Accessibility Survey of OLC and WCET Members

April 2019

OLC Logo WCET logo

Contents

Inspiration
Executive Summary
Methodology
Survey Findings
Recommendations
Conclusion
Respondent Challenges and Successes
Resources
About the Study

Inspiration

Over the 2017 calendar year, the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) leadership held sessions at their respective national meetings to obtain information about the issues that were "keeping you up at night." Those attending the sessions supplied many ideas, but the issue of accessibility and access to disability services was frequently mentioned. Participants were eager to learn more about helpful practices, legal requirements, and how our community could help influence vendors in assuring accessible products.

In 2018, OLC and WCET initiated the Year of Accessibility to raise awareness among their members and to gather further information. OLC and WCET began partnering on a series of blog posts, webcasts, and conference sessions addressing accessibility issues in digital learning. In addition, OLC and WCET surveyed their members to obtain additional information about the state of accessibility at member colleges and universities. Based on the results, the two organizations plan to continue the partnership to meet member needs and better serve our student population.

Executive Summary

American and Canadian colleges and universities have ample room for improvement when it comes to tackling the challenge of providing accessibility services for students enrolled in their online programs. In a 2018 survey conducted by OLC and WCET among their memberships, we found that while most schools have official policies on accessibility (61 percent) and even more provide training (65 percent), a more comprehensive approach to accessibility could be better.

  • Just under a third of institutions (31 percent) said all or most of their online classes were in ADA compliance;
  • Fewer than half of institutions represented by our survey (42 percent) have mechanisms in place for monitoring, addressing or improving their accessibility efforts; and
  • Accessibility considerations surface in just 44 percent of new technology purchasing decisions.

Also, while most faculty are aware of the need to address accessibility (70 percent), according to survey respondents, nearly nine in 10 lack the motivation to address accessibility issues. And across the board, in all departments and units, more people are unaware of the need to incorporate accessibility strategies into their workflows than are aware (57 percent vs. 36 percent).

The challenges for changing this reality on campus are many. There's an overall lack of knowledge about how to address accessibility (mentioned by 68 percent of respondents), the lack of funding to pay for accessibility activities (64 percent), a lack of knowledge of the regulatory requirements (60 percent) and a lack of institutional support services for helping with the work (52 percent).

Over the next year and into the future, you can expect to see greater emphasis by both OLC and WCET on helping you to gain traction with accessibility efforts on your campus tied to your digital learning programs. We'll do that through webinars, virtual training, conference sessions, thought papers and blogs.

In the meantime, we encourage you to read through the results of our accessibility survey to benchmark your own school's efforts. Over the next year, we hope to hear about the progress you've made in helping all of your students succeed.

Methodology

The findings in this report reflect the experiences of 548 individuals from U.S.- and Canada-based colleges and universities who participated in the 2018 OLC and WCET accessibility survey. The two organizations invited their members to participate in an open web-based survey conducted during the spring and summer of 2018. Individuals choosing to participate in the study self-reported on a number of questions related to the topic. After filtering to assure that responses came from institutional faculty or staff, survey results represent input from 548 respondents.

Survey participants reflected a wide array of institutional professionals with and without direct ties to campus accessibility areas. Since there was no attempt by the two organizations to assure a representative sample of higher education professionals or our memberships, readers should use caution in extrapolating results to a larger universe. However, the diversity of individuals represented suggest the findings in this report are robust.

Where the survey lists the type of institution, we have abbreviated from Carnegie System Classifications:

  • Associate's colleges primarily issued associate degrees with fewer than 10 percent at the bachelor level in the last year;
  • Baccalaureate colleges issued fewer than 50 master or 20 doctoral degrees awarded in the last year);
  • Master’s colleges and universities awarded at least 50 master’s degrees and fewer than 20 doctoral degrees in the last year;
  • Doctoral colleges awarded at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees in the last year;
  • Special focus institutions awarded at least three-quarters of their baccalaureate or higher-level degrees in a single field or related fields; and
  • Tribal colleges are those that are members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

The use of multiple-choice questions, decimal truncation and rounding account for totals that don’t equal 100 percent.

Survey Findings

Campus Demographics

Most types of institutions—two-year and four-year—were well represented in the responses. Doctoral colleges—those institutions awarding at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees during the latest year—had the largest showing, representing about a third of all survey participants. Two-year colleges made up 20 percent of the respondent pool. Other types of four-year colleges—those awarding bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees—were represented by more than 20 percent. The lone exception was representation from tribal colleges, schools that are members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium; the survey had zero participation by faculty or staff from any of those 38 institutions.

The survey also saw a broad cross-section of responses from small, medium, and large colleges and universities. The largest faction was made up of schools exceeding 20,000 full-time equivalent enrollments; those composed 35 percent of the respondent base.

In terms of job roles, instructional designers made up 30 percent of the entire respondent pool, followed by digital learning administrators (18 percent), and faculty (16 percent). Disability service officers made up just two percent of responses.

Pie graph showing the types of institutions that responded to this survey. The same data is replicated in Table 1, directly below.
Figure 1.
Table 1. Type of Institution
Type of Institution Percent of Respondents
Associate's 20%
Baccalaureate 21%
Master's 23%
Doctoral 33%
Special Focus Institutions 3%
Pie graph showing the size of the institutions represented in this survey. The same data is replicated in table 2, directly below.
Figure 2.
Table 2. Size of Institution
Size of Institution Percent of Respondents
Less than 5,000 FTE 23%
5,000-10,000 FTE 19%
10,001-20,000 FTE 23%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 35%
Table 3. Respondent Job Role
Respondent Job Percent of Respondents
Instructional Designer 30%
Digital Learning Administrator 18%
Faculty 16%
Dean or Department Chair 7%
Information Technology (IT) Staff 6%
Student Support Professional 2%
Librarian 2%
Disabilities Service Officer 2%
President/Provost/Legal Counsel 1%
Other 16%

Accessibility on Campus

Official Policies

"While a majority of institutions have policies on accessibility issues, 20% report not having policies."

Slightly more than six in 10 institutions have official policies in place regarding accessibility issues, according to respondents. Two in 10 have no such policies. A surprisingly high number of survey participants said they were unsure whether such policies existed or not. The largest schools and those classified as doctoral colleges were the most likely to have formal accessibility guidelines (70 percent and 67 percent, respectively).

Bar graph showing the percent of institutions that have official policies on accessibility issues. The same data is replicated in Table 4, shown directly below.
Figure 3.
Table 4. Institutions have Official Policies on Accessibility Issues
Response Percent of Respondents
Yes 61%
No 19%
Unsure 19%
Bar graph showing the institutions that have official poliices on accessibility issues, by institution type. The same data is replicated in Table 5, shown directly below.
Figure 4.
Table 5. Institutions have Official Policies on Accessibility Issues, by Institution Type
Type of Institution Answered "Yes"
Associate's Colleges 55%
Baccalaureate Colleges 61%
Master's Colleges 60%
Doctoral Colleges 67%
Bar graph showing the institutions that have official policies on accessibility issues, by institution size. The same data is replicated in Table 6, shown directly below.
Figure 5.
Table 6. Institutions have Official Policies on Accessibility Issues, by Institution Size
Size of Institution Answered "Yes"
Less than 5,000 FTE 61%
5,000-10,000 FTE 57%
10,001-20,000 FTE 53%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 70%

Training

More colleges and universities provide training on accessibility issues than report having official accessibility-related policies. Among all kinds of institutions, two-thirds provide training. And we find a surprisingly high number of "unsure" responses (12 percent). Once again, training is more prevalent in schools that are larger (76 percent). Among Carnegie classifications, master’s colleges were more likely to have accessibility training in place (70 percent) than any other type. Baccalaureate colleges were the least likely to provide training on accessibility (56 percent).

