5 IT Accessibility Areas the University of Maryland is Tackling
Updated: July 11, 2019
Three years, five strategic areas to focus on. This is the backbone of the University of Maryland’s IT Accessibility Plan. The goal of their 3-year plan is to improve IT support to achieve a more accessible IT culture on campus.
With the help of partnerships between the accessibility office and the various departments across campus, the 3-year plan is now in its second year and making a wave of change across campus.
With the help of the University of Maryland’s Accessibility Committee, the following 5 strategic areas were chosen to focus on.
1. Web accessibility
To ensure all individuals with disabilities have equal access to the University of Maryland’s online information, all web accessibility standards must be recognized throughout the whole campus community. Furthermore, web designers, developers, and web content managers should be able to fix existing and new websites to comply with WCAG 2.0, Level AA standards.
At UMD, they have begun piloting an enterprise-wide license software that will allow users to scan websites and applications for accessibility compliance.
The challenge at UMD, as in most institutions of higher education, is that websites are not centralized. Therefore, it can be difficult to guarantee all published content is accessible.
One way the university is combating this challenge is through partnerships with various units around the university. For example, their partnership with University Relations has helped transcend the accessibility team’s awareness goals. They have also established periodic trainings and workshops to make web accessibility integrations easier for content creators.
2. Multimedia Development
Multimedia has become an integral part of modern education; therefore, it’s imperative to ensure that all multimedia resources are available in multiple formats. At the University of Maryland, this entails providing instructors with the technological resources to make existing and new multimedia include closed captioning and audio description when possible.
Thus far, all public videos produced by the University and University Relations include captions, even though the university does not have a centralized captioning budget. This is certainly a challenge, but UMD has worked to ease these financial burdens by only captioning videos students have requested. The funding for these videos is provided through the Accessibility and Disability Support Service.👉 How do you build accessibility into the budget?
And while they explore other models for captioning and transcription services, the accessibility office has ensured they provide their staff and faculty with adequate resources, training and information on creating DIY captions.
3. eLearning Tools
At UMD, collaboration and engagement is valued as an essential tool for a richer learning experience. The principles outlined under their 3-year accessibility plan state new and existing tools should meet accessibility requirements for compliance.
To meet this principle, the university has created procurement guidelines and a compliance checklist for evaluating new technologies. For tools that do not meet appropriate requirements, faculty and staff are required to provide alternatives. Of course, the IT office is there to help find these alternatives and provide training and supplemental information.
4. Course (re)design
At UMD, the reigning Enterprise Learning Management System (ELMS) is Canvas. To help expedite accessibility measures, they require that all content posted in Canvas be made accessible. In addition, they provide comprehensive trainings with the goal of ultimately creating an army of well-trained faculty professionals who are armed with all the knowledge, resources and information to (re)design accessible courses on Canvas.
UMD IT has created an accessible course checklist for faculty to use as reference. Furthermore, they have implemented UDOIT, a tool that allows faculty to scan their course and see what content does not meet accessibility standards.
5. Adaptive technology tools
The final principle states that registered students, faculty, staff, and visitors with disabilities should be provided with the necessary accommodations to attend, interact, and succeed at UMD.
As of now, this has involved identifying current assistive technology tools available on campus, asking how to make them more widely available, and developing a plan for procurement.
The success of this initiative rests on maintaining a strong partnership with the Disability Support Services and units around campus to ensure a continuous deployment of assistive devices and software.
While the University of Maryland has faced challenges and set backs in their accessibility efforts, they don’t let these stagnant times discourage their efforts. Instead, they continue to reassess and evaluate their efforts to uncover areas where they can plant a seed of awareness.
To find out more about how the University of Maryland is transforming their campus IT accessibility, watch the webinar below.
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