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How the University of Maryland Implemented a Campus-Wide IT Accessibility Plan [TRANSCRIPT]

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Thanks, for joining this webinar entitled, “How the University of Maryland Implemented a Campus-Wide IT Accessibility Plan.” I’m Sofia Enamorado from 3Play Media, and I’ll be moderating today. I’m joined today by Ana Palla-Kane, IT accessibility specialist at the University of Maryland, and Susan Johnston, instructional designer at the University of Maryland. And with that, I’ll hand it off to Ana and Susan, who have a wonderful presentation prepared for you.

ANA PALLA-KANE: Hello, everyone. This is Ana Palla-Kane, and I’m here with Susan Johnston. And I’d like to thank 3Play Media for the opportunity to share with all of you about our three-year IT accessibility plan at the University of Maryland and how we implemented this campus-wide accessibility plan. So I’ll be sharing with you a little bit about how we came about to design the plan and where we are at a year and a half after the approval of the plan.

I am an IT accessibility specialist here for the University of Maryland, and I’ll be starting the presentation. And I’m going to turn it over to Sue when we’re actually going to be talking about the topic of course redesign. So I welcome all of you from– oh, I know that you’re all over the US, and maybe some of you from abroad. So let me start to give you a little bit of a overview about the University of Maryland. I’m showing now an aerial picture of our campus, so you can have the dimension of how large we are.

You can see here in this picture, there’s a lot, a lot of buildings. We have a big stadium. There is, on the left, a picture of our library with our admin building. And we have just a big footprint in College Park, Maryland.

And when we look at the people that we serve at the University of Maryland, and keeping in mind all our goals within our education and our strategic plan, accessibility, it’s been one of our very important goals. And when we think about trying to achieve accessibility within our largest campus community, it’s a challenge that we’ve been very fortunate to tackle.

It’s something that we were able to look from different perspectives. But I want to just share with you that when we look at Maryland– and I have here on the right of the screen a picture that we took at the end of the year on the stairs of our academic building– we have a very large community. We have approximately 52,000 people at the university. We have an average of 27,000 students, 10,000 graduate students, about 4,400 faculty, 4,200 academic staff, and about 5,100 administrative staff. And within that, 12 academic units and over 60 administrative units.

So it is really a challenge for us to think about how we can best serve all our students, all our faculty, all our staff of all abilities. When we look at this picture that I have here on the screen, we have four individuals, college age, looking at their different types of devices. It’s very interesting when we begin to think about accessibility, especially IT accessibility and thinking about how we are going to meet the needs of all our community.

And I mentioned all abilities, because we do have people who have a specific disability. Someone might have a visual impairment. Someone might be deaf, or someone might have a physical disability. But we also have a lot of people who have undiagnosed disability, so we might have a lot of people who have temporary disabilities. So when we think about what kinds of environments we’re going to provide, what types of services we are going to provide, services and tools, to really increase accessibility, we’d like to have this picture perfect scenario of these four people in this picture here, really enjoying themselves and seeming like they’re have a good time.

But in my experience working at the university for the past 10 years, working as a faculty, working in administration, and now working within IT accessibility, we know a lot about the struggles that our community with disabilities face when they interact with technology. So the entire campus, including our Accessibility and Disability Service and Division of Information Technology, really took a step of developing a plan to really improve the services and tools that we offer within IT accessibility.

I want to also share with you that, when we think about the University of Maryland IT accessibility services, we have an office on campus, which is called Accessibility and Disability Service Office. That office specifically provides accommodations for students with disabilities that are qualified to receive specific services or receive accommodations. For example, most of these people that the Accessibility and Disability Service serves, they are students, who have a diagnosed disability, and they need accommodations to be successful in their courses.

Under the Disability and Accessibility Service, they have an adaptive technology lab and the alternative text unit. And they also have a deaf and hard of hearing services. And those services were already in place before we designed the university three-year IT accessibility plan. So the adaptive technology lab and alternative text unit, they provide training on how people use adaptive technologies. They provide assistive hardware and software technologies, technology for assisting with the exams. They provide assistance converting and delivering course text and exams into different kinds of alternative files.

