Strategic Campus Collaborations: Advancing Knowledge about Accessibility at the University of Arizona [TRANSCRIPT]
PATRICK LOFTUS: All right, so thank you all for joining today in this webinar, entitled Strategic Campus Collaborations– Advancing Knowledge about Accessibility at the University of Arizona. My name is Patrick Loftus, and I’m from 3Play Media. I’ll be moderating today. And today, I’m joined by Dawn Hunziker, who is the IT Accessibility Consultant at the University of Arizona. And with that, I’ll go ahead and hand it off to Dawn, who has a great presentation prepared for everyone.
DAWN HUNZIKER: OK. Hello, everyone. Let me share my screen so that you have the presentation. And like Patrick said, I’m Dawn Hunziker, and I’m the IT Accessibility Consultant at the University of Arizona. And today, I just really want to talk about how networking across campus has really improved our awareness about accessibility and has opened up a lot of doors where individuals– you know, as I attend meetings, or I’m walking across campus, and someone says, oh, I needed to talk to you, and we have those quick conversations, so– and that’s really the goal of the presentation today.
So we’ll– oh, it’s not moving forward. There it goes. So some objectives for today’s project is to– I want to give you an overview of the itAccessibility structure and our top-down, bottom-up approach, and then also about our strategic collaborations and participation in campus projects towards increasing accessibility, and just networking across campus in general. And then the impact achieved in the academic and EIT– the Electronic and Information Technology environments. I mean, oh my gosh, I was talking to Patrick just before the webinar started, and we were talking about how this accessibility initiative just isn’t slowing down, and all the great work that’s happening across campus, and it’s just a great time to be involved with itAccessibility.
So this is changing, and it’s in the process of changing. I’ve added a few extra placeholders– chairs, if you will– and what this is showing is our itAccessibility Steering Committee and who that committee– who is serving on that committee. And right now– and I see that we– I want to let you know that we have a new president for the university, and he’s just starting this summer. In fact, I think he started June 1, or right around there.
And then the other thing that has happened is, we had a job posting for our chief information officer. And during our interim process, where we had a transition between our– our chief information officer left and went to work for another institution back east. We asked our dean of libraries, and she had just come on board to serve as an interim chief information officer.
And after having nationwide search, the university is really taking a unique approach in our chief information officer, our technology officer position, in that we now have a Vice President for Information Strategy and University Libraries. So Karen Williams is actually overseeing both the library, and our central IT area, and our IT initiative across campus. And it’s a really unique approach to IT, and we’re really excited to see this, because what we’re seeing is that the libraries are playing such an important role in the function that’s happening on Central Campus in terms of space for Central’s collaborative learning spaces, and loaning of laptops, loaning of equipment, technology for students, and providing those resources. So we’re really excited to have her in that position.
The other position that’s on there that is from our Central IT, our UITS unit, is the Executive Director for Campus IT Operations. And Tom is really our person, our liaison, between IT staff– we’re a very decentralized campus– IT staff and that Central IT unit. And UITS is really working to change how they work. They want to be a resource. They want to be part of our IT world.
And we’re really working to not be– we don’t want to be a centralized IT unit, but we want to be very connected. We want to make sure that IT staff in one unit know what IT staff are doing in another unit, and can we collaborate on implementing a software, developing software, whatever the case may be. So that’s really Tom’s role in serving as that liaison between the two units.
We obviously have our ADA/504 Coordinator. We have the Information Security Office. And what we often see is that the Information Security Office and accessibility– the compliance, it goes hand in hand. And we’re really lucky to have an information security officer who is an accessibility champion. She created a checklist for procurement not too long ago, and accessibility was one of the items. Without even asking us and talking to us, she included it. And it’s wonderful to have individuals on campus that just have that ingrained, and that’s part of their work environment.
Then we have a couple of committees that are really– again, those information-sharing technology committees to make sure that everyone has the right information and is networking together. So that is our Dean’s IT Council, and then also the Administrative Technology Advisory Council. So we’ve got both academic units and non-academic units, is basically the way those two units break out. Office of General Counsel– we have a great partner with that office. And then obviously, Disability Resources, which has our director, and then also the itAccessibility program staff.
And the other piece of this that’s really, really cool is that our VP for Information Strategy and University Libraries is also chairing a senior vice president IT committee that has been charged by the provost. So again, that’s just showing how prevalent IT initiatives and discussions are on campus and how we’re really trying to pull together and make sure– IT is part of our everything that we do on campus anymore, and it’s just making sure that we’re all talking, and we’re all making sure that we have the information, in terms of what’s going on around campus.
Back in 2012, 2013, we went through a maturity model process to discover where we had major gaps in terms of accessibility and what we could do to approach those gaps. And like most units, most institutions, we discovered that the purchasing and procurement was really a low-hanging fruit, where we could make some radical changes right away in that area.
And we’ve had a few bumps in the road. I can honestly say that it has not been a smooth process, and it is still very much a work in process in getting that procurement and accessibility together, going and being active. But we successfully added contract language in our RFPs, and we created the VPAT for vendors to fill out if needed. I can say that sometimes we get some very interesting responses from vendors regarding the VPAT request, and that’s not something that’s changing.
We actually had a VPAT looking at having– doo doo doo, I’m trying to remember which one this one was– having a service that provides– well, it’s basically a form to be filled out online by individuals to provide information. And the vendors were basically saying, yeah, we use an operating system, and we use whatever browser comes on, and yeah, we don’t need to worry about this accessibility stuff. I was like, oh, wait, wait, wait, wait. Nope, wrong answer.
