Q&A: Advancing Knowledge about Accessibility at the University of Arizona
Updated: January 4, 2018
Dawn Hunziker is the IT Accessibility Consultant for the University of Arizona (UA). Through her fearless leadership, UA’s IT Accessibility team has transformed the way the university as a whole approaches accessibility.
In this Q&A, Dawn shares her advice for creating a more united campus for accessibility. To learn more about UA’s strategic approach to accessibility, watch the full webinar, Strategic Campus Collaborations: Advancing Knowledge about Accessibility at the University of Arizona.
What advice do you have for IT workers when running into barriers like uninterested faculty and staff while trying to create a culture of collaboration at their institutions?
DAWN HUNZIKER: We have a great partnership with our library, and we have it so that the library, in order to provide a resource to faculty so they are actually captioning, is providing a streaming video service. And if that original media has captions, that’s automatically incorporated into the recording.
And we actually had a faculty member that talked about how captioning, and having the captions on that video, that movie, distracted from the artistic effect of the movie. And I mean, he went clear, right to the dean to talk about this. So what we ended up doing is satisfying both parties, where we allowed faculty to request a non-captioned version, but we’re still providing the captioned version and a non-captioned version. So we are doubling our storage space in respect to that movie, but if the faculty doesn’t want a captioned version, [we can say] OK, here you go.
We [the accessibility office] have access [to courses]. So if we have a student enroll in a course and the content is not accessible, we don’t have to ask permission from the faculty to be added to that course or to have access to that course content. We add ourselves to the course, as D2L. We give ourselves permission to have access to the course content. We log in, we download, and we then provide the accessible version of the materials for the student.
And then a lot of times, it’s just having a discussion. We had a faculty member that was very upset with us, and basically told us that we were service personnel, and we needed to bend over backwards to help him. And that discussion went all the way up to the department head. We ended up going and talking to the faculty, the entire faculty department about accessibility and about students with disabilities.
And this professor, I totally intended to have another confrontation with him at this meeting, and he was just happy as can be. And sometimes, you’re that scapegoat where they’re just not happy, and you happened to call and contact that professor at the right moment. And yeah, I’ve been in situations like that, and sometimes you just tell them you understand, and to please help us understand where you’re coming from and how we can help you.
Do you find that relationships with other departments change over time as staff and leadership changes occur, or do you have a system in place to ensure that accessibility standards are maintained?
DAWN HUNZIKER: No, of course, they change. Someone leaves, and their knowledge goes with them. Think Tank is a great example. The person that I worked with to caption the academic content left, but their predecessor came on board and reached out to us and said, hey, she had this content captioned. I’d like to continue with that. Can you work with us on that?
So it’s really not being afraid to say, hey, you’re new in the position. Come talk to us. I’m actually in the process of developing some resource kits for new staff on campus to know, especially IT professionals. But I’m finding that it’s becoming less and less of a challenge, because, again, we’re building that accessibility champion and sending out emails. And as they get connected, they may see an email about us or about something around accessibility, and then they reach out, or I reach out to them…it’s just reaching out and introducing yourself.
What comments can you make about how institutions can work together to promote accessible IT and to share the work they’re doing?
DAWN HUNZIKER: There’s been a lot of discussion around sharing of Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) because we’re all testing the same products for accessibility, so how can we share that information? If you’re interested in participating in such a discussion, I’d encourage you to join the IT accessibility constituency group through EDUCAUSE, and that’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about.
We’re all converting the same books. Can’t we share that? Is there a resource, a central resource, where we can share that? Well, out of that conversation, we now have Accesstext Network, that is kind of serving as that warehouse if you will.
It’s getting better, and it’s moving more towards that area, but we’re still not there yet. And we want to be there. There is a group of individuals in that EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility constituency group that is working to get us in that and move us in that direction.
What advice do you have for newer IT on your campus that you’re currently dealing with that might be an issue for other universities coming up in the academic year?
DAWN HUNZIKER: Website design is still big, but it really depends on what that new IT person’s role is going to be. Somebody said, anytime you’re doing something new, talk to Dawn first, and I was like, OK, that’ll work.
It floods my inbox and floods my voicemail a little bit, but that’s what it’s all about… My barrier is making sure that that information is out elsewhere so that I’m not the only one that knows that information. And that’s definitely something that I’m working on to change.
But it’s just making sure that accessibility is part of their toolkit. And by having an information security officer and being part of the IT Directors Council, you’re in those big teams that, if that person is in a leadership role, they’re part of that discussion.
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