And the deaf and hard of hearing services provide captioning, [INAUDIBLE] description, and American Sign Language interpreters for students who need that as part of their accommodations. I want to emphasize that, when the Division of Information Technology, especially our leadership, decided to create this accessibility plan, we were looking at going beyond our students with disabilities, who are registered with our Accessibility and Disability Service.

So we have all the services that our Accessibility and Disability Service provides. And the office serves about 2,000 individuals each year. And I have here a table, a picture of a table, with average numbers of the types of disabilities that the Accessibility and Disability Service office provides. But within the university Division of Information Technology, we really define that we really want to embrace the goal to create and maintain an inclusive educational and working environment for all people of all abilities.

We do have a large number of our students, especially those with learning disabilities, those who have any kind of psychological disability, or temporary disabilities, who oftentimes are not registered with the Disability Support Services. We also, when we consider all our visitors in our community, if you think about the number of people who enjoy our athletics, people who visit Maryland each year, people who participate in commencement ceremonies, so if you think about our community and everybody that we serve beyond our faculty, students, and staff, we found that it was really time for us to improve and start expanding our offerings.

So the Division of Information Technology, which Sue and I, we are from the Division of Information Technology, and our goals are really to provide– at this point, we provide web accessibility services and a scanning tool. We work on supporting faculty to improve their course accessibility. We offer digital production and captioning service. And we provide now procedures for procurement, accessibility guidelines for procurement of e-tools.

So we just want to make this differentiation with you, so you can have a clear picture of where we stand when we talk about developing the plan. So what’s within this larger goal to serve the entire campus community that our leadership decided to put together IT accessibility committee in March of 2015 when we selected about 20 individuals from all different units on campus. And we began to look at what will be the different areas that we want to focus on for our plan. And what I want to emphasize is that we developed this plan as a proactive measure.

A lot of universities– and it’s very common that, once someone has a complaint from the Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights or the Department of Justice, that organizations, including universities and school districts, they create plans and guidelines to respond to those complaints. And I hope that these plans can serve everyone, independently of us just being reactive to litigation.

So I was out of– again, the leadership commitment within the Division of Information Technology, especially Dr. [? Marshall ?] [? Bevader ?] and Dr. Eric Denna, who really stood for improving the services and tools offered by the IT and really improving IT accessibility on campus. We started the work in March of 2015, and the plan was approved in November, 2015 by the Information Technology Council and by the President’s Commission for Usability Issues.

You’re going to get a link of the three-year accessibility plan, so you can see in detail each area and the goals that we establish within the plan. The five areas where we focus on the plan are web accessibility, multimedia development, e-learning tools, course redesign and course design, and the adaptive technology tools. I’m going to share with you, for each area, the principles that we establish in the plan and where we are at right now, in terms of the implementation. What is the progress that we have made in this past year and a half?

So I want to start by sharing with you about web accessibility. And from all the areas, this has been an area that we have invested a lot of effort. And it was one of the primary focus.

So within web accessibility, the two primary principles there are that we are going to web accessibility standards. They should be widely recognized throughout the campus community. And that our web designers, developers, and web content managers, they should be able to scan and fix existing any websites, and also the web applications for common accessibility guidelines.

Where we are at within that plan is that, this past December, we were able to pass the University of Maryland Web Accessibility Standards, which is based on the WCAG 2.0, Level AA, as a primary standard. We know that that’s now with the Section 508 refresh. That’s also a standard that the Federal government established as a guideline. So for us, this is what we have our standards.

I want to share here that we were pursuing a policy. And as we know, we know there are so many different steps in order to have a policy passed. And we are still working towards that, but we want to have the web accessibility standards in place, as we work towards all the steps that are needed to pass a policy, so we can actually begin to take action and have a document that would guide all units on campus to make improvements on web accessibility.

We are piloting enterprise-wide license software that will enable University of Maryland users to scan the websites and applications for accessibility compliance. So we hope that we’re going to have that tool fully working. And we can choose actually which tool we’re going to be using for scanning websites, hopefully, very shortly.

