Text Size

Emerging Technology (final report excerpt)

While the College’s obligation to provide access to individuals with disabilities is an obligation that encompasses all services and programs offered; the greatest area of concern uncovered during our review was access to technology. Our assessment of the College’s access to technology practices included review of the following areas: central assistive technology administration; web and electronic documents; the distance education program; and learning management systems.

Central AT Program Administration

It is an important best practice for the College to adopt an articulated policy regarding AT provision and for one office to be responsible for administration and coordination of AT for students with disabilities. Our review revealed that the College has no articulated policy or procedure for providing AT to students with disabilities. Additionally, there is no central office coordinating access to technology for students with disabilities. There is no process for the selection, deployment and maintenance of assistive technologies on campus. AT is currently distributed in various labs and managed by the Open Access Computing Lab, Testing and Student Development and the Reading Lab. Assistance to end-users in these labs is inconsistent. AT upgrades are considered when other essential (i.e. Office) software is upgraded. There seems to be no plan for maintaining the AT software with incremental updates. 

Recommendations

  • The College should articulate a campus policy on providing AT services. One office should be selected as the coordinator of AT programs. It is important to note that this office may not have all the technical skills necessary to support the various subordinate areas, but this office would understand the goals of each supporting department and know the responsible individual within that department.
  • This office would work with other stakeholders on campus to create a uniform selection of the AT software provided and supported by the College. Since AT may be needed in any computer lab, costs should be assigned to a campus-wide budget….

Accessible Web and Electronic Documents

There is a clear and unambiguous legal obligation for colleges to publish web sites and electronic documents that are accessible and usable to people with disabilities using specialized assistive technologies. Unfortunately, current authoring tools do not automatically ensure an accessible web page or electronic document and deliberate intervention is necessary to produce accessible versions. Non-faculty web production at the College is done by the Office of Public Relations. The staff person responsible for web production is aware of accessibility standards and evaluates submitted web pages for accessibility prior to posting. The web accessibility standard used is WCAG “AA.” Validation is conducted with the Firefox Web Developers Toolbar using “Cynthia Says.” Due to limited resources not all pages are checked. “Upper level” pages estimated to garner high traffic have validation priority and then lesser pages are checked if resources permit.

The College uses Omniupdate for creating and submitting content to the web. This program has an accessibility checker built in, but it has been deemed too weak by the web developer. Although the College posts little in the way of video or podcasts, there is no mechanism to caption the videos or provide written transcripts for the podcasts.

There is a process at the College to check the accessibility of PDF files, but a random check of posted files revealed some accessibility errors.

This Public Relations’ Office is also responsible for campus video production and multimedia. These areas currently do not have plans for accessibility.

Recommendations

  • Web development at the College is on the right track and should be commended, but they are not near a “best practice” level. Resources need to be provided to widen the scope of web pages subject to accessibility validation. As the College web site becomes more transactional the validation process will need to be updated to additional and more sophisticated tools. Faculty web pages should be subject to accessibility validation.
  • PDF documents need to be accessible. Staff creating PDFs (including faculty) need training in creating accessible PDF and a more comprehensive accessibility validation process needs to be established.
  • Web based videos or podcasts (though small in number) still require captioning (video) or text transcripts (podcasts). There may be transition time before all productions are captioned or transcribed. During this interim a detailed contingency needs to be in place to quickly and accurately provide captions/transcripts when they have been requested by a student with disability.