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.

The key thing with campus collaborations is to know your support team, know who's out there talking to faculty, know who's out there talking to IT staff so that when they're hearing about things that are happening, they can tell that person, oh my gosh, you need to be in contact with [insert accessibility head name] over at DRC so that she can help you about accessibility.

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.

How can we incorporate accessibility? I want to incorporate accessibility into this.

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.

We have other initiatives that are happening, such as an innovative learning grant, for faculty when they need to purchase new technologies.

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.

Libraries are playing such an important role in the function that's happening on Central Campus in terms of space for Central's collaborative learning spaces, and loaning of laptops, loaning of equipment, technology for students, and providing those resources.

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?”

What I have discovered is that the discussions around captioning often lead to other questions around accessibility. It often leads to discussions around technology accessibility. I don't leave it at captioning. I end up talking about other things that are happening, and what else can we can we work with you on, and what other kinds of projects are you working on in your unit?

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.

I send out a lot of emails. If I see an email that's coming though on a listserv talking about x, y, z technology, I'll send a quick response to say, and don't forget about accessibility, and give them some resources, and just making sure you're kind of keeping eyes on what's going on 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.

put yourself out there. make sure people know you are a resource.

—Watch the full webinar below!—


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