Revamping an accessibility program: A guide for Higher Education Institutions
Play nice, but never lose your capacity for outrage.—Sheryl E. Burgstahler
This guide provides step-by-step advice on tasks to achieve the goal of revamping a program to address accessibility across-the-board in higher education institutions to meet the needs of students, staff, and visitors. A six-step process covers (1) A systematic appraisal of the current situation; (2) Considerations of alternatives for technology compliance and organizational culture; (3) Gaining executive support; (4) Establishing stakeholders and goals; (5) Designing, planning and implementing a new system; and (6) Periodic updates based on monitoring of progress. Contingency planning is also covered.
This article was developed as part of
The Accessibility Switchboard Project
National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute
June 2018, Version 1.0
Creative Commons License: CC BY-SA 4.0
Note: This guide is for people who are working within (or for) Higher Education institutions who want to revamp a flagging or otherwise less than optimal department-wide or organization-wide accessibility program. For those working within (or for) institutions that have no existing accessibility program and are seeking to introduce such a program, see our separate Switchboard guide: Starting an accessibility program: A guide for Higher Education Institutions. For those who are vendors to Higher Education institutions (e.g., software suppliers, book publishers), see our separate Switchboard guide: A roadmap for organizational accessibility for large ICT vendors.
Introduction and Background
“Infusing UD [Universal Design] throughout a campus may require a paradigm shift from the accommodation model to a more inclusive one. An inhibitor to the acceptance of UD is adherence to the ‘way we have always done things’ (e.g., reactively provide accommodations for students with disabilities rather than employ proactive measures).”—Sheryl E. Burgstahler, ‘Universal Design in Higher Education’ (2nd Ed., 2015), p.289
Recent decades have seen the appearance of student ‘disability services’ centers on higher education campuses. In the US, laws were changed in in the last quarter or so of the twentieth century mandating that people with disabilities must be accommodated as students. The resulting need on many campuses was for a central place where students could request accommodations and the staff of those centers would then liaise with educators in other departments to come up with acceptable plans and procedures for the delivery of lectures, examinations, and other content.
But what would happen when a lecturer or other staff member became disabled? Would Human Resources send them to the student disability services for advice? More often than not this would be the case, especially if HR had no program to provide staff accommodations. And what if a member of the alumni had failing vision, and wanted to come to a sporting event but the ‘disabled’ seating was too far from the action to that person to reasonably see? The box office staff, used to accommodating wheelchair users in disabled seating areas, might have no idea what to do. They might call the student disability services for advice, because that’s the only central source of expertise on campus.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that the accommodations-only model of operation is insufficient for creating an ‘inclusive’ institution. Disability obviously affects all populations, and this includes staff, visitors, alumni, sports fans. When you combine legal obligations regarding students with legal obligations for non-students (the Americans with Disabilities Act, for example), the need for change is obvious. However, as Sheryl Burgstahler’s quote (above) points out, many people like to keep things the way they are now. In some cases, this can also include those working in the disability services office, who may perceive that their role as the sole source of accessibility advice to fix anything for the campus is something that they would like to hold on to.
If you’re starting out on a plan to revamp an accessibility program that is operated as a silo—as per the student disability services model, or otherwise similarly restricted in it’s reach and impact on the operations of the whole institution—we find that there are three primary problems that can seem overly daunting when setting out:
Problem 1: Too many variables
All existing situations are unique. The current program or programs evolved according to the skills and experience of the people involved and the problems they dealt with. It can seem overwhelming if you tried to understand it all. Furthermore, you’ll likely find contradictory evidence: some will espouse how good the current system is, and some will decry how bad it is.
You shouldn’t try to understand all of the current variables. In other words, trying to figure out how all aspects relating to disability have evolved or currently work (don’t work) at your institution would be an exercise in futility. Instead, limit the number of variables that affect your decision of whether the current program needs to be fixed, upgraded, or otherwise revamped. We suggest that you consider the following:
- the current representation of disabilities in the student body, the faculty, management, executives / deans, administrative staff, prospective students and visitors;
- the levels of satisfaction people express with the current accessibility of services, facilities, and technology.