"Nearly two-thirds of respondents' institutions provide training on accessibility issues."

Stacked bar graph showing the percent of institutions that have training on accessibility issues. The same data is represented in Table 7, shown directly below.
Figure 6.
Table 7. Institutions have Training on Accessibility Issues
Response Percent of Respondents
Yes 65%
No 23%
Unsure 12%
Bar graph showing the percent of institutions that have training on accessibility issues, by institution type. The same data is represeted in Table 8, shown directly below.
Figure 7.
Table 8. Institutions have Training on Accessibility Issues, by Institution Type
Type of Institution Answered "Yes"
Associate's 67%
Baccalaureate 56%
Master's 70%
Doctoral 66%
Bar graph showing percent of institutions that have training on accessibility issues, by institution size. The same data is represented in Table 9, shown directly below.
Figure 8.
Table 9. Institution have Training on Accessibility Issues, by Institution Size
Size of Institution Answered "Yes"
Less than 5,000 FTE 55%
5,000-10,000 FTE 57%
10,001-20,000 FTE 66%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 76%

Improving Accessibility

Few schools have mechanisms in place to monitor, address or improve accessibility efforts. Just 42 percent of respondents said their institutions had such activities in place, and 36 percent said those elements didn’t exist. A large number of respondents also said they didn’t know whether those mechanisms existed on campus. Such activities were more likely to be present at the largest campuses; more than half of those institutions (53 percent) keep better track of accessibility matters.

Stacked bar graph showing percent of institutions that have mechanisms in place to monitory, address, and improve accessibility efforts. The same data is represented in Table 10, show below.
Figure 9.
Table 10. Institutions have Mechanisms in Place to Monitor, Address, and Improve Accessibility Efforts
Response Percent of Respondents
Yes 42%
No 36%
Unsure 22%
Stacked bar graph showing percent of institutions that have mechanisms in place to monitor, address, and improve accessibility efforts, by institution type. The same data in represented in Table 11, shown below.
Figure 10.
Table 11. Institutions have Mechanisms in Place to Monitor, Address, and Improve Accessibility Efforts, by Institution Type
Institution Type Answered "Yes" Answered "No" Answered "Unsure"
Associate's 35% 46% 20%
Baccalaureate 43% 36% 21%
Master's 43% 34% 23%
Doctoral 43% 33% 24%
Stacked bar graph showing percent of institutions that have mechanisms in place to mointor, address, and improve accessibility efforts. The same data is represented in Table 12, shown below.
Figure 11.
Table 12. Institutions have Mechanisms in Place to Monitor, Address, and Improve Accessibility Efforts, by Institution Size
Institution Size Answered "Yes" Answered "No" Answered "Unsure"
Less than 5,000 FTE 36% 39% 25%
5,000-10,000 FTE 33% 40% 28%
10,001-20,000 FTE 40% 44% 15%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 53% 27% 20%

Who's Responsible

Unsurprisingly, the campus department ultimately responsible for accessibility matters was most often the disability services office; however, across all types of schools that was true by a slim margin (52 percent). Within doctoral colleges, the disability office was designated by 61 percent of survey participants. The next most cited department was academic affairs (mentioned by 13 percent). The response to this question might be slightly misleading as Disability Services Offices often report to Academic or Student Affairs divisions. Every other option received single-digit response.

For the "Other" response, those answering the survey could provide their own answers. There were frequent responses of "all," "a combination," "a committee," or "no one specific department," which could indicate an institutional vulnerability if departments are uneven in addressing accessibility. A few others said that "instructional design" or "online learning" units held the ultimate responsibility.

Table 13. Department Ultimately Responsible for Disability Services
Department Percent of Respondents
Disability Services Office 52%
Academic Affairs 13%
Information Technology 8%
Multiple Units 5%
Student Affairs 4%
Other Institutional Administration 4%
Other 11%
Unclear 4%
Bar graph showing the percent of disability services officers with ultimate responsibility by institution type. The same data is represented in Table 14, shown below.
Figure 12.
Table 14. Disability Services Officers with Ultimate Responsibility, by Institution Type
Institution Type Percent
Associate's 48%
Baccalaureate 41%
Master's 50%
Doctoral 61%
Bar graph showing percent of disability services officers with ultimate responsibility, by institution size. The same data is represented in Table 15, shown below.
Figure 13.
Table 15. Disability Services Officers with Ultimate Responsibility, by Institution Size
Institution Size Percent
Less than 5,000 FTE 52%
5,000-10,000 FTE 47%
10,001-20,000 FTE 48%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 55%

Challenge: "My department (the Instructional Technology Resource Center) has been offering workshops on accessibility for the past two years. Over that time, maybe two faculty members have attended. They are happy to have me and my team caption their videos and check their documents, but beyond that they don't seem to care about accessibility. I am frustrated by the lack of attention this issue is receiving by the administration and faculty."

Success: "I designed a course to teach faculty how to make Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and PDF files accessible. These were presented to faculty this spring with successful outcomes."

Getting into Compliance

Schools have a lot more work to do to bring their online courses into compliance with ADA regulations. Fewer than one in 10 institutions can say that all of their online classes comply with the standards and guidelines. Not quite a quarter of respondents (22 percent) stated that most comply, and a solid half reported that "some" are in compliance. Four-year baccalaureate colleges were the most likely to have all of their online classes accessible-ready (12 percent), and master’s colleges and mid-sized schools (those with between 10,000 and 20,000 FTEs) were the least likely (six percent for each).

"Fewer than a third of respondents thought that all or most of their online classes are ADA compliant."

Table 16. Current ADA Compliance
Description of Current Compliance Percent of Respondents
All of our online classes are in compliance 9%
Most of online classes are in compliance 22%
Some of our online classes are in compliance 50%
None of our online classes are in compliance 3%
Unsure 16%

 

Table 17. Current ADA Compliance, by Institution Type
Institution Type Answered "All" Answered "Most" Answered "Some" Answered "None"
Associate's 9% 25% 46% 3%
Baccalaureate 12% 19% 50% 4%
Master's 6% 26% 48% 5%
Doctoral 8% 21% 52% 2%

 

Table 18. Current ADA Compliance, by Institution Size
Institution Size Answered "All" Answered "Most" Answered "Some" Answered "None"
Less than 5,000 FTE 9% 22% 49% 6%
5,000-10,000 FTE 10% 19% 49% 7%
10,001-20,000 FTE 6% 20% 59% 2%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 9% 27% 44% 1%

Overseeing Accessibility

The survey asked participants whether they, as individuals, were directly responsible for overseeing accessibility issues on their campuses. Just under a quarter of people said they were. Among the roles that were most involved in accessibility policy decisions were disability services officers (70 percent) and top administrators (57 percent).

The most prominent role represented in the survey—the instructional designer—was likely to be involved in policy-making in about a third of institutions. However, the rank of that role varied by type of school. For example, in all Carnegie classifications with the exception of associate’s colleges, the instructional designer role was the second most involved in making decisions about accessibility policies after the disability services head. When examined by size of college, the smallest schools (those with fewer than 5,000 FTEs) were also most likely to place the instructional designer in the number two role for overseeing accessibility policy development. In larger institutions, an administrative head was most involved alongside the disability services officer.