We are currently designing our web accessibility plan, auditing our websites. We are creating different structures for reporting, and we are looking at– we already have a list of all our units, academic and administrative units, a list of our domains, and looking at who is accountable for what. And we already started providing training.

One of the challenges at University of Maryland, as you can imagine, is that we do not have a centralized way to– our websites are not centralized. So with that model, we have thousands and thousands of pages under the umd.edu domain, which makes challenging for us to hold every user, every faculty accountable for accessibility. But we are certain that, with the measures, and especially with the– I would say that probably, we have control of 95% of what is out there in the web, that we’re already making a lot of progress.

Partnerships in all the areas with all the campus units are essential in this implementation process. University Relations is a big partner of ours. And again, as I shared, we’re already providing a lot of training and workshops.

The next thing I want to share with you is multimedia development. And the two principles that guide our actions in the plan are the technological resources for closed captioning and audio cap descriptions should be made available for instructors. And the academic and administrative units should make existing and new public, procured and developed, multimedia accessible when possible.

So when you think about multimedia development, we were able to establish that all of the video produced by the Division of Information Technology to instructors is now captioned. The University and University Relations also aligned that all the public videos that are coming out right now, I would say, probably the last two years, everything that is coming out is coming out with captioning. We have developed resources and training. We provide training and knowledge articles and resources on how to caption yourself.

I mentioned, in a couple of slides before, that both us, the Division of Information Technology and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, they provide captioning. But none of that is free of cost. So we do not have currently centralized funding to provide captioning. So each department, they have to pay for captioning on their videos, or each unit have to pay for that. But we now, on campus, have that service available.

We are exploring models for captioning transcription services. One thing that I want to also clarify is that, if a faculty has a student who requires captioning as an accommodation, the Accessibility and Disability Support Service, they cover the costs for that. So it’s not that the faculty [INAUDIBLE]. Anybody who has a student will have that paid for. But we are now exploring models for captioning and transcription services that can be available. So prioritizing captioning has been another very important focus area for us, both captioning and other description as well.

Another area in the plan are the e-learning tools. And the two principles are that the e-learning tools, the existing and new tools, should meet accessibility requirements for compliance, and that faculty and staff that are currently using e-learning tools, that do not meet appropriate requirements, should provide alternative tools. So our two actions that we took on that area– one of them is that now we have set guidelines for procuring accessible technology. And we have developed accessibility compliance checklists for evaluation and testing of tools and software.

So when the Division of Information Technology, now, when we have a request for a new tool, as part of the compliance evaluation, the University has a checklist for security, for FERPA. And now, we do have one for accessibility that we do send for vendors. And then we look at a checklist. There is a document that’s called VPAT that includes all the Section 508 standards for accessibility. And that has already been a big step on ensuring that our newly purchased e-tools are being evaluated for accessibility.

And also, we are creating documentation and working with faculty and staff to really begin to look at alternative tools and strategies to provide similar functionality of specific tools, or replace the non-compliant tool with new tools. So that’s ongoing happen, the process.

And I’m going turn now to Susan Johnston. Sue’s going to share with you a little bit about the course design, and course redesign, and some of the principles and what we accomplished in that area. Sue?

SUSAN JOHNSTON: Sure. Thanks, Ana. So as an instructional designer, I just want to say, it’s very gratifying that course design was identified as an area that needed this attention. And as such, we identified about three different principles– first, that web-based instructional materials should be accessible. And you’ll see there on the slide, it says ELMS. And the ELMS stands for Enterprise Learning Management System. That’s something that, here at University of Maryland, we’ve been using that phrase for many years. And basically, no matter what learning management system we’re on, we refer to it as ELMS.

But currently, we’re using Canvas. So we have faculty who use the learning management system in a variety of ways. Some use it to its full potential, and others just use it to post their readings. But the basic principle there is that anything that is posted in that learning management system should be accessible.

Another principle is that instructors should have abundant and usable resources and information to help them designing and redesigning their accessible courses. And then, lastly, that instructors should have abundant learning opportunities and personalized instructional design services, in order to make their courses accessible.