If any of these are low, or any are unknown, those are the problem variables to focus on when making the decision to make new plans for operating the organization, with respect to disability access.
- The Solution: What is most important at the beginning is to recognize that something isn’t working, rather than trying to understand all the possible variables which have come together to create the situation where something isn’t working.
Problem 2: Resources always seem to be limited
‘I don’t have enough time to understand the current system’.
‘I don’t have time to research new system options.’
‘There’s no money for training.’
‘I don’t have money to hire any consultants.’
If these statements sounds familiar, you’re not alone. There never seems to be enough time or money. Add to that, if you search for advice on what you can do to address accessibility throughout your institution, there are some very long lists. There are bullets after bullets, and sub-bullets, and links to articles, and more links to even more articles and reports and papers on the topic. It might seem like if you started on these lists now you wouldn’t be finished for ten years because you don’t have access to the resources that you would need to complete them.
- The Solution: A shift in thinking is required, from resources being an accessibility program problem to being a department-wide problem. This comes with a shift in thinking where accessibility isn’t seen as something to be solved and worked on by small pockets of subject matter experts; instead it is seen as something that each sub-department can work on as part of its responsibilities to its end-users. This leads us directly to addressing our third problem…
Problem 3: Location, location location
No, not the location of real estate. It’s the location of the accessibility work that is the problem.
If you have accessibility work being conducted primarily by only one department (e.g., disability student services) then that’s the location of the work. In this central location the work involves (essentially) doing the accessibility tasks for the other departments, the other faculty, and any other group on campus that is trying to deal with an accessibility issue. Even if you wanted to shift some of that work out to other departments, that’s not the current model of operation. Everyone’s used to the location for the accessibility work being in that silo. However, for the end users of the system (staff, students, visitors) this is obviously not the most efficient way of addressing accessibility and inclusion.
- The Solution: Higher efficiencies are gained by using the resources of each department (not one department) handling accessibility issues on their own. A central source of advice and support is typically needed, but the tasks to create accessible environments, accessible courses and accessible technology can and should be achievable by people working on those things across the campus as a whole.
It’s okay to start again. Some of the most productive climate change comes through the fits and starts of failed attempts. However, to minimize the likelihood of your current efforts failing, we offer the following Step-by-Step guidance. While there are other sources of guidance available for creating and running an accessibility program, other guides typically focus on the more siloed approach, and/or they are created without the assistance of organizational behavior subject matter experts.
Our advice is to read through the entire set of guidance and the linked articles first, and then circle back to the beginning to start in earnest. The time it will take you to read through this guide is less than the time it would take to begin your research with a blank slate. Investing the time up front to do the reading will pay dividends, and may provide you with cost and resource efficiency ideas that you may not have known were available to you.
Step-by-step: Revamping an organization-wide accessibility program in a higher education institution
“Effective education is rarely done TO people. It's done with them.”—Seth Godin.
Step 1. Conduct a systematic appraisal of the current situation
In starting out, you either have evidence or you suspect that important variables—of representation and satisfaction with disability access—are currently scoring low across the population of users of your institution. You also probably have an idea of the location and types of accessibility work being carried out currently.
The current staff who are working on accessibility, and the faculty and administrative staff that they interact with on a regular basis are bound to have opinions on why there are shortcomings in the current system. Informal discussions you could have to gather these opinions could include questions such as:
- Did the program have top level support?
- Did the program include stakeholders in implementation planning?
- Was institutional policy reflective of accessibility goals?
- Was accessibility adequately resourced?
- Was there a systemwide communication plan?
You are not dealing with a blank slate, so you need to get a good appraisal of the current situation. However, the list of example questions above could be endless, and the number of people you ask questions of could be very long. Experience shows that regardless of the number of people you talk to, and the number of questions on your list, within a handful of interviews you’ll learn the ‘institutional wisdom’ that has set in. These are the collective beliefs and practices that have allowed the current situation to be set in place.