Stacked bar graph showing percent of survey respondents responsible for overseeing accessibility. The same data is represented in Table 19, shown below.
Figure 14.
Table 19. Responsibility of Survey Respondent for Overseeing Accessibility
Response Percent of Respondents
Yes 23%
No 77%

 

Table 20. Person on Campus Responsible for Accessibility Polic Decisions
Position Title Percent of Respondents
Disability Services Officer 70%
President/Provost/Legal Counsel 57%
Accessibility Specialist 41%
Information Technology (IT) 37%
Instructional Designer 34%
Faculty 30%
Dean or Department Chair 28%
Digital Learning Administrator 28%
Student Support Professional 14%
Librarian 12%
Other 15%

 

Table 21. Top Two Positions Most Involved in Overseeing Accessibility, by Institution Type
Institution Type #1 Role #2 Role
Associate's Disability Services Officer (59%) President/Provost/Legal Counsel (49%)
Baccalaureate Disability Services Officer (54%) Instructional Designer (53%)
Master's Disability Services Officer (72%) Instructional Designer (53%)
Doctoral Disability Services Officer (69%) Instructional Designer (63%)

 

Table 22. Top Two Positions Most Involved in Overseeing Accessibility, by Institution Size
Institution Size #1 Role #2 Role
Less than 5,000 FTE Disability Services Officer (63%) Instructional Designer (43%)
5,000-10,000 FTE Disability Services Officer (61%) President/Provost/Legal Counsel (54%)
10,0001-20,000 FTE Disability Services Officer (80%) President/Provost/Legal Counsel (65%)
Greater than 20,000 FTE Disability Services Officer (74%) President/Provost/Legal Counsel (68%)

Implementing Accessibility

Implementation of accessibility strategies most frequently falls on the shoulders of the disability services department head; two-thirds of respondents said that role was involved. At 55 percent, instructional designers were the second-most cited role. Across the board, no matter what type or size of institution was reporting in, those were the top two roles in charge of making decisions related to accessibility compliance. In baccalaureate colleges, responsibilities fell evenly to disability services officer and instructional design.

Table 23. Person on Campus Involved with Accessibility Implementation Strategies
Position Title Percent of Respondents
Disability Services Officer 65%
Instructional Designer 55%
Information Technology (IT) 47%
Accessibility Specialist 42%
Digital Learning Administrator 35%
Faculty 34%
Dean or Department Chair 29%
President/Provost/Legal Counsel 26%
Student Support Professional 16%
Librarian 15%
Other 15%

 

Table 24. Top Two Positions Most Involved in Decisions about Accessibility, by Institution Type
Institution Type #1 Role #2 Role
Associate's Disability Services Officer (67%) Instructional Designer (48%)
Baccalaureate Disability Services Officer (54%) Instructional Designer (53%)
Master's Disability Services Officer (72%) Instructional Designer (53%)
Doctoral Disability Services Officer (69%) Instructional Designer (64%)

 

Table 25. Top Two Positions Most Involved in Decisions about Accessibility, by Institution Size
Institution Size #1 Role #2 Role
Less than 5,000 FTE Disability Services Officer (60%) Instructional Designer (51%)
5,000-10,000 FTE Disability Services Officer (63%) Instructional Designer (47%)
10,001-20,000 FTE Disability Services Officer (70%) Instructional Designer (57%)
Greater than 20,000 FTE Disability Services Officer (70%) Instructional Designer (64%)

Challenge: "Our institution has a policy of [making] each instructor responsible for content. I feel like this causes gaps in the standards across a single course. I also have an "issue" with the idea that powerful teaching tools are being removed for the sake of accessibility."

Success: "Our department contracts with faculty who would like to design and develop fully online courses. Part of our contract includes a requirement to address accessibility issues. If faculty work with our instructional designers, they are fairly certain to meet the requirements, including close captioning of video lectures."

Procurement of Compliant Technology

One area where policy and implementation come together is in the procurement of new technologies. Fewer than half of respondents were sure that accessibility was part of the evaluation process when new technologies were being considered. Almost three in 10 people said that they were positive that accessibility considerations didn’t come up. The remainder were simply unsure. In some cases, especially for large ticket items, the purchasing department handles this within its contracting agreements, possibly leaving instructional designers out of the details.

Doctoral colleges and the largest institutions were the most likely to include accessibility as part of the evaluation process, while associate’s colleges and the smallest schools were the least likely.

"Fewer than half of respondents were sure that accessibility considerations were considered in selecting technologies."

Stacked bar graph showing the percent of institutions that make accessibility considerations when selecting new technologies. The same data is represented in Table 26, shown below.
Figure 15.
Table 26. Institutions that Make Accessibility Considerations When Selecting New Technologies
Response Percent of Respondents
Yes 44%
No 29%
Unsure 27%
Stacked bar graph showing the percent of institutions that make accessibility considerations when selecting new technologies, by institution type. The same data is represented in Table 27, shown below.
Figure 16.
Table 27. Institutions that Make Accessibility Considerations When Selecting New Technologies, by Institution Type
Institution Type Answered "Yes" Answered "No" Answered "Unsure"
Associate's 37% 35% 27%
Baccalaureate 40% 33% 27%
Master's 42% 34% 25%
Doctoral 52% 18% 30%
Stacked bar graph showing percent of institutions that make accessibility considerations when selecting new technologies, by institution size. The same data is represented in Table 28, shown below.
Figure 17.
Table 28. Institutions that Make Accessibility Consideration When Selecting New Technologies, by Institution Size
Institution Size Answered "Yes" Answered "No" Answered "Unsure"
Less than 5,000 FTE 33% 40% 27%
5,000-10,000 FTE 40% 30% 31%
10,001-20,000 FTE 38% 32% 29%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 58% 19% 24%

Addressing Accessibility on Campus

When it comes to people being aware of the need to address accessibility in a proactive manner, those in administrative roles were most frequently mentioned (by 86 percent of all respondents), followed by faculty and staff (referenced by 70 percent); students were the least likely (22 percent).

Table 29. Person on Campus Aware of the Need to Address Accessibility
Type of Role Percent of Respondents
Administrators 86%
Faculty 70%
Staff 70%
Students 22%

 

Table 30. Person on Campus Aware of the Need to Address Accessibility, by Institution Type
Institution Type Answered "Administrators" Answered "Faculty" Answered "Staff" Answered "Students"
Associate's 89% 82% 66% 15%
Baccalaureate 85% 66% 73% 29%
Master's 89% 73% 72% 22%
Doctoral Colleges 86% 66% 70% 21%

 

Table 31. Person on Campus Aware of the Need to Address Accessibility, by Institution Size
Institution Size Answered "Administrators" Answered "Faculty" Answered "Staff" Answered "Students"
Less than 5,000 FTE 83% 70% 65% 20%
5,000-10,000 FTE 77% 72% 63% 26%
10,001-20,000 FTE 88% 70% 72% 18%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 90% 68% 73% 22%

Lack of Motivation for Making Changes

At the same time, faculty were by far the most likely to be considered lacking in motivation for addressing accessibility issues. They were mentioned by 89 percent of respondents compared to administrators (referenced by 55 percent) or staff (48 percent). Upon reflection, "motivation" may have been the wrong term in this question, as faculty may not have been properly informed of the issues or may assume accessibility is to be resolved by an administrative unit.