So to implement those principles, we’ve accomplished a few things. And we’ve got quite a few things that are in the works, at various stages. But one of the first things we did was we created an accessible course checklist for faculty to just get a sense of what they need. And included in that is not just what is required to be accessible, but also user experience and universal design, to make sure that courses are as inclusive as possible to anyone who’s using the content.

And at the time, we didn’t really have a place to make that available online. So as a temporary solution, we created a blog where we posted the accessible course checklist and links for– we’re telling you need to make your Word document accessible. You need to know how to do that, so we would link out to instructions on how to do that.

We also have implemented something called the Design tool in Canvas, and that includes an accessibility checker, which is not the most powerful accessibility checker out there, but it does look at the basics. So it does look for alternative text on your images. It checks for descriptive links.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Will it contrast?

SUSAN JOHNSTON: Yes. And actually, it is very good on identifying color contrast to meet WCAG requirements. So that is in place now. We’ve got that up and running now.

The accessibility training of instructional designers– so as Ana mentioned, I work in the Division of Information Technology, so I work across campus. But I’ve work with six other instructional designers in my group, and then we have instructional designers across campus. So we’re really making accessibility something that every instructional designer on campus has a fundamental understanding of the requirements and the best practices.

And doing that, we do consultations, one-on-one consultations. We do workshops and trainings. We’ll go out and do individual trainings. We’ll do small groups. We’ll do anything anybody wants. We are here to provide that support for faculty and staff.

And then the last thing is, we’re excited we’re implementing a couple of new things that University of Central Florida has developed specifically for Canvas. One is called UDOIT, which many of you out there may be familiar with. It’s a pretty robust accessibility checker and also provides an easy way for faculty to fix any issues that are discovered in their course. And it does a course-wide check. So you run this tool, and it scans everything in your course– well, just about everything in your course– tells you what’s wrong, and for most instances, it actually gives you a button to fix it. That’s very simplified, but that’s basically what it does.

And then the last thing is also a quiz extensions tool, which is a pretty neat thing that will allow you– if you have students in your course who need extended time on their assessments, it’s real easy to use this tool. Set that up at the beginning of the semester, and you’re done. So you don’t need to worry about that for every quiz. So some of those things are further along than others, but there are definitely a lot of exciting things coming.

ANA PALLA-KANE: Great. Thank you, Sue. And I’m going to continue. I’m Going to share with you the last area on the plan, which is adaptive technology area. So right now, the Accessibility and Disability Service, they have the adaptive technology lab. And most of the adaptive technology is provided by them. And so in this area, there is a partnership between– and we work together between us and our Accessibility and Disability Service, which is within our counseling center.

So the primary principle in this area is that students, faculty, and staff, and visitors with disabilities should have equal opportunity to attend, interact, and succeed through access to the University of Maryland adaptive technology resources and services. So we are looking at identifying existing assistive technology tools– and I would say that also includes software– that are currently being used at University of Maryland, and assess how these resources are meeting the needs of our students, faculty, and staff registered with the Accessibility and Disability Service. So we’re looking at evaluating all that, and with that, looking at what we need to acquire newly, and what is the user experience within that service.

And we are developing a plan for procurement, deployment, maintenance of the adaptive technology at Maryland that is currently managed by ADS. One important aspect here is that we are looking at, how can we make those technologies also available to the large campus community? We do know that there are many individuals on campus that do have temporary disabilities. And many times, it takes a while for them to register for the Accessibility and Disability Service.

So we want to make sure that a lot of the technology, the ones that are most used on campus, that they are actually available throughout campus. So we are looking at different ways to identify who those are, and then looking at ways of purchasing those in the larger scale for the campus, and then making it available to our community, who might require those types of technologies.

So those are the five areas in the plan. One other aspect that I want to emphasize is the importance of really leveraging collective expertise and resources. Everything that we have done at Maryland, from the design of the plan and how we develop and make the choices in all the different areas, are a result of partnerships that we have and guidance that we get from our partners.