So you know, we’re going to push that back out as a clarification on that RFP and say, yes, you do need to respond. You need to talk about website content accessibility guidelines and what your knowledge is of that. Is accessibility built into your roadmap? If not, we want to partner with you. We want to work with you on this process. And I think that’s really the way that we’re approaching this, is we want to partner with vendors so that if they need someone to take a look at new interface or their design, yeah, we can take a quick look and give you feedback on your site, and then let’s talk about solutions if something isn’t accessible.
And I can say that that has turned out to be an absolutely wonderful relationship with some of the vendors that we’re working with on campus. And we’ve actually helped them improve their product. And they’re excited, and I’ll give an example later about our online test proctoring service and some of the stuff that we’re discussing with them.
But in terms of adding the purchasing and business managers, and in terms of adding that language into the RFP, what has happened is that we’re often included– an itAccessibility team member is included in the process. So we’re working with the departments where we may be part of putting together the requirements for the RFP and reviewing the applicants, or we maybe just pulled in– sometimes there’s 50 applicants, and I don’t really have time to review 50 applicants. Once they have their group narrowed down to 3, 4, 5 applicants, vendors, then that’s maybe when we come in.
So it really depends. I have to say that the RFP process is really a case-by-case basis in terms of how we approach the accessibility piece and how involved we are with the product. And it also depends on the knowledge of the committee in terms of accessibility.
Some of the more recent RFPs that we’ve had– I mentioned the online proctoring tool, and we ended up with Examity and that was– like I said, that’s turned out to be a great partnership, where we’re actually not only involved with assisting them and making sure their product is accessible, but also in terms of how information about a disabled student is displayed to instructors.
So as many of you know, a student in an English class may request accommodations, whereas for their engineering class, they don’t really want their instructor to know they’re a student with a disability. And the way that Examity had their system set up is that once the English professor would mark that student as requesting accommodations, then, if the engineering student is also using Examity, they would see that setting for the student.
We’ve actually changed that and worked with Examity to change the system, so that instructors don’t see students across the platform, so that if the English professor marks the student as requesting accommodations and requesting extended time, the engineering professor does not have access to that request, does not see that information. And that’s really keeping those accommodation requests to a class-by-class, unique student basis, which is fantastic.
We’ve worked with our Central IT office in terms of a common helpdesk for IT and making sure that there are solutions available for all IT to respond to requests, and that the user has the ability to provide or submit a request using multiple formats, whether it’s an email, a phone call, a web form. The user can really choose the method that works best for them to create that request, and check in on the request, as well.
We were involved in the campus-wide initiative for acquiring a synchronous meeting tool, which we ended up with Adobe Connect. And now we’re looking at adding Zoom as a synchronous meeting tool on campus. So we’re involved in that process and talking about accessibility of that product.
Digital asset management tools, and that was a fun group, because you got to say– you know, the acronym for Digital Asset Management is DAM, and you’re going to the DAM meeting. So that was kind of a fun thing to have. Everybody had fun with that.
And then the digital ecosystem evaluation– we were part of an evaluation of what we needed in terms of our learning management system– what tools needed to be part of that, and we talked about accessibility. That then led to an RFP looking at learning management systems and what we needed on campus, and we were very, very, very involved in that process. And that was a great opportunity to talk to others and find out what’s going on on campus and make sure that our solution was meeting accessibility needs for both students, and faculty, and staff, in terms of that back-end digital database access and development applications.
And then customer management systems, those are huge right now. And this is still a work in progress. We’re actually working on our next processes to set up a policy in our purchasing manual such that P-Card– anything that’s purchased for the university follows this purchasing manual, and that’s where we want to touch on P-Card purchases and purchase orders– those items that fall underneath that $5,000 limit, and even those that go beyond the $5,000 and $10,000, before you actually need an RFP. So we’re working towards having that.
And just like any other campus, that, oh my gosh, that P-Card, because someone pulls out a credit card, and they can order what they need, as long as it doesn’t reach $5,000. And that’s huge. So that’s a big hurdle to jump, and we’re still trying to figure out what the best method is for jumping that and getting awareness out on campus around that.
So I talked a little bit about our University Information Technology Services, our Central IT area, and that’s UITS, and oh my gosh, the great collaboration that we’ve had with them. On this screen, you’re seeing our mobile application, information security, our NetID+, which is our two-factor authentication. And we worked really closely with the unit in terms of the mobile device and the accessibility of that platform.
The NetID+, in terms of– it uses dual– I’m sorry, I’m blanking on the name– dual authentication, where it can push an authentication to your phone, or you can input a code for that secondary application, or it can call your phone. So in terms of the two-factor authentication, and we worked closely with them to make sure that not only the training and the resources were available, but the form to fill out and request and apply for the two-factor authentication was accessible. And that was just a great partnership between Information Security, UITS, and the DRC,
Again, I mentioned the common helpdesk, but we worked closely with our UITS to incorporate accessibility on a developer checklist. So as you’re checking your development process for x, y, z, security, you name it, accessibility is part of that. And then our team, our itAccessibility team, is incorporated as part of the testing when we’re going to upgrade to a new system, such as, we’re using PeopleSoft. They’re coming out with a new bundle on July 30, so we’re part of that testing team to make sure that whatever bugs have been fixed hasn’t broken the accessibility piece of the product.