Bar graph showing positions on campus that lack motivation to address accessibility issues. The same data is represented in Table 32, shown below.
Figure 18.
Table 32. Position on Campus that Lacks Motivation to Address Accessibility Issues
Type of Role Percent
Faculty 89%
Administrators 55%
Staff 48%

 

Table 33. Position on Campus that Lacks Motivation to Address Accessibility Issues, by Institution Type
Type of Institution Answered "Administrators" Answered "Faculty" Answered "Staff"
Associate's 56% 88% 55%
Baccalaureate 59% 89% 49%
Master's 58% 86% 51%
Doctoral 53% 95% 46%

 

Table 34. Position on Campus that Lacks Motivation to Address Accessibility Issues, by Institution Size
Size of Institution Answered "Administrators" Answered "Faculty" Answered "Staff"
Less than 5,000 FTE 58% 88% 54%
5,000-10,000 FTE 63% 83% 44%
10,001-20,000 FTE 57% 97% 49%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 50% 90% 48%

Individual Awareness of Accessibility

Across the board, respondents gave low marks to the idea that individuals on their campuses were aware of the need to integrate accessibility strategies into their workflows. Fifty-seven percent reported that it was either "no" or "more no than yes" for the awareness level of individuals. Only 36 percent said it was "yes" or "more yes than no."

Stacked bar graph showing individuals on campus who are aware of accessibility strategies to incorporate into their workflows. The same data is represented in Table 35, shown below.
Figure 19.
Table 35. Individuals at Our Campus are Aware of Accessibility Strategies to Incorporate into their Workflows
Response Percent
Yes 8%
Mixed, but more yes than no 28%
Mixed, but more no than yes 51%
No 6%
Unsure 7%
Stacked bar graph showing individuals on campus that are aware of accessibility strategies to incorporate into their workflows. The same data is represented in Table 36, shown below.
Figure 20.
Table 36. Individuals at Our Campus are Aware of Accessibility Strategies to Incorporate into their Workflows, by Institution Type
Institution Type Answered "Yes" Answered "more yes than no" Answered "more no than yes" Answered "No" Answered "Unsure"
Associate's 10% 29% 44% 4% 14%
Baccalaureate 9% 20% 48% 8% 15%
Master's 9% 30% 44% 6% 11%
Doctoral 6% 23% 51% 4% 15%
Stacked bar graph showing individuals on campus that are aware of accessibility strategies to incorporate into their workflows. The same data is represented in Table 37, shown below.
Figure 21.
Table 37. Individuals at Our Campus are Aware of Accessibility Strategies to Incorporate into their Workflows, by Institution Size
Institution Size Answered "Yes" Answered "more yes than no" Answered "more no than yes" Answered "No" Answered "Unsure"
Less than 5,000 FTE 6% 27% 44% 10% 13%
5,000-10,000 FTE 12% 25% 44% 8% 10%
10,001-20,000 FTE 8% 21% 55% 3% 13%
Greater than 20,000 FTE 7% 28% 44% 3% 18%

Campus Challenges

Several common themes emerged when people spoke about the challenges their institutions face in addressing accessibility on campus. The most prevalent was a lack of knowledge of how to "proactively" address accessibility, cited by respondents at 68 percent of schools. Lack of funding also dominated (mentioned by 64 percent of survey participants), as did a lack of understanding of regulatory requirements (60 percent) and a lack of institutional support services (52 percent). These themes dominated at every type and size of institution, though the order varied slightly.

One challenge that showed up in 40 percent of campuses was students not self-identifying as needing accessibility accommodations. This is particularly challenging in courses that are not face-to-face, where students may choose not to disclose their disability and rely on the institution to have the appropriate mechanisms in place without having to request them.

"Top challenges include lack of knowledge of how to address, lack of funding, and not knowing regulatory requirements."

Table 38. Challenges Regarding Accessibility on Campus
Challenge Description Percent
Lack of Knowledge of methods to proactively address accessibility 68%
Lack of funding to assure accessibility 64%
Lack of knowledge of regulatory requirements 60%
Lack of institutional support services 52%
Lack of institutional policies 46%
Lack of institutional commitment to address accessibility 45%
Students not proactively identifying themselves as needing accessible accommodations 40%
Lack of vendor support to address accessibility in technologies/software 39%
Lack of knowledge of methods to provide accommodations after the fact 39%
Other 10%

 

Table 39. Top Three Accessibility Challenges, by Institution Type
Institution Type #1 Challenge #2 Challenge #3 Challenge
Associate's Proactively addressing accessibility (78%) Lack of funding (73%) Regulatory requirements (63%)
Baccalaureate Proactively addressing accessibility (70%) Regulatory requirements (60%) Lack of funding (54%)
Master's Proactively addressing accessibility (67%) Lack of funding (66%) Regulatory requirements (59%)
Doctoral Lack of funding (68%) Proactively addressing accessibility (65%) Regulatory requirements (61%)

 

Table 40. Top Three Accessibility Challenges, by Institution Size
Institution Size #1 Challenge #2 Challenge #3 Challenge
Less than 5,000 FTE Proactively addressing accessibility (72%) Lack of funding (69%) Regulatory requirements (62%)
5,000-10,000 FTE Proactively addressing accessibility (69%) Lack of funding (61%) Regulatory requirements (59%)
10,0001-20,000 FTE Lack of funding (73%) Proactively addressing accessibility (72%) Lack of Institutional Support (59%)
Greater than 20,000 FTE Proactively addressing accessibility (65%) Regulatory requirements (63%) Lack of funding (58%)

Challenge: "It has been somewhat of an uphill battle to get the institution's administration to understand the urgency of ensuring accessibility (building the case for accessibility)."

Success: "Having a committee that truly represents folks from all over campus has been a Godsend for us. We always have their voice as we move forward, and they help us communicate back to their constituents too."


Recommendations

These recommendations primarily came out of an online conversation among a panel of educators and accessibility experts:

  • Kelly Hermann, vice president for accessibility strategy at the University of Phoenix;
  • Adam Nemeroff, learning designer in the Learning Design and Technology group at Dartmouth College;
  • Tina Rettler-Pagel, director of online learning and chief online learning officer at Madison College;
  • Kate Sonka, assistant director of Academic Technology at the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University; and
  • Torie Wynn, instructional designer at the University of Missouri - Kansas City.

Accessibility Policies and Approaches

Bring the campus together. Universities that are leading in this area have found ways to bring the representatives together from across campus to develop policies, set scheduling goals and monitor progress. As one respondent reported, "Having a committee that truly represents folks from all over campus has been a godsend for us. We always have their voice as we move forward, and they help us communicate back to their constituents too." The advantage of this approach is that it doesn't put the university into the position of mandating accessibility actions. Rather, the various units can share their practices, successes, and questions.

Team up with your institution's legal counsel. A lot of campuses with a policy have developed that in response to a lawsuit brought by an organization, such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). That can be a huge wake-up call for advancing the awareness of accessibility. So, make sure you're teaming up with your legal representatives on campus. The office of general counsel can help you prioritize accessibility activities and think through the different ways to get ahead of the issues.

Keep pushing for improvements. If your institution lacks a policy regarding accessibility, don't give up. No matter what position you hold—whether that's an instructional designer, faculty member or staff member in the accessibility office—you can help to create a culture of caring about accessibility.

Communication and Collaboration

Distinguish between "accessibility" and "accommodations." As you communicate with others on campus, make sure they understand the distinction between accommodations (changes made to address the needs of a specific individual) and accessibility (changes made to meet populations of users). Sometimes faculty or staff will be confused. They'll have made an effort to address accessibility and think that's all there is to do. Often, students will need individual tailoring as well, because accessibility isn't one-size-fits-all and specific challenges are quite unique from person to person.

Define and refine your message. Practice coming up with responses to the most common questions you get asked about accessibility. And expect conversations to be difficult and awkward; pursuing greater accessibility is a complex endeavor, filled with slipups and backsliding amid the forward movement.

