Constantly Improving: Creating an Accessible Campus [TRANSCRIPT]
SOFIA LEIVA: Thanks for joining this webinar entitled, “Constantly Improving– Creating an Accessible Campus.” I’m Sofia Leiva from 3Play Media and I’ll be moderating today. And today I’m joined by Michael Cole, educational accessibility specialist at Wichita State University. And with that, I’ll hand it off to Michael, who has a wonderful presentation prepared for you all.
MICHAEL COLE: Hi, my name is Michael Cole. As Sofia said, I’m the educational accessibility technologist for Wichita State University. And again, this is my presentation called “Constantly Improving– Creating an Accessible Campus.” So in this presentation, I’m going to kind of just walk through our experience since receiving an OCR complaint in 2016, some of the obstacles that we’ve faced, and some of the things that we’ve tried to do to make our campus more accessible, and just kind of looking at what we would have changed if we could go back and what we’re kind of looking at for the future.
So starting off with just some background, in April 2016, Wichita State received an OCR complaint, or a complaint through the Office of Civil Rights. Something that’s kind of interesting about our case that we have discovered after comparing notes with other universities is that our complaint was rooted almost solely in face-to-face curriculum, while a lot of the other complaints that we’ve looked at, or a lot of the other schools that we’ve talked to have had theirs come through digital content– so content that comes to their websites or captioning at live events, that kind of thing. So our focus has been somewhat on face to face, but we are also trying to be all encompassing with our content.
So moving forward, in July 2016, Wichita State entered into an agreement with the National Federation of the Blind. Our agreement, again, is largely focused on vision, but we’ve chosen to look at creating policies that encompass all areas of accessibility– so looking at cognitive impairment and looking at physical– anything that we can look at is what we’ve been moving forward with.
All course content and student-facing EIT– so any technology that we look at must be made accessible by 2020. This is kind of the main point of our agreement with the National Federation of the Blind. We have four years from the time of entering into that agreement to make sure that anything that we are giving our students, any technology, any content that we’re putting out there must be fully accessible to them. We’ll talk a little bit about what that means here shortly. For our part, Wichita State has focused on four different areas– procurement, captioning, training, and university service issues.
As a result of our agreement with the National Federation of the Blind, two new positions were created. An accessibility coordinator position was created. And this is actually more of a stipended role as opposed to a full-time position. This has gone to just somebody within the university who has accessibility experience and is kind of leading and spearheading these efforts. And then the educational accessibility technologist, which is who I am– and I’ll go through that role a little bit more in-depth.
We also did create a separate educational accessibility tech position that resides within our Disability Services department. But that position is a little bit more solely based in assistive technology.
I want to talk about the department that I work through, talk about what we’re currently doing. So I work at Wichita State University’s media resources center. And we’re broken up into four different departments, which is video services, web services, instructional design and access, and campus media services.
So video services is our professional video capture department. They do editing, animation, and they produce videos for the entire campus. Looking at accessibility, some of the things that they do are coordinate human captioning for video– usually through a third party– live human captioning for streaming events, and alternative access for digital signage.
Our web services team is mainly composed of training and support for faculty and staff. One of the main points of our agreement with the National Federation of the Blind was that our website must be fully remediated and made fully accessible. So all WSU sites are being remediated. And largely our website will be brand new when it finally goes up.
And then instructional design and access, this is the department that I typically work with. We serve our instructional community. So we’re more focused usually on online content, online pedagogy. We are a Blackboard school, so a lot of the IDA team’s work is focused through doing tutorials for Blackboard and teaching our instructors how to use Blackboard most effectively. But IDA at WSU was an early adopter of accessibility concerns. It’s something that we were talking about even before our OCR complaint came through, particularly, again, as it relates to digital content but also in some face-to-face scenarios. And we’re responsible for staff and faculty training.
And something else that I’ll talk about a little bit more is that we are now fully committed to producing and supporting only fully accessible content. Again, that’s something I’ll touch on a little bit further, but that’s been kind of a good thing for us to be able to say that we can only touch content moving forward that we know is going to be fully accessible.
And then finally our Campus Media Services, or CMS, are concerned with equipment installation in physical spaces. They’ve had a longstanding concern with the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance– so making sure that our physical learning spaces and all the physical spaces across campus are fully wheelchair friendly and are fully up to code with ADA, and looking into providing accessible options for face-to-face classrooms– so usually working with assistive technology, whatever that might be.
One of the main sticking points of our agreement with the National Federation of the Blind was that we had to honor accessibility versus accommodation. This is a distinction that really has to be made clear, and it’s something that we still struggle with kind of getting out there and kind of making sure everybody knows what this distinction is. Our agreement with the NFB requires full accessibility, not accommodation.
We usually say that accessibility is proactive while accommodations are reactive. What that means is that for accessibility to be proactive, we want to make sure that everything is there and ready at the same time that all learners receive it. So whether that’s a video that requires captions, that has to be ready at the same time that everybody in the class gets it.
