to prepare and make the necessary adjustments to the contracts to meet the university’s requests. Meanwhile, no contract will go unturned without an EIT Accessibility clause.
2. Continue to press for national sharing of vendor accessibility testing results
Institutions all over are gathering valuable accessibility data. Don’t be afraid to share your results. Try sharing through listservs and forums, or attend conferences like AHEAD, AHG, CSUN, and EDUCAUSE.
Let your results be seen, devoured, and dissected by the world. And if you’re already sharing, push others to do their due diligence. The only way to keep improving and learning is through insight.
3. Prioritize the future. Focus accessibility evaluations on procurement of high impact accessible EIT products and services
In other words: Stop settling for subpar resources because they are shiny and new.
Not all new technologies are created equal, and as the world continues to improve on accessibility technologies, you will be presented with a plethora of gadgets to choose from.
The only way to prioritize the future is to create a plan and set a list of priorities. Identify the “needs” to address, and use this list of priorities to determine the resources, vendors, and budgets to meet these needs.
4. Evaluate how EIT accessibility overlaps/interfaces with campus strategic plans
Guacamole isn’t the supporting actor to chips. They work together like cookies n’ cream.
So too should accessibility and campus strategic plans. Have them overlap and mesh so that IT accessibility is recognized as a priority.
Not only does this give you powerful backing from the highest level of your institution, it also demonstrates how the IT accessibility plan supports the overall institution.
Bonus: Strive to get IT accessibility into your campus’ budget proposal.
5. Generate and utilize an EIT accessibility roadmap with a partner priorities document
Get into Zen mode and create a roadmap to solidify the necessary actions for implementing an effective EIT accessibility program. Here’s how to get started:
- Step one: Figure out what needs to get done. For example, you may need to formulate a policy, conduct an accessibility audit or create a library accessibility plan. Write all your ideas down.
- Step two: Create categories to help organize the roadmap.
- Step three: Dig deeper into each category and identify your specific “to-dos.” This includes any technical standards, procedural standards, rules, programs, provisions, actions or anything else that needs to be addressed.
- Step four: Classify each element as “done,” “in progress,” “hold,” or “road block.”
- “Done:” Task is complete
- “In progress:” Working to complete
- “Hold:” Waiting to complete
- “Road Block:” We need another source of help with this task.
- Step five: Work to move all elements into the “done” category, specifically focusing on identifying what will help clear any “road blocks.”
For a visual of what this document could look like, see Rob’s technicolour example.
6. Develop resources and staff allocation. Document resource needs for implementation of growing EIT Accessibility Programs
Here’s the equational breakdown:
- Growing EIT Accessibility rate: the rate at which the challenges are being addressed
- Expertise: knowledge on accessibility
- Labor: the staff supporting and working on campus accessibility
Like basic economics, more labour increases productivity, i.e. the rate at which the challenges are being addressed.
So strive to create, educate (through continuous training) and grow your staff of accessibility experts so fewer people feel overwhelmed as your EIT accessibility programs grow.
7. Address if/how EIT Accessibility is represented on IT organizational charts
Make it official by adding EIT accessibility to your IT organization chart. It’s the clearest way to send the IT department the message that yes… IT accessibility is a priority.
8. Present a charge for a Campus Technology Access Committee to be approved by the highest level of the campus
The Campus Technology Access Committee, aka, the head honcho committee, keeps campus-wide IT accessibility central.
The charge acts like a declaration of operation. It explains the committee’s formation, purpose and initiatives.
Backed by the university’s executive branch, this charge will be unstoppable. Even better, your committee will be unstoppable.
Here’s a good example from Rob.
9. Generate, approve and disseminate an IT Accessibility Policy
This can be a challenge, but when properly outlined can be instrumental to running a successful EIT accessibility program.
Consider reviewing Hampshire College’s policy. They begin by stating why they are implementing this program. Then they outline how and what standards they are going to comply with. For every committee, procedure or action in their program, a standard is outlined within the policy. Furthermore, although the policy states they must comply with the standards, the standards are intentionally not written into the policy so they can easily be updated without having to edit the policy.
The result? They’ve created a workflow to mitigate challenges to establishing an accessibility program, as well as a guideline for the standards they want to comply with through this initiative.
10. Both executive sponsorship and engagement are critical
Having executive sponsorship will make all the difference. After all, they manage the university.
It is simply not feasible to run a successful campus-wide accessibility program without executive engagement.
The executives will propel your vision forward and integrate it into the campus’ own strategic vision.
Strive to get their support and show them how invaluable an accessibility program will be for the university. Then, include them in every decision.
With these tips in mind, it’s clear that a major part of Rob’s secret to success lies in collaboration, planning and organization. A successful program will be a multipronged initiative, involving the campus as a whole.
For more of Rob’s wisdom make sure to watch Rob’s full presentation below. You can also learn more about web accessibility from our white paper, Roadmap to Web Accessibility in Higher Education.
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