You will probably also hear the ‘inhibitor’ that Burgstahler alluded to: “adherence to the ‘way we have always done things’”. Tackling any resistance to changing the ‘way we have always done things’ can come later. However tempting it may be to tackle it now, there is a need to put it aside and pick some place else to start.
There are many options to consider for a starting point, but our advice is to do one important task in Step 1, and that is to first conduct an organizational maturity assessment. A maturity assessment is a tool that you can apply to each department in the organization in order to find out whether accessibility has been addressed at any level, or if accessibility has been non-existent. In the course of such an assessment you can systematically challenge your own underlying assumptions of how accessibility is being addressed, by asking targeted questions to contacts in various sub-departments of the organization, and documenting responses in terms of program maturity measures.
How can I assess organizational maturity with respect to accessibility?
In this initial Stage, we suggest conducting an informal maturity assessment. That is, without any stated authority for your questions, you may be met with reluctance to provide information—“Who is this busy-body asking all these questions?”. A small number of allies can help in conducting the initial assessment. If there are known detractors, we suggest avoiding them at this stage, but take a best guess on their maturity levels based on publicly available information (e.g., How accessible is the website? What policies have been publicly posted?).
In a subsequent Step (#3), you should conduct a formal maturity assessment with executive authority backing it up (i.e., you’re no longer a ‘busy-body’; you’re doing the bidding of the executive in charge). For now, the informal maturity assessment should provide you with a fairly good idea of where things will be starting from across the entire institution.
Note: If some of the detractors are in your own team—for example, if you are the head of the disability services center, and the staff are concerned about losing their jobs if the proposal is to have others are doing accessibility work in other departments—then you risk pushback and ‘advance negative publicity’ before you can gain any momentum. This is one of the main problems with revamping a flagging program. If this is the case, there are two main options to consider and pick from: Option 1 is to hold a meeting where you discuss and present your plans and explain how this could be in their best interests (e.g., by passing certain tasks to others, that frees you up to conduct more training and outreach, to provide additional supports, to work on more interesting rather than typical / boring / repetitive problems). Option 2 is to simply accept that there will be some resistance, so minimize the amount of information sharing done in this stage and then involve the current staff as stakeholders later on in Step 4, after executive support for new plans has been established (in Step 3). Option 2 may create additional barriers later on, in establishing ownership and connectedness among staff. This is especially the case if the collective team is not actively involved in the process. Therefore, every effort should be made to go the Option 1 route where possible.
Your appraisal exercise will inevitably generate thoughts and ideas on what to do next. You may find that a range of initial alternatives and preferences may be voiced by team members and other stakeholders even without any solicitation. We recommend that any such alternatives be noted, but not acted upon at this time. Instead of taking immediate action steps, we recommend an examination of suggested alternatives based on the collected experiences of others who have already successfully tackled these tasks in other organizations. The various alternatives are explained in the narrative below, as well as in the additional Switchboard articles and guides linked to in each Step of the process.
The next Step is in two parts. We present alternatives to consider for (A) technical compliance; and (B) nontechnical (organizational) aspects of accessibility across your organization. In implementation, it is critical that both aspects be considered and addressed.
Step 2A. Consider compliance alternatives
For ‘compliance’, we are mainly focused on technical aspects of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) accessibility, although there are some aspects of compliance that are non-technical. By ‘compliance’ we mean ensuring that the ICT products and systems that are used in your organization will be operable by people with disabilities. This includes, but is not limited to, such products and systems as:
- Your external facing website, mobile apps, and your social media presence
- Your internal intranet, and the enterprise software systems used by staff
- The software systems and services you develop for use by your customers and your staff
- The telephone system, staff security (door entry) systems, information kiosks etc. used by your staff and customers
- The hardware used (printers, copiers, computers, cellular phones, etc.)