Accommodations are reactive, meaning that typically a student reports an issue to the Disability Services Office. They step in, take that content, and produce an accessible version for them. But sometimes that can’t be right at the same time when the other students get it. And sometimes that can set back the student. So everything we produce has to be accessible, not just an accommodation.
This has been a hard distinction to make clear. And I’m sure that this is probably somewhat relatable to a lot of you, which is just that because I think we all have some version of disability services on campus, there’s kind of that idea that they’ll handle it. That’s what they do. Taking all that content, making it fully accessible right from the get go is kind of their role.
WSU’s accessibility strategy lies in universal design, or UDL practices. So the kind of motto that we go by there are all students, same information, same time, which just means that all students must be given the same information at the same time whenever possible.
So I wanted to talk a little bit about who I am and what I do here. Again, I’m the educational accessibility technologist or specialist for Wichita State University. Our agreement with the NFB created this position, in addition to, as I said, the assistive tech position that we have in disability services and our accessibility coordinator position.
My job responsibilities are to educate our staff and faculty across the university on accessibility and to let them– what our concerns and our components of UDL are, and to conduct an audit into the accessibility of technology being used by Wichita State. That’s been kind of the main one. One of our key things that we had to do right after entering into this agreement with the NFB was conduct an audit of all EIT, or educational informational technology, that we have here on campus that we’re requiring of students, or just anything that’s offered to students. We also provide– I also provide recommendations on how to remediate potential accessibility problem areas.
So I want to go a little bit more in-depth with our EIT audit. So again, I think I gave the wrong acronym earlier, but it’s electronic and information technology audit. This began in June 2017 using a rubric that I developed. Our EIT audit looks at both digital and physical technologies. So we’re looking at things like publisher LMSes– so items that come from Pearson, McGraw-Hill. We’re looking at physical classroom technologies. So what kind of specific tools are our students being asked to use in different departments? In something like health professions, we’ve got a lot of stuff to look at there– dental chairs, mannequins, that kind of thing– all the way to some of the not required items on campus like our vending machines– I’m completely blanking on the word right now– the ATM machines that we have in our student union. So looking at all of that stuff, seeing what is there that would negate the use of somebody with a concern and making different recommendations on how we can remediate those.
Our audit rubric was built using standards from WCAG 2.0 A and AA. I don’t think I mentioned it, but our agreement with the National Federation of the Blind requires us to adhere up through WCAG A and AA. We are not required to adhere to AAA, although we do look at those standards and apply them where we can– and then sections 504 and 508 and Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
I created our audit rubric using Google Forms as an easy way to collate data. Google Forms in and of itself is pretty accessible. And because it’s limited to just my use, we were able to kind of justify that. But it’s a good way for us to keep everything in one place and roll it over into a spreadsheet so that we can compare that data pretty quickly when needed.
And the EIT audit rubric consists of 21 sections intended to broadly define and examine accessibility. I wanted to quickly just kind of walk through what that audit looks like just to show you the scope of what we look at when we’re auditing a different tool.
So again, we have 21 different sections. Our first section for our audit is cursory overview information. So that’s really just basic. It’s, what is this item? Who does it belong to? Who is the publisher, if necessary? What department does this reside in? Nature of EIT, is this something that’s physical or digital in nature? Is it recreational? Is it educational?
So then we get a little bit further into the actual standards. So we look at audio. We look at things like, do audio contain captions? Do they contain transcripts? Then we look at video. Same questions– do videos contain transcripts, captions? And of course these are usually our biggest areas.
Then looking at images. So do images contain alt tags or alternative text? Do images that contain information also provide that information in an alternative format?
Looking at text. Is text selectable and translatable by a screen reader, or does text just reside within an image where a screen reader can’t translate that?
We look at documents to see if any tools that we had contain documents, if they are uploaded ideally in PDF and if they are properly tagged with correct headers and subheaders.
We look at links to see if links are described as self-described hyperlinks, which works really well for a screen reader, or just a raw URL, which might just come across as a mishmash of letters and numbers?
We look at color to see if color is being used as the sole means of differentiating emphasis or information. Something like red text in the middle of the paragraph, in and of itself, obviously could be a problem for somebody who is colorblind. But if that text is also highlighted or bolded, that’s a better use of that.
Looking at keyboard navigation. So are all digital tools fully navigable with a keyboard? And this was the one, I think, that was the most surprising to me, that a large bulk of what we were using or working with was not keyboard navigable.
Content navigation– so do pages have proper headers? Does navigation through content make sense? Are users able to track their way back through content?
Language– this is a little bit more of a nuts and bolts question, but looking at the HTML side of things, looking at whether or not language changes between tools or pages.
Looking at a change in focus– and this is usually more concerned with external web sites. But a good example of this would be if you were on a website and a pop up came up that overrode most of what was on your screen, this would be a problem.
Change on input. So looking at whether or not filling out forms automatically moves the user along, which could be a problem for somebody who’s just using a screen reader and can’t see that the screen is shifting to another page.
