2004 Conference Proceedings

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SUPPORTING WEB ACCESSIBILITY POLICIES: CREATING A CAMPUS E-CULTURE OF INCLUSIONAT UW-MADISON

Presenter(s)
Alice Anderson
Technology Accessibility Program
Division of Information Technology
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1210 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53706

Abstract

A campus web accessibility policy is often considered a means to address legal obligations. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it also lead to a comprehensive campus wide effort to provide to its students, faculty and staff with disabilities full access to its technologically rich academic environment-an e-culture of inclusion.

Introduction

Developing campus Web accessibility policies, guidelines or standards is often thought of as a way to meet legal obligation, however, implementing web accessibility policies can be a means for creating a campus e-culture of inclusion. While developing a policy has numerous challenge- implementing, supporting and updating a Web accessibility policy is where the rubber hits the road and separates those who succeed in Web accessibility efforts and those who have a policy. Increasing awareness of disabilities and different ways of accessing web resources as well as making programs, services and resources available to people with disabilities is the measure of success.

Within the Division of Information Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the Technology Accessibility Program (TAP) that provides support for people with disabilities as well as those designing applications, instruction and Web pages. TAP is a program with a half-time staff person that creates and supports a coordinated University-wide infrastructure that encourages use of the tools and Web pages that are accessible for administration, teaching and learning.

This presentation summarizes the trials and tribulations involved in developing and supporting a campus Web accessibility policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and how this work is part of a larger movement to build an inclusive e-culture on campus. Others already in or brought into the inclusive e-culture include:

Developing a Web Accessibility Policy has occurred at several institutions of higher education over the past few years. Some develop their own standards, others use more recognized standards or guidelines such as the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) or Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, and still others use a combination [1]. Regardless of how your policy is developed or who develops it - being able to support it will determine the ability to comply with it.

One of the first Universities in the nation to have a Web accessibility policy was the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That results in also being among the first to see the need to review such policies on a regular basis to ensure an effective approach in an environment of rapidly changing technology. UW-Madison restates its commitment to ensuring access to Web-based information for people with disabilities with each revision. The Vice Chancellor for Legal and Executive Affairs and ADA Coordinator, and the CIO and Director of the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) announced the original policy (2000) and each revision [2].

Obtaining administrative support at any institution is key for gaining credibility and visibility for overall accessibility efforts, and for dealing with funding issues for staff and resources. Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM) funded by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) Learning Anywhere Anytime Partnerships (LAAP) indicates that gaining administrative support is the first step (of 8) for obtaining support for Web accessibility policies [3].

Awareness activities /events and advocacy are how to sustain momentum in the larger inclusive e-culture movement. It is advantageous to constantly bring awareness of accessibility barriers and solutions into communications, and simultaneously design communication to engage others. Awareness topics can include any combination of the following:

Awareness activities and advocacy comes through building strategic partnerships with those who are responsible for accessibility (disability service providers), those who make technology decisions (IT planning and implementation) and a whole host of service providers (housing, libraries, counseling, financial aid, registration, etc.). These partnerships will insure that each other's interests are on the table and included with each decision that involves the Web, accessibility and ultimately an e-culture of inclusion. Making sure that all stakeholders, including students, staff and instructors with disabilities are represented at all phases of policy development, implementation and support is a time consuming process. It is a process that plays off exponentially in terms of buy-in, support, and long-term success. A secondary benefit of building partners is advocacy. As partners work through each of the issues in this process, advocacy work is built in, as partners better understand the issues, concerns and resources of others.

Developing and delivering resources raises awareness of the challenges and the opportunities that accessible Web information and services can provide. Hearing what is needed, and taking action to make resources available to the larger community serves the community and supports an inclusive e-culture It is one of the ways to show the commitment necessary for supporting Web accessibility policies. Resources have served the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and have been accessed by several others from around the world. Resources that help faculty and staff understand and comply with the campus web accessibility policy also contribute to overall disability awareness and an inclusive e-culture. These resources include videos of how people with different disabilities access the web, an online web accessibility checklist and an online course called "Web Accessibility 101- Policy, Standards, and Design Techniques"[4].

Joining forces with others reduces the expenses and tasks of providing resources alone, and can increase the quality and quantity. An example of over 25 Post-secondary Institutions (including UW-Madison) collaborating to develop accessibility resources is DO-IT Prof and DO-IT Admin. These are projects supported by the U.S. Department of Education and managed by the DO-IT program at the University of Washington. Together they provide resources that help postsecondary faculty and administrators more fully include qualified students with disabilities in their academic offerings [5] The Faculty Room is a space for faculty and administrators at postsecondary institutions to learn about how to create classroom environments and activities that maximize the learning of all students, including those with disabilities [6].

Is the University of Wisconsin-Madison a utopia or an all-inclusive e-culture? Not fully - but there is ongoing evidence that there are giant strides being made in that direction. Momentum is building. As technologies continue to change-the goal is that a fully aware and engaged community at all levels can together make the decisions that are inclusive and build a fully inclusive e-culture.

References

[1] Accessible Design Statements and Standards, Higher Education [compiled by U.Washington], http://www.washington.edu/computing/accessible/resources.html

[2] UW-Madison Policies, Policy Governing World Wide Web Accessibility http://www.wisc.edu/wiscinfo/policy/wwwap.html

[3] Institutional Coordination and Reform, 8 steps, WebAIM [Web Accessibility in Mind], http://www.Webaim.org/howto/reform/reformstep1

[4] Web Accessibility Resources, UW-Madison, Division of Information Technology (DoIT), Technology Accessibility Program [TAP] http://www.doit.wisc.edu/accessibility/

[5] DoIT Prof and DoIT Admin projects, Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology [DO-IT], U.Washington, http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Prof/

[6] The Faculty Room, Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology [DO-IT], U.Washington, http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/


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