And then another huge thing, and there’s actually a podcast in Freedom Scientific about this, is that Jeff Bishop was my colleague who’s leaving the University of Arizona, so we’ll have a job opportunity opening soon. But he worked really closely with our 24/7 support desk to make sure that JAWS was provided and available to provide that Tandem remote desktop support.
We’re using Bomgar, and that just isn’t accessible for that remote desktop, because once you– first of all, you can’t get to the window to grant access, but then you don’t know what someone’s doing on your computer. Others can watch, but if you’re blind, you don’t know what’s happening on your computer. Well, if you’re using a Tandem with JAWS, you can hear where they’re navigating, what they’re doing, and what changes they’re making to your computer, which is absolutely fantastic.
And then the other initiative that we’ve worked really closely on, we’re migrating to Office 365 and moving our email back into the cloud, and that has just been a huge, huge process for all IT across campus. And again, the itAccessibility team was very involved in that, making sure the trainings were accessible, if they were captioned, or if they’re describing processes, making sure that they’re described in a way that everybody can understand what option they need to choose, or how they can access stuff. And Jeff was just instrumental and part of the selection team in deciding to move forward with Office 365, because that was, again, another RFP that we participated in.
We have student fees that go towards the UITS, some of the services, just like student IT fees, just like other institutions. And those IT fees were actually a grant to help us acquire a text-to-speech program for the university. And then we have other initiatives that are happening through UITS, such as an innovative learning grant, where faculty who are wanting– they don’t necessarily have the department funds to be able to go through the– creating an innovative classroom space, and maybe they need to purchase– we have one unit that purchased Kubis, which allow– you hooked an iPad to that Kubi, and it basically gave someone– someone took over control of that Kubi, so they could manipulate that iPad so it’s just– it’s similar to the conference attendees, where they have the Segway with the iPad attached, and its just like that person’s walking around. You see that face. It’s just an application, it’s a desktop thing that sits on the desk, and it’s just like that remote student is right in the classroom with their peers.
And that was actually an innovative learning grant. And we looked at it in terms of accessibility and discussed those options. And being part of that networking group is wonderful. And then you’re part of that group that’s learning what’s happening on campus, what’s coming down the pipe, and you’re saying, oh, wait a minute. We need to check da, da, da, da, da. And it’s creating those partnerships that have just been key for those areas.
The other piece of the– earlier, I mentioned the Dean’s IT Council and then the ATAC, which is the Administrative Technology Council. Those two groups actually come together with our Central UITS units, our executive leaders. And it’s the IT Directors Council. And we have individuals from the itAccessibility team on that council, and actually, I presented yesterday about accessibility and some changes that were happening in captioning, and it was a great conversation. And this is with the leaders, the IT staff that are the leaders on campus. And what a great way to make sure that they are knowledgeable about what’s happening around accessibility.
So that’s kind of our Central IT. Now moving onto our non-academic department collaborations. As you can see, this is just a snippet of the areas that we’ve worked with. And we just have, again, fantastic relationships with everyone around accessibility. I already talked a lot about UITS, so I’m not going to cover that again.
But in terms of the libraries, we worked closely with the library to make sure that the summons search– book search came back, and it was accessible for someone using a screen reader, and accessibility in general. Provision of ebooks and making sure that we have options for someone to choose an accessible version of an ebook. There’s an initiative around open education resources, and we’re part of that team. And that’s that open textbook, that open-source textbook idea.
Collaborative learning projects– oh my gosh, the library, like I mentioned– and you’ll see a picture later– but the library has donated quite a bit of space towards our collaborative learning spaces, where we have faculty who basically flipped the classroom. Instead of lecturing during the class, they have students complete assignments and listen to lectures or watch videos of lectures before class, and then when the student comes to class, they’re actually participating in active learning guidelines.
So they may be working with a team to solve a problem and reporting back out to their classmates. They may be discussing a question that the faculty has them talk– so it’s a lot of small group work, and just interactive learning. And it’s just a fantastic thing to experience.
And then we have a space, it’s iSpace, and that’s really our virtual reality, a space for faculty to go in– you know, 3D printer– kind of the cutting edge of technology in an academic space. So it’s really giving the faculty a space to go in and experience some of those tools with their class and reserve that space for their class. And again, we’re part of that in terms of accessibility and looking at what different solutions we may need for x, y, z.
Our Office of Instruction and Assessment, what a great group of folks they are, because they’re working with our faculty on campus and making– collaborating with them so that they know about what we’re doing for captioning on campus, how to create an accessible PDF, universal design techniques. And because DRC, we have about 2,500 students throughout the academic year, so we work with quite a bit of faculty across campus. And it’s a win-win for both departments, because we recommend faculty talk with OIA about new techniques for instruction and maybe moving content online, and they refer faculty to us around accessibility. So it’s really a great partnership to have.
And you learn what the new pedagogy styles may be, or what the faculty are bringing onto campus in terms of new tools. That’s where you learn about the standardization of clickers on campus, and which one we chose, and oh, now we’re going to use this technology, PlayPosit, for being able to have a YouTube video where it pauses, and a quiz question or a comprehension check is provided right in the middle so that students can make– faculty can make sure that students are understanding the content of the YouTube video.