Error identification– so looking to see whether or not any sort of tool has the opportunity for errors to be created through– or that could impact a student’s grade or a user’s grade or it might impact financial data or might compromise personal data.
Labels and instructions, looking to see that all components and elements of a tool or of whatever kind of technology we’re looking at are properly labeled and instructions are available.
And then looking at the HTML and XHTML to make sure there aren’t any problematic areas there.
And then moving, blinking, and scrolling dynamic content. So whether or not there’s content that scrolls across the screen that can’t be picked up by a screen reader or if there’s content that moves around on its own or shifts from one thing to another without the option of pausing or moving that back. And again, that’s usually something that we see with external sites.
And then time restrictions, which are pretty common for an educational setting. So looking at things like exams, quizzes. Do users have an option to keep working after time has expired? Do they have the option, which is not usually common, to alter those time restrictions on their own?
And then looking at physical interaction. So that’s, again, things like our vending machines, our ATM machines, our medical equipment, looking to see if these items exist within the planes outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
And then finally, looking at just a summary of everything and what kind of suggested remediation could be made going forward.
And again, and I want to make this point clear early on and repeat it hopefully, we do want to share content with other universities. We want to make sure that we’re reaching out and that we are being as collaborative as possible. So if this is anything that anybody’s interested in taking a look at, this audit, feel free to contact me and I’m happy to share it. We’ve got one that’s just a public-facing one that we can give out.
Looking at the process of putting that audit to work. Several of the university departments did assist in our efforts with this audit. And the WSU library helped a lot. We discovered that they have a ton of databases, which most university libraries do. I think it was something like 260. And we wanted to go through those one by one and make sure that we looked at those all individually. So for those, we hired a couple of the library’s student workers and had them work through those themselves.
Our campus bookstore helped us track down contact information for representatives for different publishers. And our information and technology services department, or ITS, they looked at some of their own technology, typically stuff that was behind a password wall that we couldn’t get through or you had to have a certain set of credentials such as being an international student or a student who was about to graduate. Because we couldn’t access those on our own, they took a look at those themselves.
The EIT that we reviewed were both internal and external. So we looked at things that were created in-house and we looked at things that our instructors were using. So again, publisher texts, any publisher online elements, and learning management systems. Digital text– so digital textbooks, OERs, WSU-created content, any videos that we might be using that were created here– there’s a lot of stuff that we are creating and putting online including documents, that kind of thing. And physical technologies– so again, a lot of the medical equipment, a lot of just sort of the recreational stuff that was in our student union.
Our results were somewhat as expected. Publisher materials ranged from somewhat accessible to very inaccessible, which is what we kind of expected to be there. Many publisher platforms were incompatible with screen readers. They contained insufficient keyboard navigation and relied heavily on Flash.
Some publishers were very helpful. Others were not. I feel comfortable saying that McGraw-Hill was very, very helpful with us. They have an accessibility rep who we spoke to a lot and who was very open and transparent with what they were doing and where they had already identified issues and what they wanted to do moving forward.
We had other publishers, unfortunately, who we could not even really get a response from. So for the time being– and, of course, we don’t have to have everything ready until 2020. For the time being, our stance on that just has to be that we cannot really condone working with them until we know fully what’s there.
Something that’s important to keep in mind is that publishers often have a much more loose definition of accessibility and don’t readily share their standards. So we, as an institution, as WSU with an agreement with the National Federation of the Blind, have to adhere to accessibility standards up through WCAG 2.0, as well as sections 504, 508, and ADA.
Speaking to a publisher, they might say that they design to make sure that they’re accessible, but their standards are usually not as rigid. They may design towards the video standards and the audio standards while kind of ignoring everything else. But they’re not always going to be transparent with you on that. They’re just going to say, we design to be accessible. So asking specific questions is really important. Asking what standards they design towards– if it’s not WCAG, what is it?
Asking for VPATs is key. And that’s, again, a voluntary product accessibility template. Most vendors should be able to supply you with that. But it’s also important to realize that VPATs aren’t always completely honest. So having some discretion there is key.
And then learning what questions to ask the publisher. Asking specifically, instead of how is your product accessible, asking them what of your product is inaccessible. Because they should know and they should be able to let you know what that is. And then you can ask what they plan to do to fix that. And then do you design towards WCAG AA? So again, that’s important to us because that’s where our standards lie.
While not required by the agreement with the National Federation of the Blind, this department decided it would be of benefit to also conduct an audit of our classroom spaces. So this is something that we started at the tail end of our audit process in this last summer. We looked at not all of our classrooms, but we looked at a kind of representative number of classrooms across the different buildings on campus.
We did create a separate audit form just for that. And it functions the same way that the other one did. I’m not going to go through it as strictly, but some of the things that we looked at were just what types of classrooms we were looking at, whether they were stadium-style classrooms or that they were smaller, digital-projector classrooms. We recorded the dimensions of those rooms. And then we looked for things like the distance from the furthest seats in the classroom to the podium. What types of doorknobs did this classroom have? Are they round doorknobs which might be a problem for some people to use, or were they lever door knobs? Looked at how many electrical outlets were there. We identified the lighting controls, that kind of stuff. We looked at light meters.