The University System of Maryland have IT accessibility guidelines for the entire system, that’s under development, which has guidance, similar guidance, to what our plan has for improving accessibility or actually to be compliant with accessibility standards. And the University of Maryland is part of the Big Ten. And we do have a Big Ten Academic Alliance. And I am part of the IT accessibility group. And being part of the group and using all the resources and sharing with the peers about everything that all the best practices, how they have overcome some of the challenges in all the areas I already shared with you have been fundamental for us to make the progress we have made in this last year and a half.

For example, the IT accessibility group– there was a subgroup within that group that created guidelines for procurement. And there is a document that guided me, particularly, because I’m the specialist for the IT, to really create, for example, the procurement checklist for checking accessibility. So using those resources and using those partnerships have been fundamental to gather knowledge, and best practices, and to learn from what already have been done, instead of having to reinvent a lot of the practices that we want to implement.

In terms of actions that I believe that have made the biggest difference is really determining and reevaluating priorities. When we designed the plan a year and a half ago, we had a vision with the plan that the plan has specific goals that we want to accomplish at a specific time. When we create any kind of plan, planning and re-planning is extremely important. And that has been a practice for us.

Collaborating with the units across campus– the Accessibility and Disability Service, the university relations, communications, the general counsel, procurement office, undergraduate studies, student affairs– there is a tremendous amount of collaboration and partnerships that we are establishing, and in an effort really to provide knowledge and awareness at all levels. When we started the work, there is some departments that we actually have to educate people about what we mean with IT accessibility. What is the implication of the plan? What is the implication of web accessibility?

And beginning, we need to change the view of accessibility or when people think about accessibility and different practices, really, as a financial burden. And I think another conception is really that it’s just so much work. And in our experience, I’m going to say it’s not that it is. It is. It requires work, but I think that the more we can implement practices from initial design of anything, of a course about a website that is being made, the less of a financial burden it is, the less of hard work it becomes. So I would say that changing that view and changing people’s attitudes around accessibility, it’s been primarily a focus of, as we begin to launch all these different areas that we want to implement and improve on accessibility.

Also, as I shared before, connecting with, seeking support inside and outside of the University. I mentioned about the University of Maryland, about the Big Ten Academic Alliance. EDUCAUSE is another great partner that provides so many resources. The National Federation of the Blind– we are very fortunate that we are less than an hour away from them and really participating in workshops and engaging with them to see how we can leverage the resources we have with the actions that will make the biggest difference and are going to have the biggest impacts. And keep focusing on our vision.

There’s times that we expect to make a bigger progress than we can, but it’s really the focus on the vision. And we have designed this graphic here to really look at how can we really enable inclusive digital environments? How can we provide accessibility for everyone on campus, for people of all abilities, for the people who we serve directly, for those who are our visitors?

And then, so with that, I just want to conclude the formal portion of this presentation and open for questions, because I think that can be also very valuable for everybody.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Yes, perfect. Thank you, so much, Ana and Susan. We have a lot of questions coming in. Someone is asking, what was the process to put web accessibility standards in place? Would it be better to have a policy or standards?

ANA PALLA-KANE: It’s always better to have a policy. But the process of having a policy– it’s just a little longer. At least for us, it requires that our Senate approves. And there is a lot of different steps.

When we begin to create the policy– and we again, right now, we are looking into moving from standards to policy– we want to have something in place as soon as possible. You don’t want to wait that year to have something available to the campus, so that’s why we chose to have the document with the standards available first. But in terms of accountability and resources, the policies is the way to go. And I anticipate that we’re going to have a policy soon.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Perfect. Thank you.

ANA PALLA-KANE: And one thing I also want to say is that our document standards is available, just to make sure, Sofia, that that’s available.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Oh, yes, we have shared it with the audience. And you can just look at the chat to look at the documents that Ana and Susan [INAUDIBLE].

ANA PALLA-KANE: One addition I want to make to that question is that, when we started the process of designing our policy document, we looked at our partner institutions from the Big Ten. And all their policies and standards they all listed on the websites. And we really begin to look at what do they have in order to draft our policy, which now is in the draft form. But then, that also generated our standards document.