- Teaching and training systems and content
This may seem like a daunting list at first, especially if you are new to or unfamiliar with accessibility considerations on one or more of the products and systems listed above. But, the task can be broken down into bite-sized chunks, and it should certainly be a task that is divided up between team members. (In addition, a step-wise approach could be incorporated into plans later on, whereby certain aspects are prioritized based on immediate needs. Each item can be addressed for accessibility, but not everything will be changed overnight.) For each applicable product, we recommend the following sub-steps:
- CONSUMER RESEARCH: Of the available products on the market, which are already considered to be accessible? Which one(s) are considered to be universally designed for use by all people, including those who have disabilities? Which one(s) don’t seem to address accessibility at all?
Where do I get good / accurate information on ICT (web, software, mobile, electronic document) accessibility?
- USABILITY: How do you know that the products you buy, or the products you are developing and delivering, can actually be used by people with disabilities? You may already have a department or team that addresses usability (/ergonomics / human-factors / user-experience) for certain aspects of your ICT. What additional things could that team do to include people with disabilities as participants in studies?
How do I ensure my products work for people with disabilities?
- TESTING: While usability as a discipline addresses whether people can effectively use a given product, we are separating testing as a discipline to assess whether a product conforms to requirements, standards and guidelines that are already known to enable ICT accessibility. How will you test a product that you are developing? There are available test methods, with procedures and tools for examining the operability of ICT.
What procedures should I use to test my ICT for accessibility?
- PROCUREMENT: If you are buying ICT for use by your staff, and if you are buying the services of developers to make ICT products for you, how do you and the vendor share your accessibility requirements and needs? A vendor may claim that their product is ‘accessible’, but what does this mean in terms of testing? Does it mean that it has gone through an actual test process and a usability evaluation? Or does it mean that the vendor hopes that it is accessible, but they don’t have any hard data to base that on? In procurement language, it is possible to clarify understanding on both sides, to the point where both parties can agree whether something has been demonstrated to be operable and usable by people with disabilities.
How do I tie accessibility procurement language to integrated quality assurance testing?
Step 2B. Consider organizational alternatives
You may ask which departments in your organization should be addressing accessibility in their operations. The answer would be any department that deals with people, or things used by people. (By definition, ‘people’ includes as a subset people with disabilities.) This pretty much turns out to be every department, even though traditionally, accessibility has been something that was addressed by one or just a few individual departments.
The same could be said for ICT. Which departments use ICT for their staff, and for interacting with customers? All of them.
This might be a new idea for an organization, that the ICT used by people should be addressed across the entire organization. The introduction of new ideas by necessity brings the need to update organizational culture. (‘Culture’ is short-hand for what people say combined with what people do.)
So, we have a need to update organizational culture in order to address the needs of people with disabilities in the design, development, procurement and use of ICT. It may sound like a tall order, but as with the compliance aspects, taking things in bite-size chunks, and distributing the workload among a team provides a solution to the perceived size of the tasks ahead.
Again, others have experienced successes in the implementation of accessibility across organizations. The following are suggested categories to examine when considering and needed change in organizational culture:
- ALLOCATION: In an organizational department in which accessibility hasn’t traditionally been a systematically addressed, the question of ‘why not?’ (Step 1) must be followed by ‘what now?’. The first item in the ‘what now’ list should be the question of who is responsible and accountable for the new requirement to systematically address accessibility. Ultimately, there should be someone at the top level of the organization who is responsible and accountable, and they need to have people who are responsible and accountable for their individual departments reporting to them. Those at the department level need to ensure that the sense of accountability for accessibility (and therefore, the associated tasks to do with making products and services accessible) is shared among the department’s staff and the various teams working with it. This is a necessary top-down allocation of accountability and responsibility. It cannot come from the bottom up, and it cannot be applied from peer to peer.
How can I distribute the responsibility and accountability for accessibility?
- CHANGE: One of the most common reactions to having responsibility and accountability formalized by executives is to regard it as something new and additional in terms of duties. While it may be new, it should not be seen as an additional responsibility. Instead, this should be viewed as clarifying that a previously overlooked responsibility is now being addressed. After all, people includes people with disabilities. If the budget was previously being used to serve only the 80% or so of the population that don’t have disabilities, that oversight needs correction. Will everyone see it this way? Some may not. They may see it as change that is not in their best interest. They may resist because they feel it is ‘extra work’. Applying the lessons of change management can help ease transitions to newly apportioned responsibility and accountability assignments.