This provided a really good overview, kind of a sample of overview information for us. But to fully remediate, of course, we are going to have to go back in and look at every room, which is something that will take a lot of time. But it gave us a good idea of what needs to be done and where our problem areas lie.
Before I move on– oh no, wait. So the final part of this, of our EIT audit, is remediation. And this is the phase that we’re in right now. So right now, WSU is crafting a corrective-strategy document. So we’re putting this together. We are meeting with different department chairs, different department heads, discussing with them what tools or technology we might have found that they’re using that have issues, whether those are internal or external, alerting them to those issues, and then working together to say, this is what we’re going to do to try and address this problem. So we’re just kind of collecting statements that we’re going to put together and then make public.
A major educational shift is occurring in the culture of Wichita State’s teaching staff and faculty, even with the students. It’s interesting to see from before our OCR complaint, where we stood on accessibility and what kind of our global culture was about that as it relates to this institution, to where it’s come now. There’s a lot of really positive thinking. We’re seeing a lot of faculty and staff members coming out saying that they want to help make this go forward in their departments. They want to be on the forefront of this.
And we’ve even had students– we’ve had graduate students who are very interested, especially those who are teaching, in making their content accessible and have a lot of questions, a lot of great questions about how to make that work.
And something that we have chosen to interpret out of our agreement with the National Federation of the Blind is that student-created content– so even something like a speech in a speech class– must also be accessible. Of course this presents its own stable of concerns and problems. But that’s something that we’re looking at going forward.
And this is something that we haven’t seen quite as much with other universities, so it’s not something we have as much information to draw from. And we’re not quite as far along at making that happen yet– so getting that even out to the students so that they have some idea of what needs to be done to make content accessible so that they’re providing that as well.
For publishers, publishers will have to be made aware that we simply will not be able to work with them until only accessible products are made available. The optimistic view of this is that publishers are seeing this shift and are scrambling and at least working towards identifying their issues and fixing those. The negative view of this is, I have a colleague who was at a conference and heard a publisher representative plainly say, we will not start making accessible products until you stop buying the products that are already there. So hopefully the shift gets distinct enough that we can stop supporting some of those publishers who aren’t providing accessible products, to the point where they’ll start remediating those on their own.
And so then a couple of the questions that have come up from this audit process are, how do we go about remediating instructional content that will not be made accessible? And how do we go about remediating instructional content that cannot be made accessible?
And there is a difference here. When we’re looking at items that cannot be made accessible, we’re looking, of course, at things like a lot of the medical equipment. When we have dental chairs, those certain items are very hard to make accessible to somebody who is a low-vision or no-vision user. Looking at some of our curriculum like the Chinese language, which is told almost entirely through characters, how do we provide that to somebody who is of low vision or no vision? How do we teach art history?
And those fall across a different gradient, of course. Art history we can probably make in some way accessible, even if it’s difficult. Some of those other examples are going to be a little bit more problematic.
And then looking at content that will not be made accessible, that’s more involved with our publishers. So again, how do we deal with external vendors, I mean, even outside of educational publishers, who flat out say, we are not going to do this. We can’t do this.
A good example of this might be Prezi. Prezi is largely inaccessible. It’s a great tool, but they have been very vocal about saying that they don’t have any plans to move forward with accessibility measures. So how do we go about dealing with that kind of tool on our campus? Do we just outright say it can’t be used and how do we enforce that? These are a lot of the questions that have sprung up from this process.
So in looking at what we might have done differently with this, which I don’t have a specific slide for, I think if we had to go back and do it again, I think we would maybe start inventorying a little bit earlier. Because of where we fell in the process, this audit couldn’t happen until the summer, and so it was a little bit harder for us to track certain things down. One of our major concerns is that there’s not an institution-wide inventory of EIT. So we have no idea what all tools are out there necessarily. We have a good sample size idea, but not 100%, which is what we really need.
I know that for other institutions who have gone through this process, they have used external auditors. And those auditors were more in charge of pulling up those and creating an inventory. And for some other institutions, that was their first step was finding a way to do that.
Procurement will be a big step forward in making sure that we have an inventory of all tools being used on campus. But I think that that would be probably the most helpful thing. And that’s my biggest piece of recommendation is making sure that there is some kind of inventory system in place so that you can collect all that data. All the schools that we’ve talked to have been in that same boat where I think you take for granted that there’s just not an inventory system there already. You don’t really always know what faculty or even your staff are using day to day and what kind of technology your students are coming into contact with.
So I wanted to talk about creating a culture of accessibility, which is also something that we’re trying to do here. So to prepare the WSU community about the changes a refocusing on accessibility will bring, training is necessary, of course. We have to train our faculty. We have to train our staff. And as much as possible, we want that to trickle down to our students.