And just things like that that are just so innovative and so– it’s all technology, so we need to make sure that we test it for accessibility. And if it’s not accessible, what’s our workaround going to be? What’s our plan? What kind of plan are we going to– if we do have a student who’s deaf or hard of hearing, and it can’t be captioned for whatever reason, or a blind student in the course, what are we going to do to make sure that that assignment is equitable for every student and make sure that they have the same experience?
We actually have a lecture capture system, and we had an online student who needed to create a lecture capture presentation. And the instructor gave instructions for the students to use the built-in interface, which– our lecture capture system is Panopto, and that isn’t as accessible or user friendly as it could be. So what we told the student instead is, create your video on your phone, and then you upload it. I mean, that’s the workaround, and that’s the workaround that would work for anybody that didn’t want to use that built-in recorder, and that’s true for faculty as well. You don’t have to use that built-in recorder to make your video.
So things like that that we– we then reach out to the faculty member to make sure that they know that there’s different ways to achieve the same project, the same result. And then the key thing with campus collaborations is to know your support team, know who’s out there talking to faculty, know who’s out there talking to IT staff so that when they’re hearing about things that are happening, they can tell that person, oh my gosh, you need to be in contact with Dawn over at DRC so that she can help you about accessibility.
That actually happened just yesterday at the IT Directors Council, where we had the Honors College– we had an instructor in the Honors College want to use Adobe Sparks to create content for their honors colloquium and symposium. And I talked to the IT person and I said, OK, that’s great. That’s wonderful, that’s really innovative, just be aware that you want to make sure that that information is available in another location, because it’s not accessible yet.
So you want– again, I checked this like five, six months ago at this point, but you want to make sure that if they have a form for the student to fill out, that they need to have that either in the learning management system, or they need to have that in a website somewhere, so that someone can access it in a place other than the Adobe Sparks website location. And you know, super easy to do. You’ve already got the content online. You just need to throw it up someplace else.
And OK, and off he went. And he was glad to know that information. And that’s because I happened to be at a meeting before the meeting started, and we were all chatting. That’s how that collaboration is happening. It’s all just being out there, and being around, and just chiming in on conversations.
And it was actually– I actually asked him to backtrack, because I was kind of half listening, and I’m like, wait, wait, what are you talking about? And he mentioned, I’m like, OK, so this is what you need to know. So it’s not being afraid to step in and put your foot out there, and put your voice out there to say, OK, so what we need to think about is–
We worked with UA News around captioning. We are captioning the UA News content and making sure that anything that’s produced by UA News is captioned, as well as, because they’re posting content on the UA Facebook page, that content usually gets posted on Sundays, and it tends to be really popular stories. And we get 5,000 hits on that UA Facebook page in a heartbeat. So making sure that that is captioned right from the get-go. And that’s really been a great partnership, where the person that’s coordinating that Facebook page content is emailing us Tuesday or Wednesday with the link to the story, and we get it captioned. And then, because that story tends to be from another unit on campus, we’re also providing that captioned content to that unit on campus as well.
And then human resources– that’s your benefit options and electing those. PeopleSoft, in terms of turning in your time and making– accepting your appointments. Videos for training, the career application– all of that stuff, we’ve worked closely with human resources on that.
Think Tank was a fun project to work on. They actually approached us, and we were– again, this is another sidebar conversation that happened. The Think Tank individual was in a meeting with me, and I was talking about captioning accessibility, and she talked to me about this program where students who are at risk for failing, or being expelled from– not expelled, but academic disqualification from the University– they have this program, and it’s easily 600 to 800 students in a heartbeat for these lessons and these tutorials. And I said, let’s caption them. Let’s make sure that they’re captioned right from the get-go. And it’s something that’s not only beneficial for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, but it’s also beneficial for those students, maybe English is another language, or just for that interaction, so that I’m reading and I’m listening the content at the same time.
We’re working currently on emergency warning system accessibility, such that when a campus alert goes out, we have boards that have scrolling text– excuse me, scrolling text. And we want to make sure that if we have a faculty member in the classroom, that that announcement is also made as a voice announcement. And so we’re working with a vendor on that, and working– there’s a lot of technology glitches that are happening in that area, if you will, in terms of the two systems communicating together. And we’re really working with everybody. Fire safety is included in that discussion. So that’s really been a fun project to work on and problem-solve.
And then I was talking to Patrick earlier about this, but we have a– so we’re working with UA relations, our brand management, OK? And this unit is really focused on making sure that everybody has the resources they need to represent the university the way that we need to be represented in terms of our logo, our colors, what color scheme to use, resources, all that neat stuff. And what we are doing is, everybody– it’s kind of a grassroots. It’s led by this brand unit, but it’s really a grassroots approach as well, because you may have a marketing person that’s working in your department, and that marketing person is attending this committee, this group, to see what resources and what assistance they can provide to other marketers on campus. And it’s just been this fantastic collaboration.
And I was going to the meetings on a regular basis, right from the get-go, and I backed off a little bit. And last week, they sent out– I wasn’t aware this was going on, and they sent out a marketing symposium, third annual marketing symposium, and they’re changing it to a conference, because it’s getting so big. And they had all of these categories, these topics, and I went, oh my gosh, accessibility is in design of content. It’s in videos. It’s in this one and this one, and I thought, oh my goodness, we need to be there.
So I reached out to the marketing office and I said, hey, how can we incorporate accessibility? I want to incorporate accessibility into this. And we now have– and this is last-minute planning– and again, this just shows how important that collaboration is and being out and about campus. If I’d have been out and about on campus, and going to those meetings, because other things came up, and we’re all that way, right? But I would have known this was happening, and it could have been planned ahead of time.