How can I overcome resistance to change in an organization-wide accessibility project?
- PRACTICE: With some departments going from zero to something, or from piecemeal to regular operation, there is inevitably going to be a transition phase. In addition to the lessons of change management, there are lessons from what people have done to ease the transition and implement successful organization-wide accessibility programs in the past.
How can I ease the accessibility journey from organizational policy to practical implementation?
- HIRING: If you endeavor to make your ICT compliant (Step 2A), but then you don’t take measures to ensure that people with disabilities are hired, promoted, and represented at the various levels of the organization, then there will be a clear deficiency in the organizational culture. It’s one thing to include an inclusivity statement at the footer or each job posting, and it’s another to make sure that the time and reporting system can by used with screen reader technologies. It’s yet another thing to make sure the person making the hiring decision knows about the time and reporting system’s accessibility in advance of the process for hiring anyone. Given that one of the primary purposes of making ICT accessible is so that people with disabilities can get an education and find employment, if you don’t embrace diversity in your hiring processes, then who will? If you want what people say and what people do to be inclusive, then be inclusive in hiring.
I have a job applicant who has notified me they have a disability. What should I do now?
- WORK ENVIRONMENT: It’s a fairly safe bet that a wheelchair using employee could get through your front door with an automatic door opener, along with delivery persons with carts, and anyone who simply has their hands full (universal/inclusive design delivers benefits for everyone). But, can a blind employee use your phone system? The ‘work environment’ includes all ICT that employees use.
How can I provide an accessible work environment?
- GOING BEYOND ‘COMPLAINTS’: A common legacy strategy for many organizations has been to employ a complaints process as their primary means of addressing accessibility. This is the reactive ‘whack-a-mole’ approach that diligently deals with problems as they arise but does little to systematically improve an organization’s operations and culture to create an inclusive environment where there isn’t a need to make a complaint. The reason why we describe this as a legacy strategy is that it’s been shown to not work as primary, secondary, or even tertiary strategy. People generally don’t complain, they just take themselves elsewhere. Experience shows that, for various reasons, people with disabilities complain even less than nondisabled persons. The most effective strategies are proactive; not reactive.
Beyond offering employees a complaint process: proactive measures to tackle accessibility issues
Note: In all aspects of accessibility (Steps 2A and 2B), there are accessibility professionals who can help with making transitions. There are various kinds of accessibility professional, and a plethora of services that can be provided. If the skills you need are not already in-house, then it may be worth investing the time to find the right accessibility professional to provide advice, guidance, training and assessments to help move along the technical and non-technical aspects.
How do I find a knowledgeable consultant?
Step 3. Get executive support
For the most important things that happen in an organization, the boss makes the decisions. The boss also decides to delegate some level of decision making to managers and other subordinates. But ultimately there is always someone at an executive level who delivers the edicts that govern how an organization should be run.
Without the support (the backing) of executives—on how accessibility should be addressed as an organization-wide initiative—the accessibility program will always be struggling. This has been seen time and time again, where accessibility programs have been started up, only for everyone else in the organization to be unaware that they were entered into the program: “Please can we help you make your new website accessible?” doesn’t carry as much weight as “We have a policy and procedure requiring us to create accessible content. And, did you know that when principles of accessible design are applied, a large subset of other users benefit, not just those with disabilities? The accessibility team can help you get started with learning how to achieve greater accessibility for all users while in turn meeting our legal obligations.”
Note: There are other terms for ‘executive’ used, such as ‘leadership’, the ‘board’, and ‘senior management’. In either case, you should be identifying who has the ultimate decision-making authority and the ability to delegate tasks to the various departmental leaders and their subordinates.
How do you get the executives on your side, and to adopt inclusive practices across your organization? If it were as simple as asking nicely, it would be a ubiquitous practice already. It must be in the best interest of the executives, and they are looking out for what is in the best interest of the organization. To be better prepared to persuade, we suggest addressing the following points:
- MOTIVATION: The first question you’ll likely encounter is “Why should we do this?”. You need to be prepared with an answer.