We were required by our agreement with the National Federation of the Blind to create a mandatory face-to-face and online training, which is our Ability Ally training. Ability Ally is conducted by human resources with assistance from other departments. It started out as a face-to-face only training that ran through a couple of test flights before we moved it also onto an online platform. It’s modified from an existing disability ally training initiative that we were given. And it focuses on the culture of accessibility.
One of the interesting things is that the official training materials we received were not initially accessible in and of themselves for digital or face-to-face training methods. So we actually– the instructional design and access department had to take those and remediate those before we could put those to use.
We’ve created a second training, which was required of us also by the National Federation of the Blind. And this is a universal design for learning, UDL training, that’s online only. So as stipulated by our agreement with the NFB, this is not required that all of our faculty and adjuncts take this, but it is required that we provide it to them.
So it was developed in-house by our Instructional Design and Access department. It’s called foundations of accessibility. It focuses on the methods of accessibility. And it’s housed in our Blackboard LMS, because Wichita State is a Blackboard school. It’s provided for all instructional staff, including faculty, lecturers, adjunct instructors, and teaching GTAs. And it’s been running since the fall of last year. This is a noncredit-bearing course, but completion does award a digital credential through Credly.
So we’ve had really good success with this. It’s not been probably as widespread as we would like at this point, but it’s still getting off the ground. And we have a lot of instructors, a lot of faculty who have already gone through and received those badges. So it is getting the central ideas out there that we need to spread.
We also have instant training. So the instructional design and access department provides on-demand training through a consolidated website. And that website is https://ida.wichita.edu/. We are in the process of redoing a lot of that training. So that may or may not always be fully available. A lot of that’s being taken down and reconfigured and put back up in some alternative formats to make it as fully accessible as possible. But we have videos. We have step-by-step trainings. But providing instant training to our instructors and even entities outside of this university has been, I think, hugely beneficial.
And then on-demand accessibility training falls into three categories. So we have a FaST Accessibility page that provides a quick and easy jump-off point for linked training. Then we’ve got short video trainings that address specific technical issues and longer-form article trainings that focus on issues in depth.
Something that I didn’t put into here is that we’ve also started doing Blackboard labs through our university library. So some of our instructional designers a couple of times a week go over and set up in our library. And it’s a scheduled time. And we have faculty that comes over with specific Blackboard and with specific accessibility questions. And then they sit and work through those with them. It gives us a good idea of what kind of questions are out there, and it gives us a good idea of what’s being said, what the concerns are. And it also has us interfacing directly with our teaching population on campus, which I think is important so that they don’t feel quite so scared of the changes that are coming.
So looking at a procurement policy. This is the one piece that we don’t have in place yet, but it’s the key piece, I think, to our accessibility measures. So in June 2017, it was recommended that an accessibility review be added to the procurement process. So any service or product that WSU contracts with in the future must meet our accessibility standards. Some other universities have procurement policies in place now. And we are looking at theirs. We’re looking at what all is necessary for us as well to try to get that in place. And again, as I mentioned earlier, that will be something beneficial to helping us really keep an inventory of what all is being used across campus.
Technology changes so fast that it’s impossible for us to always know that a tool is going to be accessible. We can know that something is accessible right now, but then with updates and upgrades, we might not necessarily know that it still is in the future. So having some kind of list where we can always reference what’s being used is going to be key. Even in this process, we have audited items that since then have completely changed or just been completely renovated from the ground up and require a fully new audit process done on them.
A questionnaire was recommended that could be completed to ensure that vendors are hearing the message that accessibility is critical. So part of our procurement process will be letting vendors know, if this isn’t accessible, we can’t sign a contract to use it. If this isn’t accessible, you need to remediate this and get back with us. So making that part of our script is going to be the important part there. And the questionnaire for this process may be adapted from the EIT audit rubric that I walked through a little bit earlier– probably a pared-down version of that, but a version that does run whatever new tool or product that we might want to use through that battery of questions until we have a pretty good idea of what is there and what needs to be looked at.
In the past, it was generally assumed– and I’m sorry, I’m moving on to face-to-face accessibility now. In the past, it was generally assumed that face-to-face classroom presentation was inherently inaccessible. Sorry, that’s a typo in there. Any issues students faced with delivery, testing, et cetera were largely addressed as accommodations through the Office of Disability Services.
So there are, of course, some inherently inaccessible parts to just teaching in a classroom. How do you know for sure that everything you’re writing on the board is being taken in by all the students? How do you know that they can all see it? How do you know that they can all see it well enough? That kind of thing.
The agreement introduced new standards of accessibility and a date for the university to certify the accessibility of all of our classes, regardless of delivery, which again is by 2020. So whether our classes are online through Blackboard or face to face, we have to ensure that those classes are being taught in an accessible way by 2020.