But our campus is so– it embraces accessibility, and the marketing director just said, sure, let’s get you in there. I now have a 25-minute slot to talk about accessibility basics, and all I’m doing is saying, be aware of accessibility when you’re creating PDF documents. When you have videos, you want to look at captioning and give them some prioritization for what to caption. And we obviously want everything to be captioned, but sometimes that just isn’t as feasible as it can be, and that’s our work in progress for that. I’ll talk a little bit more about that in a minute.
And then we’re going to have a booth. So we’re going to be all over on that campus. And then we’re having a slide with two or three bullets that’s part of the marketing tool kit that all of these marketers are going to have. And the marketing directors are going to be there. There’s like 300– they’re expecting 300 staff to be at this symposium. And oh my gosh, what a great way just to network and put a face with a name that you’ve been talking with. You’ve maybe been communicating with them on a regular basis, and wow, fun, fun stuff– and just talking with people.
The other project that we have going on right now is a– it’s from [INAUDIBLE] and it’s a degree map program where the student can project when they would complete their degree, and what courses they need to complete their degree, how far along they are in their progress towards completing their degree. So we’re working with that unit in terms of the accessibility of the product.
And this has really been an interesting discussion, because what’s happening is, there’s a progress bar, if you will, but there’s no number associated with that progress bar. But the idea that we’re trying to get across is that if you look at that progress bar visually, you think, OK, I’m about half, I’m 2/3. So we want a number to be associated so that someone that doesn’t have the ability to see that progress bar can still have that same type of progress report information. So that’s been an interesting discussion, because it’s understanding both why they want to not have a number, but also having them understand why having that number is important. So it’s kind of a give-and-take conversation, if you will, and making sure that everybody is aware of everything– all the implications that are part of that.
The itAccessibility curriculum– oh my goodness, there is just so much going on in terms of curriculum and technology. You have lecture capture, you have VoiceThread, synchronous meeting tools. Some instructors are using the tools that are provided by the publishers. So it’s really making sure that you’re part of the discussion, part of the group that is supporting instructors, so that you know what’s going on, what’s coming down the pipe.
I mentioned PlayPosit earlier. Panopto actually has a quizzing feature where you can quiz the students as the video is playing, so they can respond to a question. And we’ve provided feedback to Panopto around accessibility of that, not only in viewing it as a student, but also creating it as a faculty member. So we look at both sides of all of this content.
And then captioning– itAccessibility, in terms of captioning, the way that we support that feature is, it’s when a deaf or hard-of-hearing student, or a student with a captioning or interpreter accommodation, is in the class. We’re still approaching classes on a case-by-case basis in regards to captioning. We would love to caption all of the content, but if you are part of EDUCAUSE, you saw a recent white paper that went out where we’re moving two terabytes of data. And I think that’s on a weekly basis, if I remember correctly. And that’s just– wow. If you can imagine captioning all of that, that would probably deplete your budget pretty quickly.
So we’re still approaching captioning in a classroom circumstance on a case-by-case basis. Now, we do have some units, such as the College of Law, who are providing classes and degree programs for international students, and they are choosing to caption the content on their own. So that’s part of what they’ve included in their plan, and that’s great. That’s absolutely wonderful to hear that, and it’s a great initiative to talk about on campus and make sure that others are aware of. And it’s just, again, that awareness factor.
I mentioned earlier about our collaborative learning spaces. This is actually some images from the beginning of the collaborative learning space, when we were trying out the space of the library. And this collaborative learning space actually holds 200 students, because we have instructors with several classes of 200 students that they’re having these interactive class activities happen. Obviously, they have several– you can see, on the picture on the right, you see several students walking around who are the preceptors, or faculty assistants, if you will. And then on the top, you see the iSpace. So you see that they have that multiple screen setup and just the ability to broadcast different content onto different screens, or have them all as one screen.
And then that also includes our mass– our open classes, MOOCs, and then our UA Online and Hybrid. The collaboration that we have with the UA Online and Office of Digital Learning is– oh my gosh, it’s stupendous. We work closely with the instructional designers so that, as they’re working with faculty to create new content for their course or to revise content for their course, we’re making sure that those PDF documents are accessible.
We’re making sure that the tools they’re using– again, if they’re not accessible, we have a plan in place so that if a student enrolls, we know what we’re going to do right from the get-go. We’re not spending three weeks to say, oh my gosh, is this tool accessible? Let us test it. OK, it’s not. Now what are we going to do? We know right from the get-go what we’re going to do for those classes.
And that actually requires– DRC is reaching out to faculty three to four weeks– actually, right about now, we’re reaching out to faculty for the fall semester to say, hey, you have a deaf or hard-of-hearing student or a blind student in your course. We’re interested to know what type of technology, what type of assessments you have in your course. And let’s discuss accessibility.
And then part of that, we often include discussion of universal design. You know, that’s just part of– we broaden the scope. A lot of times, we get requests for– well, I want to know about teaching a blind student. OK, but we’re not going to talk about just teaching a blind student. We’re actually going to talk about teaching and instruction for students with disabilities and all disabilities, because of the universal design, inclusive design, inclusive excellence. And once you guide instructors or departments in that way, they’re like, oh, oh yeah, OK, that makes sense. So we don’t want to focus and ever have a training specific to a specific disability.