And because different states have different standards, have different legislation, I would say that different people have differences in how they wrote their policies. But the Big Ten universities, let’s say most of the universities now have a policy that can also be as a resource for everyone.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Great. Thank you. Someone is asking, how did you define the members of your IT accessibility community?

ANA PALLA-KANE: So we want to have as large a representation as possible from campus. And we started with recommendations from the assistant vice-presidents, from University Relations, from Student Affairs, and within the DIT. And we have someone from Procurement. We have someone definitely from the Accessibility and Disability service. We did have faculty and staff representation. We had a manager for [INAUDIBLE] programs initiatives. So we just want to have as large a representation as possible of people who could represent the different areas that we want to have included in the plan.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Perfect. Thank you. Someone is asking, how did you work with IT to get this partnership off the ground? With difficult circumstances and difficult personalities, it’s hard for a school to get the conversation going.

ANA PALLA-KANE: Yeah, I would say that, because of Dr. [? Marshall ?] [? Beveder, ?] which is our assistant vice president, he understand that this should happen. And then our CIO, Eric Denna, so both of them were on board that we should start this work. I think because it came from them– and then University Relations with Assistant Vice President, Brian Ullmann, everybody was aligned. And Dr. Linda Clement from Student Affairs, I think everybody was aligned that we needed to improve, I think, because it came from the leadership. And I think, if you don’t have the leadership alignment, I think that’s where our work with awareness and sharing the importance of IT accessibility beyond the fear of litigation– that’s what needs to happen.

We are able to also connect our IT accessibility goals to the university’s strategic plan. And I would say that that’s what gave the power to the document, what actually generated some resources, so that I was hired. Then, Sue was able to also work with us and have her duties, within being Instructional Designer, being dedicated for course redesign and accessibility, that we were able to change, at least within the Division of Information Technology, our procedures of procurement to include accessibility checks, as part of our process.

So if your university don’t have the alignment of the– I would say it has to go to the provost, the vice-president. But if you don’t have that alignment, I would say that that’s where the work needs to begin to happen. And I would say that, through my years of advocacy for inclusion and accessibility in in different areas, I would say, in my career, just don’t give up. We can give up in our work sometimes. We can get discouraged sometimes, when we don’t get things happening as fast as we wish. They will happen.

But I was recently with some of our colleagues from our IT accessibility group from the Big Ten, and I would say that a lot of us shared similar frustrations sometimes. But at the same time, I can say that I’m fortunate to be here at Maryland, because our leadership has really embraced the cause. And I think that the leadership can also see the ripple effect. And they can also see how a lot of the accessibility work that we have been doing, how that serves not only our population disability, it serves the entire campus. So I think that’s what had us, within IT and within the Division of Information Technology.

One challenge that we have, as I shared with you, we have a decentralized website system. We also, when we think about procurement, not all procurement of all the tools comes through us. So the education of other departments and really keep standing that they will also implement those changes is extremely important to also address.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Great. Thank you. Someone is asking, do you have funding for your accessibility committee?

ANA PALLA-KANE: So the accessibility committee specifically didn’t get funding. And the Division of Information Technology has some funds that, I would say, that once we had the plan, that enabled them actually to hire me. And we have some money, not much, to implement the web scanning tool that I shared earlier. But for example, we don’t have the budget that we would need to put in place everything that we believe will be needed to go above and beyond the goals of a plan.

When someone asked earlier about the policy, one of the implications about passing a policy is also to have the structure behind to implement that policy. Because once we say, all units on campus, they have three years to make sure that all your websites are in compliance with the standard for web accessibility that we are setting on the document, the campus needs to be financially and have the structure of personnel and tools needed at the University, or by hiring some external company, to really provide those services.

So that’s when the budget constraints occur. Some of the things that we have been doing– I don’t have the figures right now, but I would say that most of them did not include the large investment from the University.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Great. Thank you. Someone is asking, can you share your IT procurement accessibility checklist and documentation?

ANA PALLA-KANE: Yes, I can. And Sofia, what’s the best? Do you want to share– I can share with the person specifically, but I think it might be valuable to share with the entire group, so I can send you the link. And can you make it available tomorrow?