We began to reach out to other universities about what they were doing in regards to face-to-face accessibility. As I mentioned at the top of this presentation, something that we really found out pretty quickly was that we were one of the first universities to see an OCR complaint of this kind. And so when we were asking other universities, what are you doing about your face-to-face classes, a lot of what we were getting back was, we don’t know yet, but can you help us out or can you tell us when you know?
We’re seeing that things are moving forward a lot more quickly. And again, we are sharing as much information as possible. And working collaboratively with other institutions has been a huge help.
But a lot of what we’re doing in this regard is making sure that signage is up to a certain size, that when an instructor is writing on a board or writing on a digital projection that they are making sure that the text is within a certain inch range so that students all over the classroom can see it, making sure that we’re doing certain things in our teaching like reading PowerPoints word for word before kind of expanding on those, as I have been in this presentation, and letting your students know this video has captions, if you need to see them moving forward. So a lot of them are simple things that can be done. And then, of course, there are going to be some harder standards to tackle as well.
So working from digital standards that are clearly defined– so like WCAG 2.0– we began to extrapolate face-to-face standards that could reasonably be implemented, monitored, and certified. We suggested face-to-face standards were incorporated into a Qualtics survey and presented to the faculty in the summer of 2017.
The results for this were mixed. Not negative necessarily, but it did give us a good indication of what the attitudes out there were. And of course, because this was summer, a lot of our faculty was unreachable or maybe just didn’t see that this survey was available to them. So we didn’t have as large a sample size as we probably would have liked to have.
But the results did show us that a lot of the instructors were unclear about what some of these standards might mean. They were unclear about whether they were being asked to radically change the way that they were teaching their classes, building their content. But it did also show us that some of the faculty was very excited and looking forward to doing a lot of this stuff, or that some of the faculty was already doing it on their own. Once finalized, the face-to-face standards will result in classroom signage, again making sure that any kind of text in the classroom is big enough to be seen throughout the classroom, updates to the room reservation system to include these necessary font sizes, and extensive training in the UDL online class to get our faculty and lecturers and even our GTAs who are teaching kind of up to speed on how to fully teach an accessible course.
Moving onto online classroom accessibility. So accessibility has been a significant focus for the Instructional Design and Access department for years. In 2016, prior to our Office of Civil Rights complaint and the agreement with the National Federation of the Blind, an audit of all of our online classes was conducted for a variety of instructional issues including accessibility. This was pretty pared down. I worked on this project across different semesters. And so for a year, including a summer semester, we were able to take all of our courses, take a step into them, and then run them through a pretty simple rubric that included accessibility questions.
Those, again, were pretty pared down from what we’re looking at now, but they did look at things like the use of color. They looked at things like captions and transcripts and documents, whether or not they were appropriately tagged, appropriately uploaded, that sort of thing. And all 669 courses were audited in 2016. Pretty much every course had some sort of accessibility issue. Not always drastic, but maybe just unedited captions in one example or an image without alt tags in another. Some courses, of course, did have significant challenges. The most common issues were a lack of captions on video material, a lack of alt tags on images, and color-contrast concerns.
WSU has also increased its commitment to Quality Matters standards. So out of our Instructional Design and Access office, many of our instructional designers on staff are now QM Master Reviewer certified. And we felt like that was important to us to be able to say that we had gone through that kind of training and to be able to speak as experts on certain elements of online training, online teaching. And many review members have served as accessibility experts on at least one QM team for other universities.
Moving on to digital media, which is my last slide before we move on to questions. So of course, we have a lot of digital media across campus. And this is something that has been kind of difficult to tackle, but also some of the more interesting, which is why I thought this would be a good thing to end on. All digital media on campus must move toward full accessibility. All content WSU produces or can control has appropriate and accurate captioning, including the live captioning of such events as commencement and convocation.
So those are pretty straightforward, obviously hiring a human captioner for live events like our graduation ceremonies, sports events that are being streamed, that kind of thing. Those are a little bit more expected. Looking at things like student-run organizations like our Student Government Association and the student newspaper which occasionally live streams, those are a little bit more difficult and we’re still trying to figure out how to make those sort of media fully accessible.
This office IDA has provided consultation as well as actual captioning labor to nonacademic offices such as Career Services, Counseling and Testing so that their trainings are appropriately and accurately captioned. It’s not something that we do a lot. In some instances, at least as a training opportunity, we have stepped in to actually do some of that captioning, especially on items that are going to be highly viewed.
This department, the MRC, one of the items that we discovered quickly was going to be a problem was the actual digital signage across campus. So we have some big screens in several places across campus that cycle through different announcements and advertisements. One of our first and foremost challenges was, how do we make that accessible to somebody, especially a low-vision or no-vision user?
One of the things– and it’s just I think an interesting tidbit of what we’ve done– is that this department developed an audio podcast that provides an alternative accessible source of information for all digital signage across campus. So now if somebody who can’t see those wants to get that information, they can call that number and it provides all of that to them in a recorded setting. And we constantly are updating it as the digital signs are being updated as well.