Add to your invitation list. While those in the student disability office may take the lead in specific areas, providing successful accessibility requires everybody on campus to understand that it's part of their job description. Any time a video or document is created, an email composed, marketing material designed for recruiting or campus events, all the way through graduation and alumni contact, it's important to consider accessibility for every stage of the student's life with the institution. As one respondent explained, "One of the successes we've had is ensuring our communication messages from the Center for Teaching and Learning is accessible."

Work—and train—cross-departmentally. Building those partnerships on campus—especially with the student accessibility services unit—can remove barriers more quickly and help expand learning about accessibility across the institution. Consider holding an accessibility learning workshop that brings together people from all over campus to share their challenges and solutions. Also, don't despair if few people show up to your events. Those who do may turn out to be unexpected partners in your accessibility work.

Design Considerations

Build accessibility into the design process, not as an addition after a course is created. That's the idea behind Universal Design for Learning principles: to continually make improvements to teaching and learning to optimize it for everybody. Changes made for students with disabilities—adding captioning to videos or making sure emails can be vocalized—will help other students as well. UDL is especially important when you consider that not every student will self-identify as needing assistance—particularly in online courses.

Expand the view of who benefits. Changes being made in the name of accessibility go beyond those with physical limitations. It also includes students from under-represented groups, international students and English learners. Similarly, students aren't the only people on campus the accessibility efforts will help. Similarly, include faculty, staff and administrators as recipients. By identifying the broader beneficiaries for the accessibility efforts, you'll help your institution better understand the importance of the changes being made.

Don’t assume that people with disabilities are well-versed in assistive technology. You may need to figure out how to address accessibility while also helping that student or staff member get up to speed with the technology he or she is using.

Faculty Support

Create a top-tips checklist. Include examples to help faculty self-assess and quickly correct things that are low-threshold:

  • Using styles in documents;
  • Checking PDFs to make they're text documents and not images;
  • Vetting optimal color combinations for contrast;
  • Making hyperlinks descriptive;
  • Maximizing readability by chunking text and applying appropriate fonts and sizes;
  • Captioning videos;
  • Applying alternate text to images;
  • Supplying transcripts for video and audio;

Produce brief video training sessions covering the basics. Several respondents said they have created short courses on accessibility, covering basic requirements and tips; PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and PDF requirements; and video requirements. As one noted, "I believe these webinettes opened the eyes of our grantees and help them realize the importance, and need, for accessibility."

Ramp up your accessibility expectations. This is easiest to do as faculty are going through the process of preparing their courses for online access where certification or digital badging is part of the outcome. As one survey participant told us, "We have developed an accessibility checklist that each new or redesigned course must go through before it is offered to students. This has been a huge step in ensuring that we are offering courses that are accessible to everyone. We still have a way to go, but this has been successful thus far."

Add experiences to your training events. Allow faculty members to encounter what students might experience, such as the use of poor highlighting through the course to let them see what somebody who's color-blind sees; turning the sound off on videos; turning off the monitor so that they only have sound; or taking away their mouse to demonstrate what it's like to move around on the screen with nothing but the keyboard.

Recognize that captioning, specifically, is an issue of concern for faculty. When you broach the topic of captioning videos with faculty members, particularly, be prepared for kickback. While some institutions are lucky enough to have staff or budget to cover captioning, many colleges don't, which means the work falls on faculty members' shoulders. Consider low-threshold methods, such as encouraging instructors to create a script for their video courses, which can serve as a starting point for the captions. Some video capture tools include speech-to-text, which can serve as another route for cutting down on the amount of work required to create captions. (They're still not 100 percent, but they'll get instructors part of the way there.) Some schools are finding budget to pay student workers to handle the job. Or, as one institution reported, co-op purchasing can make the difference: "We have been successful at securing cost-effective captioning and document conversion technologies through the collective purchasing of all our state higher-ed institutions."

Give instructors access to accessibility coaches. These liaisons can help faculty get up to speed quickly when a student with accessibility needs is joining the class on short order. The coach's job is to help the instructor understand and respond to impacts on instruction.

Don't forget about your adjunct or part-time faculty members. Make sure they have just-in-time access to the same resources full-time faculty have, such as common documents like syllabus templates and online training or face-to-face professional development opportunities that include accessibility elements

Conclusion

Whether courses are face-to-face or online, institutional personnel at many institutions still face challenges in assisting students with accessibility needs. While we may have intuited that conclusion, the results of this survey show inequities continue to affect these students.

Whether it is policies, training, clear lines of responsibility, procurement policies, or general awareness of how to resolve the issues, many survey respondents report their institution could improve these practices. Meanwhile, both in the survey responses and in our contact with OLC and WCET members, successful institutions do exist!

What started out as a "year of accessibility" for OLC and WCET is growing to a longer-term commitment. While the two organizations have provided conference sessions, webinars, blogs, and other resources to help our members, it is clear more needs to be done. We are committed to continued partnership on accessibility issues. Watch for more activities in the coming year.


Appendix A: Respondent Challenges and Successes

We asked respondents to share their stories and tell us about successes and challenges they've faced in assuring that courses or support services serve those with accessibility needs. While plenty of people provided input, challenges outweighed success stories, leading with lack of administrative support, inadequate resources, and weak faculty awareness.

The Challenges

Not having an exact definition of how to apply standards. For example, one accessibility reviewer may think a PDF is fully accessible but another accessibility reviewer is more knowledgeable and sees errors.

Professors not wanting to make courses accessible ahead of time since they believe if they don't have anyone with a disability in the course, why go through all the work to make it accessible?

Colleges and units at my institution are individually responsible for their websites, making it next to impossible to regulate the templates they use for creation of their sites. It's difficult to govern these spaces if we don't identify who is responsible for these spaces.

How to tackle accessibility issues at an institution with limited resources and support staff. We are currently implementing Ally into Blackboard and also using Rev.com, but what we really need is a plan to show progress and areas of need.

Disability services are proactive about monitoring student progress. They seem to be more in compliance mode than student services mode.

Due to turnover, we lost the person who was most knowledgeable, thus our effort toward compliance fizzled. Budgets also don't allow for a single office to be the point person for accessibility. Faculty are very overwhelmed because they don't know exactly what compliance means, and we aren't able to tell them because the federal government hasn't decided yet. The faculty jump to captioning videos right away and are overwhelmed by that and then don't think they can do any accessibility tasks without someone to do it all for them.

Faculty feel that campus services should MAKE their materials accessible for them. They feel they don't have the time to learn how and that other offices should do all the work for them, such as captioning their videos, making their documents accessible to screen readers, etc. and it should cost nothing.

[The biggest challenge is] faculty knowledge of policies—although once it is explained to them, most understand and support the need to make their courses accessible. The biggest issue? Third-party and publisher tools specified by the faculty are far from accessible.

In filmmaking class students create films and then submit last minute work to the teacher for the class critique session. But there's not a fast-enough turnaround to have them captioned for class the next day or same-day. Deaf/hard-of-hearing students caption their sign language and want the same courtesy from the hearing students to caption dialogue/music. The interpreters want videos to be captioned.

Internally, the Instructional Design department has created guides and has implemented the use of tools as way to manage certain accessibility issues for current and new online courses. This summer we will be implementing Ally, which seems to be a useful tool but only if faculty are required and committed to doing their part. This will be the challenge for us, having faculty use the tool to resolve accessibility issues in their online course. The Instructional Design department would certainly provide assistance but it can't be only up to us to resolve accessibility issues. To successfully meet accessibility requirements, there needs to be collaboration from faculty, an accessibility/disability specialist, and the distance learning department.