ANA PALLA-KANE: When you [AUDIO OUT] documents.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Of course, yeah. When we send the presentation link, we’ll add these documents as well in the email to everyone in the audience.

ANA PALLA-KANE: Great. And if anybody needs any other documentation too, our contact is itaccessibility@umd.edu. People can make any requests through that account, as well.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Perfect. Someone is asking, for math and engineering courses that are equation-heavy, do you supply MathML to all of your math/engineering faculty? Currently, we have a lot of instructors submitting images of equations without alternative text.

ANA PALLA-KANE: Yeah. So I wanted to be clear that, within the IT, my role is not to– we don’t have the ability and the personnel to go to each department, each faculty. And that would be, I would say, our goal, that people actually would be implementing all those appropriate practices in all the courses, including math and engineering. Accessibility– it is a challenge in math, and engineering, and music, and how we’re going to code and translate all of that into accessible formats. And I would say that that, specifically when something is related to accommodate into a specific course, our Accessibility and Disability Service have been the ones accountable to provide alternative formats.

We are creating– again, I just want to stress, we are creating a lot of knowledge articles. So if you go to our IT www.umd.edu website, and if you go into Find Services, there is also a link to our IT library. We are increasing the number of IT accessibility articles that give guidelines to faculty, to web designers, on how to make websites or course accessible, or what is the appropriate alternative text for an image, which is a part of the question.

Still, we do not have– I’m not saying even we at the IT. I would say that the campus doesn’t have the service where we can actually hold faculty accountable to provide that. There’s about 4,600 faculty, not counting all the instructional faculty. So I think that’s a challenge. But I think that the more we have, the more trainings we offer, the more our visibility on the web is, the more our campaign within web accessibility and course redesign accessibility, the more we expand our reach, the more those programs would have the benefit of faculty actually doing their work to increase the accessibility.

We hope that, for those who use our Canvas, that, once we launch UDOIT, which is going to– our efforts to advertise UDOIT and train faculty how to use UDOIT, the faculty will begin think about how they are setting their spaces, what kind of formats they are giving for documents, Word documents, PDFs, which is another area that is extremely important.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Perfect. Thank you. Can you tell us what software you’re piloting for scanning websites?

ANA PALLA-KANE: We are piloting different ones. The University of Illinois has the FAE, which is the Functional Accessibility Evaluator, which is a free software. So I’m piloting that. Compliance Sheriff is another one that we pilot. Siteimprove is another one. So yeah, we have done trials and demos. And so we are in the process of that.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Perfect. Someone’s asking, my JAWS users have had a very difficult time navigating Canvas. Do you have any suggestions?

SUSAN JOHNSTON: Well, hm. Yeah. Ana’s saying, that’s you, Sue. Canvas itself– the layout of Canvas itself should be pretty accessible to JAWS users. What we find is it’s the content that people put inside of it is where they run into accessibility issues. So that kind of speaks to that area where we said, committing ourselves to making all instructional content in the LMS accessible.

So I would focus on what’s being put inside of Canvas. And that’s where something like the UDOIT tool IS really good for scanning that content. It scans the PDFs that are loaded in there. It scans for videos. And it does scan for content on the Canvas pages. So I believe it scans for Color Contrast, and if it runs into issues with the hierarchy, with the structure, with links, those kinds of things. So I guess my advice would be to make sure that what it’s running into is not Canvas itself, but the course content that’s being loaded into Canvas.

ANA PALLA-KANE: And if it is something that is part of Canvas itself and the structure, they have been very responsive to us every time that we made any recommendations from our users, both from faculty and students with disabilities, that might need accommodation or might not be running into issues. They’ve been very responsive to us. So my recommendation would be to contact them.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Great. Thank you. Someone’s asking, do you have feedback about UDOIT? How do you plan to train all faculty on UDOIT?

ANA PALLA-KANE: So it was just last week that we got the code. And we are working now on developing the documentation for it. And we are going to have training sessions. Sue, do you want to speak a little bit more on that?