So that’s where my presentation is going to end. And we are going to start with questions.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you so much, Michael. The first question we have is, do you get pushback from internal parties? What tactics have you used with publishers and vendors who are not compliant?
MICHAEL COLE: I would assume internal parties would mean within the university. And there’s always going to be some kind of pushback. I think that’s expected. And in some ways, we are really asking our faculty, some of us who have been here for several decades, to really change the way that they’re doing things. And that can be very scary.
Right now, we are– again, because we don’t have to have these things fully set until 2020, we are just really focusing on creating a culture of teaching what accessibility is, why it’s important, and reinforcing for instructors that we’re not sitting here saying, you have to change everything. We’re sitting here saying, we want to show you how to do this as accessible as possible and what’s out there, what kind of resources can help you do that so that it’s not a huge shift in your preparation and materials that you’ve been using forever.
And the second part of the question was about publishers?
SOFIA LEIVA: Yes, correct. What tactics have you used with publishers and vendors who are not compliant?
MICHAEL COLE: Again, really just almost kind of harassing them for certain things that we need– so VPATs, asking for those VPATs, asking questions about the VPATs when they don’t seem accurate, asking, again, very-specific questions about what of your tools are not accessible, what are you going to do to fix these, and making it very clear to them come, at the very least, 2020, if this tool is not accessible, we will not be using it. We hopefully have an enforcement mechanism in place for that, but just making that clear to those publishers that it’s a financial bottom line for them.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you. The next question we have is, are faculty responsible for the accessibility of their materials? Are faculty who do not author accessible materials sanctioned?
MICHAEL COLE: So right now, I think that’s still something that’s kind of in flux with our face-to-face standards in particular. It just depends on what the department is and what the class is. I would say, overall, providing accessible materials will be the responsibility of the professor or of the instructor. But we are doing everything we can to get them information on how to do that. So whether or not it’s a service that can be provided– so captioning images, or captioning videos, captioning audio, placing alt tags in images– we’re trying to find methods for that. We’ve looked into acquiring for the university a live-captioning service that would service all of the university. That would go back and caption all of our catalog of videos. So we are looking into ways that we can make it easier for everybody.
And then also training. So just providing training that says, if you’re reading a PowerPoint in your classroom, make sure that you describe the images to your class, whether you think you need to or not. Make sure that you are reading it word for word and then go on to kind of expand upon things for those students. Was there a second part to that question I missed?
SOFIA LEIVA: Are faculty who do not author accessible materials sanctioned?
MICHAEL COLE: So as far as this department is concerned, Instructional Design and Access, we were kind of lucky because we were given the go ahead to say that we cannot work with accessible materials, which is not really the same thing, not really what you’re asking. But we have that power now to say if we know that a class is using particular materials or tools that are inaccessible, those either have to be remediated for us to continue working and continue moving forward with those or we have the option to say, we can’t. We have to step back because we know that these aren’t accessible.
And that’s always hopefully going to be the last straw or the last resort. But there’s not a sanction necessarily. Because this is a civil rights complaint, there’s not necessarily a sanction to produce anything that’s not accessible.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you. The next question we have is, I appreciate that your summary of your EIT audit rubric is not necessarily inclusive. But do you also look at things like reading order for PDF accessibility, or are you only auditing more basic [? authoring ?] practices?
MICHAEL COLE: We are looking at– and again, I moved through that so quickly. Within all of those categories that I mentioned were several different– some have 10 different questions that go along with those that have to be looked at. Some were a little bit shorter.
But there is a document subcategory within that rubric that looks at documents. And that’s one of the first things that we looked at is PDFs and then if all PDFs are tagged appropriately. So looking at reading order, looking at headers and making sure that all that stuff is in place, that is something that we are very, very heavily focused on, particularly document remediation at this point. Because it’s such an intricate process, it’s something that we’re really trying to make sure that we have our own training down so that we can get that out there to our instructors as well.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you. The next question we have is, do you use third-party vendors to audit your materials, products, and services against accessibility standards?
MICHAEL COLE: We do not. Like I mentioned, I know that we have spoken to some other institutions that went that route. We have chosen to do everything, at least at this point, internally. So our audit is run entirely by us, so within this department. Like I said, I think that there are pluses and minuses to using external auditors. And again, like I said, I think that probably helps building an inventory for the university. But as of right now, we are doing all of our auditing internally.
SOFIA LEIVA: The next question we have is, I would like to hear more about video captioning. So many universities have tons of videos out on YouTube with poor or no captioning. Who is managing this for Wichita or any of the rest of the groups?
MICHAEL COLE: Again, that kind of falls into our inventory problem, which is that the university is such a big organism, it’s kind of like there’s this head and then there’s all these different moving pieces. It’s so hard to know what everybody’s doing all at once. So we don’t really know, especially at this point, what all kind of video is out there. We have video that’s hosted through Panopto, which is really easy for us to go through. But then, of course, we have instructors who are creating videos for their classes and hosting them themselves through YouTube. And those are so far unaffiliated that we don’t really have any mechanism for tracking those down.