Many faculty are waiting for requests for accommodation before making changes. They have been so accustomed to making things look the way they want without consideration for those who can't see so well. They are not used to the idea of scripting lecture videos to aid in closed captioning. So much is fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants that they have not developed practices of preparation or consideration for accessibility needs. We (the Instructional Design team) are trying, but meeting resistance when we tell them that photocopy/scans are not accessible (not to mention [possible] copyright [problems]!) They don't see where it's broken. We are setting up short monthly webinars (20 minutes), but that is a woefully short amount of time to talk about accessibility awareness and skills. Personal stories from affected students might be really helpful to get faculty to relate to real life situations.

[We are] mostly retroactive, but moving towards proactive with the development of new or redesigned online courses.

Much of our focus is on remediation—bringing older online content up to current standards. We have recently implemented an online course QA review that will include accessibility as part of the evaluation. That said, we are hindered by limits on staffing at all areas related to accessibility needs.

My department {the Instructional Technology Resource Center) has been offering workshops on accessibility for the last two years. Over that time, maybe two faculty members have attended. They are happy to have me and my team caption their videos and check their documents, but beyond that they don't seem to care about accessibility. I am frustrated by the lack of attention this issue is receiving by the administration and faculty. Sometimes I feel like a "one trick pony" since I am the person handling all of the accommodation requests for online courses.

My greatest challenge is finding ways to present the symbolic language of mathematics in accessible formats.

My issues have been with the technical side of remediating documents (particularly PDF files with tables).

My primary challenge is locating a video resource to use in a course, but not having access to make it accessible.

Not enough space to tell [all our stories]. Our web development vendor is especially poor at this. I was taunted for not "having a big enough monitor" on one task. Amazing.

Often, policies are put in place with little training to ensure staff is prepared to apply the policy in course ware—[which] slows the process down and creates an us/them mentality when curriculum staff is left to implement on short notice.

One of the most significant challenges we face is one of scale and scope in addressing accessibility needs and issues in online courses. For an institution with just over 2,000 students, across PhD, Masters and Bachelor's programs it's more than just a bit daunting for two full-time instructional designers to review and provide feedback and guidance on how to reformat existing and new courses for greater adherence to accessibility requirements. We're looking into ways that would help accomplish this better. We've begun conducting in-house monthly webinars on these issues, providing "quick tips" emails to faculty, embedding accessibility training into our faculty orientation course and bringing on a service to do auto-captions for instructor-created video content. I honestly think addressing accessibility online is going to need to become a skill taught right alongside capitalizing a word at the beginning of a sentence and placing punctuation at the end. It's all about creating content online and doing so in a way that [lets] "everyone" benefit from how it's presented and shared. Sadly, I think this may take 20 years or so to really catch on.

Our Accessibility team was developed by various individuals on campus, but we have had a hard time "selling" or getting buy-in from our administration. It doesn't seem to be as important to them as it should be. We are forcefully moving forward doing whatever we can to get a policy in place and hold people accountable. Accountability will be our biggest struggle.

Our campus is currently working towards implementing a strategic plan for accessibility but I—the closest thing to an accessibility specialist on campus—have been left out of the conversation. Now the plan is reaching its final stages and some of the accessibility standards they plan to implement are not in alignment with WCAG 2.0 AA and I'm finding it difficult to have my voice heard in a way that is meaningful. I don't want to waste faculty time completing accessibility training that is irrelevant, and I don't want important information to be omitted. I fear this will happen if I am not able to collaborate on the plan. And then I fear I will be the one responsible for providing training for faculty according to a plan I had no hand in. It is frustrating, but mostly because so many people are putting good work into this plan but it isn't the best that it can be.

Our greatest struggle is with our fully-online science courses. While we can (and do) provide transcripts and closed-captioning for video lectures, we do not know how to provide rich description for images on tests in a way that would meet accessibility standards while not invalidating the work of the test.

Our institution has a policy of [making] each instructor responsible for content. I feel like this causes gaps in the standards across a single course. I also have an "issue" with the idea that powerful teaching tools are being removed for the sake of accessibility.

Our university has no web accessibility policy. Faculty are overloaded and underpaid, and as a result, they are reluctant to take on the responsibility of creating accessible course materials on their own. An atmosphere of continual budget cuts makes the prioritization of accessibility difficult, given the continual, all-encompassing threats of declining state support and declining enrollment.

Our university is afraid of lawsuits for especially online materials that are not ADA 508 compliant. Although there is a big push from the university level, there are no resources or money to provide assistance to faculty with existing materials that are not ADA-compliant. Additionally, every college seems to understand the need for ADA compliance, but each treats it differently. I'm not sure there is much more to compliance than fear of getting caught. Many are still gambling that they will not be caught rather than putting in the time and effort required to bring everything up to date.

Providing adequate materials in music courses for blind students has been a huge challenge in the last two years. We feel like we are inventing the wheel. Products focus around Braille music which is really only helpful for limited tasks, and our current students, born in the digital age, have never learned any sort of Braille.

So many [challenges]. Initially, all involve my own proactive needs as a faculty member to ensure I am not only compliant for ADA and accessibility needs, but also able to convert materials and support access in other ways as our accessibility/disability accommodation office is drastically understaffed and are not able to help meet the needs for the growing number of online students.

Students enroll in courses, the college rushes to develop accessible materials and invests time, only to have the student withdraw.

The big challenge is communicating that there is a difference between accessibility and accommodations. Even this survey conflates the two ideas. This is something that has to be nailed down better in the discussion. Also, my university has great training materials, but we have had a horrible time getting faculty to use them (even though they are automatically enrolled in them by default).

The biggest challenge are video transcription costs. Many faculty like to create lecture videos, especially for their online and blended courses, but faculty do not realize that transcriptions may be requested based on student accommodations.

The greatest challenge is the administration. While they profess commitment, they do not support efforts to train employees, create policies, or even demonstrate compliance with accessibility in their communications.

The largest challenge from my perspective in the lack of institutional support at the highest level (and then the resources associated with it) to actually address this issue. We have no leadership in this area, roles are undefined, and it is leading to increased chaos/anxiety for our faculty.

Virtually all of our practice (industry and academe) about "learning with disabilities" is blind and deaf to those with serious organizational skills deficiencies; with serious inter-personal deficiencies; and those who were so badly served by primary/secondary school that they just do not know how to learn. Even the "top three" list in question 17 above shows this incredible bias: We already know all of the disabilities we need to deal with; now we just need to refine what we do. We are so out of touch that it hurts!

We are currently facing challenges with delineating where faculty needs to draw the line with technical implementation and where instructional designers need to come into play. Not all of our courses are designed with an instructional designer; therefore, faculty who design their own courses are often surprised and overwhelmed when they discover their course needs revision due to accessibility.

We are too scattered and not consistent. We need centralized information and centralized support. The university as a whole should be funding accessibility supports, such as transcription or redevelopment on inaccessible materials. There are too many people doing different things. [Face-to-face] courses are managed by a different group than online courses. Then hybrid courses totally fall off the radar. And it is nobody's direct responsibility to assure compliance.

We are working on a campus-wide accessibility initiative, but it is challenging because faculty—while understanding that it is important—also feel burdened by the changes. In my Instructional Technology department, we are unsure of how to best support faculty, especially when we are confronted with courses, assignments, or assessments that don't seem like they can be made accessible without undermining the intent or objective of the course/assignment/assessment. What is the exact definition of "undue burden" in reference to higher ed and how can we determine when it applies to course content?

