Electronic and IT Best Practices
There are different strategies and solutions for addressing electronic and information technology (EIT) accessibility at the institutional level. Regardless of which specific strategy a college employs, setting goals is an important step towards building a more accessible EIT environment. The reality is that you are not going to make everything accessible overnight at your college, yet by establishing realistic and achievable accessibility goals, it is possible to make significant progress towards an inclusive campus setting.
The following recommendations provide a starting point for colleges and districts in building that accessible EIT campus environment. Regardless of your college's current strength, these best practices outline just one set of ideas for consideration.
Identify a Person
An "IT Accessibility Officer" can help promote the topic of accessibility at the campus and it is critical that such a role not exist in a vacuum. This individual would not be expected to know how specific screen-readers function or the code necessary for keyboard accessibility on a website, but rather to coordinate and facilitate the institutional conversation specific to EIT accessibility. Possible responsibilities could include:
- Lead a campus EIT accessibility committee or working group
- Engage other constituent groups across campus that are involved with student services
- Oversee EIT accessibility compliance documentation
- Participate in the evaluation of exception requests
Create a Policy
Another best practice is to develop board policies (BP) to help shape broad institutional goals and influence compliant decision-making. Administrative procedures (AP) can then provide more specific details regarding specific technology and accessibility standards.
Board policy under Business and Fiscal Affairs can help define expectations as it relates to procurement and contracts with vendors. Administrative procedures may then provide specific language and accessibility standards to which vendors are expected to conform.
Board policy for the General Institution can set expectations regarding the institutional approach to EIT accessibility. Administrative procedures under the General Institution may then provide additional details and standards related to Web accessibility and other IT-related systems.
- General Institution Board Policies & Administrative Procedures - Cerritos College (Please see BP 3411, AP 3411, & AP 6365)
- Board Policies & Administrative Procedures - Santa Barbara City College (Please see AP 3730)
- Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Policy - George Mason University
- EITA Policy and Procedures - University of Montana
Define a Process
While having policies is helpful to establish institutional expectations, defining internal processes is a necessity towards making achievable progress for campus EIT accessibility. At least two processes to address include the internal procurement of EIT resources and the external opportunity of website visitors to report a complaint or issue.
The procurement process offers the opportunity to review any potential products and services for accessibility prior to purchase. Integrating accessibility into the procurement process should not require a complete overhaul of how procurement is managed at the college. Rather, documenting accessibility functionality can often be inserted as an additional checkpoint during the overall process. Strategies to consider include:
- Inform the vendor of the need for accessibility documentation. For large-scale web applications, consider requesting documentation from a third-party evaluation company.
- Verify a vendor's claims by asking questions or requesting a demonstration of the product highlighting accessibility features or use with assistive technologies.
- Include accessibility language and requirements as part of the contract process.
Reporting a Complaint or Issue
Most websites provide the opportunity for site visitors to provide feedback or comments to the college, however, what is not always well defined is how to support feedback or complaints related to an accessibility issue on the site. Colleges should provide a web page that outlines the institutional approach to accessibility as well as contact information or a response form for reporting an accessibility issue. When an accessibility complaint or feedback is received, it is important to have in advance a designated response process to support the needs of the individual.
- CCC Technology Center Accessibility page
- CCC Chancellor's Office Accessibility information
- Stanford University Accessibility site
- University of Colorado, Boulder Accessibility site
Conduct a Technology Overview
Separate from establishing policies or procedures, it is necessary to understand the current state of EIT accessibility at the institution. Performing a technology overview or audit can identify what EIT resources are in use by students, faculty, staff, and members of the public as well as which of those EIT resources may pose access issues.
A simple starting point is to scan and evaluate your public-facing web presence to identify current web accessibility issues. Site-wide evaluation tools and in-browser evaluation tools offer automated techniques for evaluating website accessibility. Manual evaluation procedures can augment automated testing to ensure a more comprehensive accessibility review and support greater usability for all site visitors.
One constant with technology is that it is always changing. As such, on-going training opportunities to campus faculty and staff focusing on creating accessible content and resources is necessary. Each campus will have a different approach to supporting both full-time and adjunct faculty and have varying needs towards addressing EIT accessibility as well as support for students with disabilities. Questions to consider include:
- What resources are available for faculty for creating accessible instructional materials?
- What accessibility information is available to faculty teaching in the online environment?
- How are procurement procedures related to accessibility shared with those involved in purchasing at the departmental level?
- What information is shared with faculty and staff in support of students with disabilities in the physical and online environment?