How to Create Stronger Collaborations on Campus for Accessibility
Updated: February 23, 2021
The strategy behind the University of Arizona’s (UA) accessibility efforts can be summarized in two words: collaboration and sharing. By reaching out, offering help, and being more aware of campus happenings, the accessibility team is making important strides towards full accessibility.
In the webinar, Strategic Campus Collaborations: Advancing Knowledge about Accessibility at the University of Arizona, Dawn Hunziker, IT Accessibility Consultant for UA, outlines her strategy and lessons learned.
Below are important tips she shared to create greater collaboration.
1. Become an outreach specialist
An Outreach Specialist proactively reaches out to all units on campus. Outreach Specialists seek to work closely with each unit, assuring they have the necessary tools and resources to create accessible materials. Ultimately, the responsibility still lies on the unit or department to ensure the material is accessible, but having a close partnership allows the information to be properly disseminated.
Furthermore, it helps faculty feel supported.
2. Teach how to do one task many different ways
If one method doesn’t support accessibility, encourage faculty and students to try another method that works better. For example, at the University of Arizona, one class was tasked with creating a video using a lecture capture system to record the presentation. Unfortunately, this system wasn’t very user-friendly, so instead, they encouraged students to use their mobile devices and then upload it.
There is more than one way to make a video. You can use your computer, a mobile phone, or camera. Likewise, there is more than one way to do any other task. Find the most accessible way.
3. Create funding to support faculty
Some accessibility initiatives can take extra funds that faculty may not have access to. One way to help faculty is to create a grant. Faculty and departments can use this grant for captioning or to buy accessible technology. One way to fuel this grant is to use student fees. By including a small fee into the tuition, a university can certainly raise money to help create greater accessibility. Of course, there are many other creative ways to find money for accessible content, an institution just needs to find what works best for them.
As a result of having a grant, faculty will feel supported and motivated to do more research on accessibility.
4. Consolidate IT and Library leadership
Nowadays, libraries are more than a collection of books. They are collaborative learning spaces equipped with advanced technologies for students to use. So why shouldn’t the library be a responsibility under IT?
Accessibility can be a central component of all new technologies. Especially when IT and the library work closely to choose technologies that achieve greater accessibility.
5. Encourage discussion around accessibility
For many faculty members, creating accessible documents or following accessible initiatives is a new requirement. Naturally, they will have questions and are most likely interested in learning more. Seek to create an environment for collaboration, education, and curiosity.
For example, opening the discussion around one accessibility initiative, such as captioning or accessible PDF’s, can foster conversation for other accessibility initiatives. So always ask, “What else can we work with you on?”
6. Use the power of email
Create an email campaign that outlines requirements, tips, or tasks for faculty to use. Furthermore, use email to network with faculty. When you hear about a new project or a meeting, get the word out on how accessibility ties in and offer your resources.
You can also sign up for department listservs and stay ahead of all the information and happenings around campus.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to never be afraid to speak up. Reach out when you see issues or inaccessible content. Make your presence known on campus so that faculty, students, and staff can know you are there to help.
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