We cannot require faculty training, per the union contract; we cannot monitor courses, per the union contract; we cannot force faculty to make content accessible, per the union contract.

We do a good job of accommodating students who disclose a disability. However, there is little awareness of the need to make course content accessible for students who may not be comfortable disclosing. Building awareness of this need and giving faculty the tools to produce accessible content has been lacking.

We had online accessibility training, but the trainers couldn't give us access to the presentation after it was over because the presentation itself wasn't fully accessible.

We have a policy and an office tasked with raising voluntary compliance, but with all things teaching at a large research university, [there's] no meaningful incentive for faculty to comply.

We have a system-wide accessibility procedure (WCAG 2.0 AA) for the Colorado Community College System. We have required training for all instructors/faculty. The process is going slow for our STEAM areas. Developing Alt-text for images in this area is difficult. Also working with third-party vendors has been challenging. Many of these vendors are working towards compliance; however, many textbook resources and online components are not compliant with WCAG 2.0. We have also experienced vendors indicating their [slides] are accessible and pass internal accessibility checks; however, their Alt-text for many images is not clear, concise, or contextual.

We have implemented training on how to create accessible Word documents, PDF documents and PowerPoint presentations. But it has been a challenge to get staff, administrators, and faculty to attend to such training.

Yes, a complaint was filed against us regarding our website being inaccessible. We researched several options that cost thousands of dollars. We found a company that makes websites accessible dynamically without changing code. Using their software, we were able to address accessibility issues for about 30 percent of our site. The other 70 percent we will have to fix using their tools and training. When the U.S. Department of Justice saw solution we had implemented, they closed the complaint. The work is not completed yet but we don't have the DOJ breathing down our necks.

Actual training takes time/effort/money. Subscribing to a training plan is not enough. It is not enough to "check a box" to say "we have dealt with ADA." If it is a priority, it requires a cultural shift, and that is hard to do via webinars, etc.

[We have] an overall apathy towards this issue and disagreement on how to move forward. Lack of authority in this area has handcuffed me from making much of a difference. Frustration!

Faculty are resistant.

Faculty members are the most challenging at my institution regarding accessibility compliance in course content.

[The challenge is] getting administrative buy-in to develop the policy and afterward to move on the decision.

I have created several "webinettes" on accessibility basics and requirements and tips for PowerPoint, Word, and videos. These will be transcribed, and closed-captioned for future use.

It has been somewhat of an uphill battle to get the institution's administration to understand the urgency of ensuring accessibility (building the case for accessibility).

Just learning how to check documents was difficult.

[The main challenge is] knocking down the walls and gaining buy-in from all levels.

My unit has been in the trenches. We are working under an agreement with the National Federation of the Blind and have been for nearly two years. There have been a lot of challenges and victories along the way.

My chief compliance officer to the president asked if we were at risk. Awkward.

My job is focused on overseeing the accessibility of our LMS and all that is integrated into it so this is a major challenge.

[We have] no personal service to develop instructional materials that are accessible.

Our biggest challenge is faculty resistance to providing accessible materials.

Our current challenge is the lack of funds and staff to implement and maintain accessibility.

Our disability support services seem to be more focused on getting paperwork from students who have disabilities and providing note takers for face-to-face classes and transcripts than they do supporting students.

Our specific concern is creating accessible media, including games. There is not much content out there on how to create inclusive games that meet accessibility standards.

Problems arise when faculty suddenly find out that our courses/materials need to all be accessible. This is really difficult to accomplish for online courses as we normally have the course materials loaded. To go through everything to check for accessibility would take an inordinate amount of time, which we don't have because all offices on campus are already short-staffed. Also, many online courses are offered all three semesters, so it is difficult to take time away from current students in order to go through all the course documents.

[Our biggest challenges?] Software, faculty time to commit to updating documents, publisher materials not accessible—especially statistics.

Some classes have been denied access to learning materials because there were squabbles over closed caption content—when there were no disabled students.

Some of the technologies to address accessibility are difficult to implement or time consuming. I think that is the reason why faculty is not willing to use them more. Definitely more training is needed.

Still at the beginning explaining to faculty why we need to caption videos they make.

[Our challenge:] Supporting all students.

There is an awareness and actions for facilities to accommodate; but not enough on universal design and other teaching/learning strategies.

There aren't enough resources to police what's being done online.

[The challenge:] Updating web materials, including images and documents, assuring they can be accessed correctly.

We are doing this more at a department level and decisions are still unknown for what all must be remediated for courses. We also could use more training, particularly on PDF files.

We are in the process of adopting and implementing Ally for our LMS and online courses.

We are in the third of a five-year access plan; the biggest challenge is not having the resources to fully implement our plans and provide adequate faculty support.

We are outside of the continental U.S. and do not have enforcement of accessibility policies.

We have a great accessibility coordinator who works hard to help us, but he probably doesn't have all the help he needs.

We have about 1,500 FTE undergrad, MBA and PhD [students] in Global Leadership. Accessibility has become the major push for our instructional design team. We are doing monthly professional development sessions. The next three are to surface the accessibility conversation and the impact of digital accessibility for online students. We will also address document preparation and remediation and video/audio accessibility. We have been reviewing/revising courses with using Quality Matters and WCAG2.0 AA rubrics and remediating where we can. A challenge going forward will be in training faculty to remediate their own material in development. They generally do not have the PDF remediation capability (Adobe Pro and Microsoft Office). That could be an area of focus in your planning. Many of our faculty think they are using IBM Selectrics, as far as their word processing skills and understanding of document applications. You have decided to choke down a big apple!

We have made great strides in making the faculty aware of the need to use universal design principles in designing online courses and identifying related issues through an internal quality assurance process, as well as Quality Matters. Our issue at the moment is lack of funding from senior level administration for training programs, policy development, closed captioning services, and most important of all, for staffing to implement and monitor changes i.e. create an office of accessibility that includes both administrative and technical staff.

We have [had] some success focusing on usability along with accessibility.

We need an accessibility specialist to develop more detailed policies.

We struggle with several individuals sending emails that are PDFs converted to images. They are visually appealing, but completely inaccessible.

We've had a math faculty member develop an accessible course using Pearson products for a legally blind student. We've also "dropped everything" when needed to revise content into an accessible format for a disabled student.

Working to change a culture in a mature online program has been difficult. Hiring enough staff to assist faculty is not possible in the current economic environment. The challenges of moving forward are many.

Three years ago, we had a college-wide initiative that was highly successful in ensuring accessibility for visually impaired individuals; but lack of interest has led to this falling off the radar. We have not completed an in-depth survey and revision of courses based on other types of impairments/disabilities. This is a great concern to many of us who design and develop courses. While instructional designers retrofit accessibility in developed courses, this is inefficient, particularly knowing that building it in from the beginning is efficient, thoughtful and meets 504/508 standards much more thoroughly.

Disability is abused, overused, incorrectly employed, overemployed, all to the detriment of the disabled.

Have you got all day?

You guys...so many stories and SUCH a little text box.

The Successes

Having a committee that truly represents folks from all over campus has been a Godsend for us. We always have their voice as we move forward, and they help us communicate back to their constituents too.

I created four "webinettes" on accessibility: "Basic Requirements and Tips," "PowerPoint Requirements and Tips," "Word Requirements and Tips," and "Video Requirements and Tips." I believe these webinettes opened the eyes of our grantees and help them realize the importance, and need, for accessibility.

I designed a course to teach faculty how to make Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files accessible. These were presented to faculty this spring with successful outcomes.