Ideally there would be some way for us to catalog what videos every instructor is using every semester, and then we can kind of work through those and see if they have the captions and whether or not captions need to be provided for them. Right now– and I think a lot of other institutions are in the same boat– we’re kind of having to focus on what we can do going forward– so for all video content created now and in the future, making sure that that’s all fully accessible before we stop and look back at the backlog. But I do know that that’s something we have talked a lot about that is a concern of ours, is making sure that all of that material gets looked at as well, hopefully.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you. The next question we have is what kind of interaction/partnership do you have with your marketing/communication department or other departments that handle public-facing, noneducational portions of your website? And how is accessibility enforced sitewide?
MICHAEL COLE: We have a good relationship with all of those different departments. We have a marketing department, but a lot of our smaller organizations within the university have their own marketing teams. So for instance, like our student union has its own marketing. There’s just marketing that resides within those departments everywhere.
One of the really interesting things about this audit process has been that our response from department chairs and the people in control of that content has been really, really positive. So we have actually worked with a lot of those marketers on saying, if you have this– maybe it’s a menu that goes out via email to the students, but it’s just an image that says, this week here are our specials, and it’s just images and pictures of words. We can go talk to them about saying, also create just a really simple text alternative that can be accessed by a screen reader.
We’ve had a lot of really good feedback. We’ve had a lot of just really, really surprisingly good initiative on people wanting to move forward and wanting to really do the right thing with all of this.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you. The next question we have is, what education and training does an educational accessibility technologist have?
MICHAEL COLE: So my education is, I have a bachelor’s and master’s in English literature– so not super related. I also am midway through an MFA in creative writing and fiction.
When I graduated, I started working as an instructional designer for Wichita State. Because as a graduate teaching assistant, I had been teaching online for a couple of years. So I was able to parlay my online teaching experience into instructional design. My first major project as an instructional designer was working on our online course audit, which was, again, really heavily anchored in accessibility.
And I was able to take that knowledge and go present at conferences and learn more about accessibility. And I really discovered just a very passionate interest in accessibility in myself. And when this happened, when we received our OCR complaint, we knew that a lot of that was going to be initially very rooted in audit work and looking at accessibility, looking at those standards. And I just was lucky enough to have already been working on that for a couple of years at that point.
So my training, again, it’s not going to be as official as somebody who has gone through an instructional design degree or somebody who has gone to school specifically for this. But it is something that I’ve been working on for a long time.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you. The next question we have is, I’m in a new position where I’m tasked to making our workshops and webinars fully accessible. Where can I find a list of best practices? Issues include webinar and online-learning, site selection, visual materials, printed materials, so forth.
MICHAEL COLE: I would definitely say that the first thing that you could do– and this is across the board whether it relates to webinars or not– is fully familiarize yourself with WCAG standards. And again, there’s three levels of those, A, AA, AAA. I know that WCAG 2.1 is going to roll out sometime soon, so those standards will change a little bit. But I mean, that really is going to be your bible for all sorts of digital accessibility. And it covers everything from what kind of captions need to be there, whether it’s prerecorded or whether it’s live. I would just really familiarize yourself with that and get comfortable with being able to look at a tool and say, I can immediately tell that these are the options or these are the items that need to be looked at, whether that’s keyboard navigation, alternative description for certain items, captioning, that kind of thing.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you. The next question we have is, how do you address software required for coursework that is not fully accessible?
MICHAEL COLE: Well that’s something that we’re still looking at. Our hope is that we know from a very first step, we will reach out to those publishers and say, this is the position that we’re in. We need anything that we get from you to be fully accessible, and hope that they take that to heart and hope that they work on that. But there’s only so much you can do with hope, especially with something like an OCR complaint.
So for items that are absolutely required, that there’s just no way around, there’s no alternative, they have to be there, then we start getting into an issue of, do we provide technical standards for those that say, students or learners in this course must be sighted or must be able to do this or must be able to do that. We’re not at that point yet of giving courses or departments certain technical standards, but those are discussions that are happening.
That, I think, always wants to be our last resort. If we can make something accessible, then we want to make it accessible. But again, with those third parties, it’s not in our hands necessarily.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you. I think we have time for one more question. Could we hear a bit about the training the library student workers received to support their auditing of the library subscription research databases?
MICHAEL COLE: So I sat with them. And this was after I built our full audit rubric. And I just worked through that with them. We went through a couple different example databases.
So working through that, working through– again, it’s 21 sections. Each one of those sections has questions that fall within it. So working through those, finding very specific examples of things, especially rare occurrences to show them what to look for, and then just walking through all that with them and making sure that I was very available to them should they have any concerns or questions, but just really getting them comfortable with using the rubric and getting them the accessibility training they needed to identify these problems.
SOFIA LEIVA: Great, thank you. Thanks, everyone, for joining and thank you so much, Michael, for such a great presentation.
MICHAEL COLE: Yeah, thank you so much. I appreciate it.