Captioning– wow, captioning. So this is huge. I was talking to Patrick earlier, and we were approaching captioning in that we were going to have the DRC kind of serve as the resource– if you wanted something captioned, request it. We’ll take a look at it, and depending on the type of content, and your audience, and the numbers it’s going to outreach, we would prioritize it in our captioning queue.
Based on our recent conversation with administrators on campus, we’re now changing that approach, where we’re actually going to be kind of the outreach specialists, if you will, where we’re going to be outreaching to units. We’re going to be working closely with them, making sure they have the tools and resources. But the ultimate responsibility for captioning content is going to be the department or unit responsibility.
So that’s a big change for us from where we’ve been talking about captioning, and in the PowerPoint, you’re going to have the link to our commitment to captioning. We’re getting ready to send out a memo to campus around captioning, the priority and the responsibility that each unit has to make sure of captioning. I just recently mentioned this to the IT directors yesterday, and one of the questions was, well, what happens if we don’t follow that information? And I said, well, I said, the worst thing that happens is, we have an OCR complaint and a lot of negative publicity for the University of Arizona. So I said, you have to kind of weigh that when you’re considering not following accessibility.
And then it’s also the idea that you’re not allowing access to all your content. So in the marketing symposium, one of the biggest things I want to get across is that if you create your content to be accessible, you’re not only outreaching to someone who has a disability, you’re making sure that it’s accessible on a mobile device, on a Mac, on a PC. All of these things all merge together and work together. And if you approach one, then you’re going to hit all of them. And oh my gosh, you make sure your message gets received by everyone, which is great.
What I have discovered is that the discussions around captioning often lead– and it did yesterday as well– it often leads to other questions around accessibility. It often leads to discussions around technology accessibility, and oh, we’re going to do an RFP for this product. And so opening that door around captioning, and even just that general captioning, this question and information, I don’t leave it at captioning. I end up talking about other things that are happening, and what else can we can we work with you on, and what other kind of projects are you working on in your unit?
So some accomplishments– I want to make sure I leave plenty of time for questions, but the VPAT and the RFP process, our involvement in campus-wide technology decisions and purchases. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to a meeting, and I sit there for the entire meeting and think, oh my gosh, what am I doing here? I could have used this hour to do x, y, z that I had to finish, and I’m going to end up going home to finish.
But in that last five minutes of a meeting, that very same meeting, someone turns to me and says, I need to talk to you about da, da, da, da, da. And it sends us off on a whole other– you know, it’s yet another project, but oh my gosh, if I wouldn’t have been at that meeting, that discussion would have never happened, because it’s just being in the right place at the right time, and being out and about on campus. That’s the key to all of this– being part of all of that.
Access is part of the process, and making sure that people know that access is part of the process rather than an inconsideration. And we have several departments that can serve as models for that and can talk about the impact that including accessibility right from the get-go has had and how it has improved their products, rather than, oh my gosh, I’ve done this, and now I’ve got to completely change my whole look of the site because my navigation is inaccessible. Well, no, that’s not the way it works, and if you include accessibility right from the get-go, you launch an accessible website right from the start.
And part of that– so that UA creative team that I mentioned, where it’s all the marketers that are together, we actually had that same factor happen for website designers. And what we ended up doing is, we created a template for website designers, and that template was built as an accessible template right from the get-go. So if somebody applies that template to their look and feel of their site, barring alt tags– people add images and still forget alt tags– as many times as you talk about alt tags and alternate text for images, that still gets forgotten. But the navigation is accessible, the dropdown menus– all of that main content is accessible.
So just being part of that initial process, and making sure that the developers have the tools to create that initial accessible template. And then if something is inaccessible, color contrast is a great example. I mentioned it to someone who was a developer of that template. They went in and changed the template so that from now on, someone who is using that template doesn’t have that color contrast issue that I brought up. So it’s simple, and that’s one change, and it affects lots and lots of websites.
And then our accessibility champions circle continues to grow, and it just– every day, we gain individuals who are interested in accessibility and learning more about it. And continuing to grow, discussing that, so our areas where we really need to work at is working with faculty. And I think a lot of institutions are working at getting that faculty training, making sure that they have the tools and resources they need, and that they know that DRC is a resource for them.
So one of the things that I often work with faculty on is that, if there’s a student with a disability in a course, we’re not going to ask faculty to go in OCR and convert all of their documents into an accessible Word or text document or accessible PDF, because a lot of times, faculty are– we all know this– are using scans of scans and copies of copies of reading materials, and they’ve now put it up online, so it’s still the same old crappy copy.
And we’re working– we are the staff that are working to create an accessible version for the student for that. And then we provide a copy of that to the instructor so that for future classes, they can post that accessible version. So it’s just continuing to reach out to faculty and faculty groups to talk about, you know, a lot of times, journals now have accessible versions of the PDF. Go out and re-research for your document, and chances are, you’ll find an accessible version.
And captioning, and then publicity. It’s a big need. It’s a big challenge in getting the word out, and sharing information and resources, and making sure that those resources are available. That’s huge. And it’s just, that marketing, you kind of have to be a marketer, and a project manager, and all of that, all rolled up into one unit, right?