Why would I want to address accessibility in my organization?
- INVESTMENT: The second question you’ll likely encounter is “How much will this cost?” Again, you need an answer.
Does accessibility have to be expensive?
- MAKING THE PITCH: Understanding motivating factors, and understanding cost considerations is a useful grounding, but then you need to make the pitch to the executives. (You may have to make the pitch first to managers, and then up the chain to get to the appropriate decision makers). Think of this as ‘asking nicely’ on steroids.
Introducing organization-wide accessibility approaches: a guide to making a successful pitch
Note: In making the pitch (above), the second of three suggested pitches to executives involves conducting a formal maturity assessment. This follows on from the informal (initial) maturity assessment that was conducted in Step 1. A formal maturity assessment should be conducted only with the authority and backing of executives, which we suggest is best obtained in the first of the three pitches.
Step 4. Establish stakeholders and goals
Once the authority has been established (following Step 3), then it is time to identify stakeholders to include in initial goal-setting. The aim in Step 4 is to get consensus on the strategy and the tactics that will be used in implementing the new program.
The goals should be realistically assessed in terms such as available staff, resources, and expertise. In initial phases of an implementation, setting achievable short-term goals can translate into long-term success: the aspirational must be checked against the attainable. However, setting goals of some progress initially should not be allowed to devolve into allowing no progress from those who do not see it in their best interest to participate.
Note: You may encounter avoidance tactics such as sandbagging (“I don’t have time in my calendar to meet”; “I can’t send a delegate”), and shirking responsibilities (“This isn’t one of our priorities this year”; “We’ll let you come and fix this for us once we’ve finished our roll-out”). The key thing to remember is that, as a leader of an accessibility program, it isn’t your job to counter avoidance tactics. That’s the job of executives (i.e., return to Step 3 if you get negative push-back).
A resource for identifying stakeholders for organizational accessibility initiatives…
Strategic IT Accessibility: Enabling the Organization by Jeff Kline. This book provides background information and guidance for anyone wanting to make a start in organization-wide change. One chapter is devoted to identifying relevant stakeholders across the whole organization.
Step 5. Design, plan and implement the program
It’s as easy as that… Design, plan, and Implement the program.
Okay, so maybe it isn’t as easy as 1, 2, 3. However, the same sort of systematic approach that would be taken for any new program in an organization can and should be taken for introducing organization-wide accessibility improvements. If you have a factory where there is no safety culture, you implement a safety program. If you’re making cars and there is no apparent sense of the importance of quality throughout the workforce, you’ll quickly learn that you can’t compete with other manufacturers. If you have a work culture that isn’t yet inclusive, you can implement a program for achieving inclusion.
People in your organization know how to implement organization-wide programs. Use them.
A resource for implementing organizational accessibility initiatives…
The 8-Step Implementation Model is a web-based article by WebAIM. This model provides a guided example of implementation of web accessibility in a large organization. Although focused on web accessibility, the model can serve as a grounding in the principles of implementation that can be applied in other circumstances.
Step 6. Monitor, and periodically update
Your plans should include periodic (at least annual) maturity assessments (See Step 1) to monitor progress.
Is accessibility still a part of annual reports? Is it still addressed in all hands meetings, staff retreats, professional development events etc.? In other words, is accessibility still considered both a priority and an agenda item in work tasks?
Not everything will go to plan. Just as with any other kind of implementation it may be necessary to go back and adjust plans, include new stakeholders, re-establish executive orders, and so on. Just the same as is done for safety and quality, lapses happen when there is no appropriate monitoring. In some fields this can lead to disasters at worst, and lost customers at best. In the accessibility domain, this can lead, simply, to a reversion to the previous state, i.e., one in which inclusion efforts were either nonexistent or sporadically addressed. And no-one wants that.
Sometimes you have to dismantle the entire program and start again. It’s not so much a case of revamp as much as it is replace. If this is the case, then the steps for Starting a program are similar as those for revamping a program. Make adjustments as needed, but be aware that starting over doesn’t mean that the knowledge and experience of the current staff will go away. Training needs and policies may need to be carefully assessed in such circumstances.