SUSAN JOHNSTON: Sure. So the group that I work with is called Learning Technology Design. And we actually run workshops and do trainings any time that the university rolls out something new. So when we rolled out Canvas, for example, we were moving from Blackboard to Canvas. So we have a pretty good system of running workshops, of marketing it here on campus. We use our folks out in the various colleges and schools across campus, who come to monthly meetings. And we’re all on listservs together.

We use those folks to– first of all, we train them. And I think some of them are on the call today, so you know who I’m talking about. We train them in these tools. And then we also use them to kind of get the word out to their faculty about trainings.

And then, again, because there are seven of us in my group, we’ll go out and do workshops. We’ll do trainings. We’ll do one-on-one consultations for anybody who has questions or runs into issues.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Great. Thank you. We have a couple more questions. Someone’s asking, does the accessibility checker only check the HTML written within Canvas? Or does it also check all attached documents?

SUSAN JOHNSTON: I’m guessing you’re meaning the design tool accessibility checker.

ANA PALLA-KANE: Would you repeat the question, please?

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Yeah. Does the accessibility checker only check the HTML written within Canvas? Or does it also check all attached documents?

ANA PALLA-KANE: So I would say both of the tools that– so the design tool that is part of– the design tool that is the design tool within Canvas, that is called the Design Tool. It checks only HTML within the wikis or whatever page you’re in in Canvas. And it will check for color contrast, [INAUDIBLE] for broken links. It will check for if a picture has alternative text or not. And this is what it does and shows you how. You do it– you can make a choice of what sections in your course you want to look it, but it also only looks at HTML. It does not look at the documents that are attached into your course.

SUSAN JOHNSTON: I think what it does do is it identifies that there are PDFs here. So it kind of flags them, but it leaves you, as the user, to then do an accessibility check on them.

ANA PALLA-KANE: And I also would flag– you do flags for videos and if they are captioned or not, which is a great plus.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Thank you. Someone’s asking, who pays for the captioning of materials created on campus, either lectures that are recorded or other videos?

ANA PALLA-KANE: So if a faculty has a student who requires captioning as part of their accommodation, and so the accessibility and Disability Service pays for that for the faculty. And there is a way that they do for faculty to make the videos. And that is any video that faculty has. It can be the faculty can use Canvas or not, so any materials the faculty is using.

And that also would include– for example, let’s say that someone has a PDF that’s been scanned and is an image. And they have a student who is using Kurzwell, and they cannot use that software to read the document. The Accessibility and Disability Service provides alternative documents, alternative format for documents, and also captioning for videos.

Faculty who want to caption their videos, because it’s a good practice, they have to fund that through their departments, or on their own. And we have created documentation to show faculty how to caption, how to do it yourself.


SOFIA ENAMORADO: Great. Thank you.

ANA PALLA-KANE: Unfortunately, we don’t a centralized funding on campus to provide captioning to faculty.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Perfect. Thank you. Someone’s asking, is your university 504 coordinator located within the Accessibility and Disability Services office? Also, do staff/faculty and students go to the same office to request ADA accommodations?

ANA PALLA-KANE: So can you repeat the first part of the question? There’s two parts there.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Yeah, of course. Is your university 504 coordinator located within the Accessibility and Disability Services office?

ANA PALLA-KANE: Yes. So let me just answer that. So yes. So the 504 coordinator is within the Accessibility and Disability Service office, which is within our counseling center.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: And the second part was, do staff/faculty and students go to the same office to request ADA accommodations?

ANA PALLA-KANE: Correct. From my knowledge, yes.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Perfect, thank you. Someone’s asking, how large is the disability services staff?

ANA PALLA-KANE: I’m going to– I’ll get back to you on that.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: OK. No worries. Someone else is asking, which standards do you use to align the accessibility guidelines, like Section 508, or WCAG?

ANA PALLA-KANE: Yeah, we use WCAG, which is W-C-A-G, 2.0, and level AA.

SOFIA ENAMORADO: Perfect. Thank you. Well, thanks everyone, for joining. And thank you to Ana and Susan for a great presentation.