Methods that work– I talk about networking, communication. I send out a lot of emails. If I see an email that’s coming though on a listserv talking about x, y, z technology, I’ll send a quick response to say, and don’t forget about accessibility, and give them some resources, and just making sure you’re kind of keeping eyes on what’s going on around campus. I compare myself a lot to, like, a border collie, where I’m like, ooh, what’s that, and ooh, what’s going on over there? And that’s where we’re finding out what’s going on around campus and where accessibility needs to be incorporated.
Attend those optional meetings and information sessions. I talked about that. Sign up for campus-wide communication so you’re in the know. Even though it may flood your inbox a little bit, it still keeps you in the know on what’s going on. I’m part of listservs for IT, for faculty, for Office of Instruction and Assessment for the announcements that they’re sending out in training.
And then not being afraid to reach out when you see an issue. You need to be able to say, hey, I was on your website, and I see some color contrast issues. I’d like to talk to you more about that. Can we set up a time to meet? Can we talk by phone? If you’d rather communicate by email, I can give you some resources and tools for that. So it’s really just making sure– like I said, put yourself out there. Make sure that people know that you’re a resource.
We like to use a carrot, not a stick. We don’t want to be the big, bad accessibility cop, but I can be if you need me to be that. And then be prepared to fully participate to find a solution. You can’t just say, hey, that’s not working, and then step out of the picture. A lot of times, you need to be part of finding that solution and helping to discover what a reasonable workaround or a solution to that inaccessible website might be.
And don’t be afraid to step up. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve emailed someone and said, hey, I heard about this project, and I think we need to be at the table. And yep, we end up at that table, and it’s a good collaboration, yet another– again.
And then create your team. Include others from across campus. I have some individuals who have sent out accessibility information, like the open education resources. I’m not necessarily privy– I’m privy, but I’m not on top of what’s going on all in the open education resources, but the person who is then sent out something about accessibility and open education resources. So it’s building, making sure that they’re watching for that information as well.
There’s my contact information. Our website, itaccessibility.arizona.edu. It’s actually getting ready to be revamped a little bit so that we can match the content with the audiences, rather than having big buckets of lots of information that people have to wade through. So feel free to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org, or my email, my last name, email@example.com.
PATRICK LOFTUS: All right, great, Dawn. Thank you so much for that great presentation. I hope everyone took away something. And we’re going to get straight into Q&A right now. So–
DAWN HUNZIKER: All right.
PATRICK LOFTUS: So we’ve got a few questions coming in, and I definitely encourage people to continue asking questions throughout the Q&A. First question here is, what advice do you have, Dawn, for people who– I’m sorry, for DRC/IT workers when running into barriers like uninterested faculty and staff while trying to create a culture of collaboration at their institutions?
DAWN HUNZIKER: Wow. [LAUGHS] I have an interesting story. So we have a great partnership with our library, and we have it so that the library, in order to provide a resource to faculty, are actually captioning– so they’re providing a streaming video service. And if that original media has captions, that’s automatically incorporated into the recording.
And we actually had a faculty number that talked about how captioning, and having the captions on that video, that movie, distracted from the artistic effect of the movie. And I mean, he went clear, right to the dean to talk about this. And what we ended up doing is satisfying both parties, where we allowed faculty to request a non-captioned version, but what we’re doing is, we’re still providing the captioned version and a non-captioned version. So we’re kind of doubling our– well, we’re not kind of– we are doubling our storage space in respect to that movie, but if the faculty doesn’t want a captioned version, OK, here you go.
A lot of times, I can say that there’s a few faculty that we’ve had a run in, and you know lots of discussion around accessibility, and sometimes it’s meeting them halfway. Sometimes it’s reaching out to the student and saying, OK, student, this is what we’re going to do. And a lot of times, that faculty member doesn’t tend to be really student centered, so students end up dropping their course anyway if they’re not wanting to make sure that their learning materials are accessible for all of their students. I’m seeing less and less of that as we have more and more faculty who are retiring, or leaving the university for whatever reason, and new faculty are coming on board. And sometimes it’s just us.
One of the things I neglected to mention is that we have access. So if we have a student enroll in a course and the content is not accessible, we don’t have to ask permission from the faculty to be added to that course or to have access to that course content. We add ourselves to the course, which is D2L. We give ourselves permission to have access to the course content. We log in, we download, and we then provide the accessible version of the materials for the student.
And then a lot of times, it’s just having a discussion. We had a faculty member that was very upset with us, and basically told us that we were service personnel, and we needed to bend over backwards to help him. And that discussion went all the way up to the department head. We ended up going and talking to the faculty, the entire faculty department about accessibility and about students with disabilities.
And this professor, I totally intended to have another confrontation with him at this meeting, and he was just happy as can be. And sometimes, you’re that scapegoat where they’re just not happy, and you happened to call and contact that professor at the right moment. And yeah, I’ve been in situations like that, and sometimes you just tell them you understand, and please help us understand where you’re coming from and how we can help you. And sometimes you’re just that person. And sometimes it means taking it higher, and each situation is unique, right?
PATRICK LOFTUS: Mm. Very true. So a similar question is, just in terms of– did you encounter any pushback from anyone who didn’t think that accessibility was their problem, and how did you handle that?
DAWN HUNZIKER: I have to say that we are very, very lucky on this campus. The DRC has been on this campus since the 1970s, and we are one of the leaders in disability services across the nation. We make sure the campus is aware of that. And I don’t have very much pushback– and in fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had pushback from a website developer or anybody on campus in the last two years.