It usually doesn’t have to be so drastic as starting again. Having said that it usually won’t go totally smoothly, especially if you are changing an existing system and are challenging long-held ‘institutional wisdom’. In such cases, we urge you to seek out related case studies of practices that have worked, from publications, and resource websites. Someone else has been there before. If you can’t find appropriate advice in published works, ask around through professional networks, subject matter experts, meetings and conferences.
Use case studies to point out to detractors that improvements are not impossible, and that the benefits are not just for the people served, but for the stakeholders themselves too.
Case study… Small collaboration initiatives bring wider benefits
“The program, Faculty and Staff Partnerships for Accessible Solutions (FASPAS), is designed to embed UD [Universal Design] strategies into every facet of the university community for the purpose of creating usable, sustainable, and inclusive environments that reduce the need for retrofit accommodations. [..]
“FASPAS has not only affected attitudes about disability, but has also become a pipeline for collaboration on disability programming on campus. Participants have become advocates by leading training sessions, speaking at conferences, speaking in colleagues’ courses, facilitating at disability cultural events, sharing at faculty meetings, and actively engaging in many other formalized learning environments. [..]
“An unanticipated benefit of the program is that, through discussion, administrators and staff garner a better understanding of the challenges they each face and the culture of respective positions and departments. This connection fosters a support network to serve as not only a UD resource, but also a more supportive environment. Faculty support and encourage one another in pedagogical choices that embrace UD across disciplines. Administrators are better able to advocate for supports and resources for a more broadly inclusive campus community. Disability service professionals have been able to better understand their role as a resource not only to students, but to the campus overall.
From ‘Collaboration for Usable Design: A case study in Partnerships to Promote Universal Design in Higher Education’ by Buchannan & Smith, Chapter 24
in ‘Universal Design in Higher Education’ (2nd Ed., 2015), p.349.
A final thought…
If things aren’t going great, or if things aren’t going as planned, it’s okay to get out the pencils, to make a revised and revamped plan, and start erasing previous mistakes. Along with our image of pencils and erasers, the opening quote for this guide is “Play nice, but never lose your capacity for outrage”. The full version of that quote is as follows:
“My advice is to play nice, but never lose your capacity for outrage. Point out barriers to decision makers, along with providing suggestions for more inclusive design and, possibly, offering to assist in making improvements.”—Sheryl E. Burgstahler, ‘Universal Design in Higher Education’ (2nd Ed., 2015), p.349
A resource for guidance and examples relating to higher education…
Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice (2nd Ed., 2015) is an edited book by Sheryl E. Burgstahler. The book contains sections on the design of instruction, physical spaces, and technology. The final section covers the ‘promotion and institutionalization’ across the whole higher education institution. The book combines analysis of prior research, commentary on best practices, and case studies.
A resource providing a worked example of implementation…
The GOALS Blueprint for institutional web accessibility is a 2013 guide from NCDAE (the National Center on Disability and Access to Education). The guide provides an in-depth coverage of one example topic. Lessons from this guide can be applied to other topics relating to the implementation of accessibility programs.
About this article
This article is published as part of The Accessibility Switchboard Project, an initiative of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute with support from the members of the Accessibility Switchboard Project Community Of Practice, and from the Maryland Department of Disabilities.
The Accessibility Switchboard. Revamping an accessibility program: A guide for Higher Education Institutions. June 2018, Version 1.0. National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. Available: https://www.accessibilityswitchboard.org/
Note: A previous version of this article was published on the Accessibility Switchboard project website, under the title ‘Higher Education Accessibility’
Feedback, additions and updates
The authors welcome feedback on this and other articles in the Accessibility Switchboard. Use the feedback form to provide updates, new case studies, and links to new and emerging resources in this area. The feedback form can also be used to join the mailing list for notification of new content and updates from the Accessibility Switchboard.
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‘Black pencils with white erasers.’. Public Domain.