I have had a few students reach out to me about needing accommodations. In my program they worry about what will happen when they get into the field. You don't get extra time to respond to an emergency. Typically, if they are granted accommodations, they won't use them. I have offered other services like tutoring and other library services in place of the accommodations. This has been successful.

I just moved from [one university to another] as an instructional designer. Within the past two months, I have pushed an agenda in the Instructional design department to require faculty compliance in online courses. I am currently in the middle of revamping the website in order to provide accessible, asynchronous accessibility training for faculty. I have received nothing but support from my department, but faculty have been none too happy about the change. [My current university] does a great job navigating the conversations surrounding accessibility with faculty.

I started an online course accessibility initiative in our Online Education department about two years ago. I built an accessibility training course that has been offered for employees campus-wide and has been well received. We're working on making existing courses accessible, and all new course developments must be accessible before they're put on the course schedule. Our webmaster and IT department have also been working hard on accessibility on our public website.

My success rate is better than many people because I created a policy and provide tools to implement it. On the whole, we just punt. It's sad because faculty are eager to help students in every way!

One of the successes we've had is ensuring our communication messages from the Center for Teaching and Learning is accessible.

Our department contracts with faculty who would like to design and develop fully online courses. Part of our contract includes a requirement to address accessibility issues. If faculty work with our instructional designers, they are fairly certain to meet the requirements, including close captioning of video lectures.

Our previous accessibility coordinator organized a Universal Design for Learning/Accessibility Staff Learning Community that was responsible for researching ways to make different formats more accessible and creating training and resources to share with others on campus.

We are a work in progress at a very large institution, but rather than focusing on policy, the energy is on procedure to support faculty and staff to proactively support all students. This way when students with disabilities enroll, the remediation needs should be fewer and less complex.

We are trying to use common sense along with meeting the legal requirements. It seems to be working. For instance, if a classroom teacher finds a video that they want to use in their particular class and no one in the class has a hearing issue, we are making an exception to the policy that states all videos need to be closed-captioned.

We are using the Quality Matters rubric and are emphasizing general standards 7 and 8 to faculty.

We do an amazing job in distance learning of developing fully accessible online courses. We also put on regular professional development sessions on the subject, the most recent of which is our latest web series episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlctmkYNFjI&feature=youtu.be. This has been a successful way for us to start focusing attention on the topic and creating a campus wide conversation.

We have developed an accessibility checklist that each new or redesigned course must go through before it is offered to students. This has been a huge step in ensuring that we are offering courses that are accessible to everyone. We still have a way to go, but this has been successful thus far.

We have had a lot of success in using student workers to transcribe lecture and video content, more affordably than contracting these services out. (We are a distance education unit.)

I serve as the accessibility expert on my instructional design team. A few years ago, I was involved in a project to ensure the in-house developed media player met WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines to be fully accessible for all users. In the process, I involved members of the blind and low-vision community to provide input on the design to make it accessible for their user experience.

I worked directly with the director of Disability Resources to determine the need and policies in place at the university. Then I determined a plan and incorporated it into the development of all new and revised versions of online courses. It is a federal law and we made sure to be in compliance.

Our school is making a task force to integrate various departments for accessibility compliance. It is a good start. Currently we don't have a university-wide policy and procedure to do that.

In my online graduate program, we employ a planning-from-the-middle approach. As such, faculty (we are in the middle) conduct yearly week-long training sessions to enhance our online teaching/learning capability, including accessibility. Applying accessibility standards is an iterative process, so we feel the need to reinforce learning about accessibility issues on a yearly basis. I referred to this as planning from the middle, because we get no support from administrators, IT, etc.

Pitt Online created a decision-making matrix for prioritizing accessibility issues in online course materials. I have presented and gotten positive feedback on this tool.

The only official college policy on accommodations is for employees with disabilities, but we have published guidelines for faculty/staff and include accommodations in our training programs.

We have a response process in place to make sure students who have identified as needing support get that support.

We have established an "accessibility champion" in the Office of Teaching and Learning who works with other accessibility departments on campus.

We have fully online programs that meet accessibility standards. Some of us (faculty) have had training in this area, and we work with a very capable IT department that reinforces this. Our courses are designed with accessibility, and we have had successful outcomes with students.

We have been successful at securing cost-effective captioning and document conversion technologies through the collective purchasing of all our state higher-ed institutions.

We have some very limited, but committed faculty who work hard to make their courses ADA-compliant, despite a lack of support and resources campus-wide.

We implemented an "Online Course Accessibility Champions" cohort program in April 2017. Participants receive training and support and upgrade a course for accessibility; then they recruit individuals from their departments to attend trainings co-facilitated by an online course accessibility specialist.

We have been able to address web accessibility. We struggle a bit with the vague issues, as we're not sure if they affect the person (issues that require manual review). It's also a challenge convincing page owners that their files need to be accessible for the web, as well as offline (it's a department/school wide effort). Overall, it's been a supportive and beneficial process for everyone. Looking forward to improving awareness and implementation.

We have been able to initiate the ability to caption videos for some courses; funding is an issue.

We have a "report a barrier" button in our learning management system and a checklist for vendors whenever we have new product acquisition.

We have just purchased Ally for Blackboard to help instructors get involved with accessibility.

We have developed a procedure for certifying courses as compliant, but only if faculty engage in a contract to develop the course.

We partnered with a vendor to make their product accessible so that we would be able to adopt it for the benefit of our students as well as others at other institutions that used the same OER product.

We've committed to paying students to help faculty ensure their online curriculum is fully accessible.

The Online Accessibility Center at Southern New Hampshire University supports more than 1,000 students registered with our office. We have been instrumental in changing the culture around disability and accessibility. We have served in dual roles as disability professionals and accessibility consultants. The team is responsible for coordination of thousands of hours of video captioning for the university, along with extensive hours in training to staff members.

The RN-BS Online Track at Boise State University initiated its own accessibility audit on each class in the program. Through this initiative and correcting each course (15) an entire network grew in eCampus, OIT, and Disability Resources. And we now have three accessibility policies at our institution. Human Resource Services is also preparing to create a mandatory training for all employees at Boise State.

Start with the people who work with faculty. If you change their perspective, they can help change faculty perspective. Get student voices too.

Appendix B: Resources

Ally from Blackboard
https://www.blackboard.com/accessibility/blackboard-ally.html
This learning management system-neutral application will help you identify where your course materials fail to meet accessibility criteria.

International Association of Accessibility Professionals
https://www.accessibilityassociation.org/
Networking opportunities for accessibility professionals, with education and certification.

"Supporting the success of online students who are deaf"
http://www.laureliversonhitchcock.org/2017/06/23/supporting-the-success-of-online-students-who-are-deaf-lessons-presented-at-swde2017/

Teach Access
http://teachaccess.org/
Training, events and online resources for educating students of technology in how to create accessible experiences.

UDL Guidelines
http://udlguidelines.cast.org/
The home for the Universal Design for Learning framework, including guidelines, training videos and downloads.

WebAIM.org
https://webaim.org/
Focused on web accessibility.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/
Guidelines to make Web content more accessible for people with disabilities.

Webinar: "Web Accessibility: Trick or Treat?"
https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/webinar/web-accessibility-trick-or-treat/


About OLC

The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is a collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators who work to advance quality online teaching and learning experiences for students in K-12, higher education and workforce development. Learn more at https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/.

About WCET

WCET is the leader in the practice, policy, & advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is a national, member-driven, non-profit that brings together colleges, universities, higher education organizations and companies to collectively improve the quality and reach of technology-enhanced learning programs. Learn more at https://wcet.wiche.edu/.