I mean, it’s just– they’re welcoming, because we don’t approach it as, you’re doing this wrong. You need to change this, this, and this. We approach it from a partnership. We want to work with you, we want to help you, we want to make sure that your site is available for everyone. And sometimes it does require having the ADA/504 coordinator reach out and talk about compliance. Sometimes it may involve ODC if it’s high enough.
But I can’t say that I’ve recently had anyone say, nope, we’re not going to do that, and that’s not our problem. I think that accessibility has been– and a lot of times, all you have to do is refer to some of the litigations happening across the nation now. And sometimes that’s a wake up call, especially when it’s coming not just from disability service type communications, but it’s EDUCAUSE. It’s Chronicle. It’s the bigger news– higher education news entities. And sometimes that gets the point across as well.
PATRICK LOFTUS: OK, thanks, Dawn. Someone’s saying, what comments can you make about how institutions can work together to promote accessible IT and to share the work they’re doing?
DAWN HUNZIKER: Oh my gosh. I wish– there’s been a lot of discussion around sharing of VPATs and sharing– because we’re all testing the same products for accessibility, for IT accessibility, and how can we share that information? And sometimes we’re under non-disclosure agreements, and that is an ongoing conversation. If you’re interested in participating in that, I’d encourage you to join the IT accessibility constituency group through EDUCAUSE, and that’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about.
We’re all converting the same books. Can’t we share that? Is there a resource, a central resource, where we can share that? Well, out of that conversation, we now have Accesstext Network, that is kind of serving as that warehouse, if you will.
We’re still– a lot of people, email listservs, they say, hey, does anybody have x, y, z book? But it’s getting better, and it’s moving more towards that arena, but we’re still not there yet. And we want to be there. We want to be there, and there is a group of individuals in that EDUCAUSE IT accessibility constituency group that is working to get us in that and move us in that direction.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Great, thanks, Dawn. And we’ll probably do about two or three short questions here. This one is pretty short. Someone is just asking, how many staff make up the itAccessibility team?
DAWN HUNZIKER: Currently one. [LAUGHS] We’re– Jeff Bishop, so there were two of us, and then our supervisor, who’s really more just kind of a– she’s not actually– yes, she’s helping us promote itAccessibility, but she’s more of that guiding figure, if you will. And she happens to be the ADA compliance officer. But Jeff Bishop is my colleague currently, until Friday, and then we’re putting a job posting out for that.
And right now, what I’m talking about, in terms of– I am seeing that it’s definitely a direct detriment to only having two individuals working in this capacity, and that’s why the accessibility champion, the accessibility liaison piece of that, in pulling these individuals together to help us share information and resources, is going to be so important for our decentralized campus, because everything that’s happening can’t happen with just two people. It’s just not reasonable to get everything done, and we’re having to put stuff on back burner and prioritize based on that.
PATRICK LOFTUS: And I also just wanted to mention, back to the previous question about collaboration, someone mentioned, you can join the ATHEN discussion list.
DAWN HUNZIKER: Yes, that’s another great listserv, and I’m actually vice president of that group. And that listserv, ATHEN, athenpro.org is where you can find out information on that. And that’s another great, great resource of individuals. And we’re also working with vendors and putting out white papers or reports around accessibility of technology as well. And trainings– we’re working on developing some trainings around accessibility as well.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Perfect. We’ll do two more questions here, and I think we’re going to have to move on. So do you find that relationships with other departments change over time as staff and leadership changes occur, or do you have a system in place to ensure that accessibility standards are maintained?
DAWN HUNZIKER: No, of course they change. Someone leaves, and their knowledge goes with them. But a lot of times, we– Think Tank is a great example. The person that I worked with to caption the academic content left, but their predecessor came on board and reached out to us and said, hey, she had this content captioned. I’d like to continue with that. Can you work with us on that?
So it’s really– and it’s not being afraid to say, hey, you’re new in the position. Come talk to us. And I’m actually in the process of developing some resource kits for new staff on campus to know, especially IT professionals. But I’m finding that it’s becoming less and less of a challenge, because, again, we’re building that accessibility champion and sending out emails. And as they get connected, they may see an email about us or about something around accessibility, and then they reach out, or I reach out to them, when they start asking a question about x, y, z. And it’s just reaching out and introducing yourself.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Great. Thanks, Dawn. And last question is, what advice do you have for newer IT on your campus that you’re currently dealing with that might be an issue for other universities coming up in the academic year?
DAWN HUNZIKER: New IT, wow. Website design is still big. Development– it really depends on what that new IT person’s role is going to be. But this– similar to the conversation I had about the Adobe Sparks product is– and it was funny. As much as I wanted to say it, it wasn’t me that said this. Somebody said, anytime you’re doing something new, talk to Dawn first. Talk to Dawn first.
And I was like, OK, that’ll work. It floods my inbox, or floods my voicemail a little bit, but that’s what it’s all about, is just saying– and it was a quick answer, a quick solution that I already had. And it’s just, my barrier is making sure that that information is out elsewhere so that I’m not the only one that knows that information. And that’s definitely something that I’m working on to change.
But yeah, it’s just making sure that that accessibility is part of their toolkit. And by having an information security officer and being part of the IT Directors Council, you’re in those big teams that, if that person is in a leadership role, they’re part of that discussion.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Great. Well, Dawn, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.
DAWN HUNZIKER: All right.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Great presentation.
DAWN HUNZIKER: Thank you, Patrick. Thank you, everyone, for attending.