Since it was first implemented in 2004, Colorado State University’s electronic information and technologies accessibility policy has helped make more learning materials available to all, including individuals with disabilities.
The need for accessible materials has evolved over that time, on two fronts. First, there is the issue of compliance with federal regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act: Fifty universities were sued in November 2018 over accessibility of their websites, in addition to countless complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over the years.
CSU’s accessible EIT policy has also evolved, receiving a major update in 2016, reflecting the university’s continuing commitment to inclusion campus-wide.
The College of Health and Human Sciences selected electronic inclusivity as one of its top three diversity blueprint goals, and this spring, about 30 faculty and staff – representing every unit in the college – will complete four two-hour training sessions on accessibility.
“The university has adopted a perspective of inclusivity in so many areas,” explained Marla Roll, director of the Assistive Technology Resource Center. “Our Principles of Community specifically address inclusivity. The President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion has been working to make all aspects of campus welcoming for all individuals, and in 2017, the Inclusive Physical and Virtual Campus policy was adopted. So much of our education is in the electronic world now, it is vital that our materials are accessible to everyone.”
Why to – not just how-to
The responsibility for ensuring that content is accessible to all falls to faculty, and Roll’s team has been providing assistance on how to create curriculum from a universal design perspective.
“While we were providing the how-to, we weren’t really telling the why-to,” she said. “We felt it would help faculty better understand what it means to people with disabilities to have access to materials if they could hear their stories in their own words.”
Roll approached CSU Ventures with a request for funding for a video curriculum for faculty that addresses both the how and why of electronic accessibility. Ventures awarded ATRC and the Department of Occupational Therapy a $15,000 Creative Works Commercialization Award that allowed the team – Roll, Craig Spooner, Allison Kidd, and Anna Walker – to work with local videographers Be Reel to develop “Stories of Inclusive Technology: Diversity, Accessibility and Universal Design.”
The seven-video series, just released at the end of Fall semester, features CSU faculty, students and staff sharing their experiences with a variety of technologies, stories that demonstrate the benefits of inclusive design for students with and those without disabilities. Faculty talk about how incorporating accessibility into materials from the beginning of the process has unexpected benefits, and how to create an inclusive learning environment in the classroom.
Lisa Powell, communications manager for CSU Ventures, the technology transfer arm of the university, said that the Creative Works awards were designed to support faculty and staff ideas, especially in the digital realm, that have value.
“We provide funding and a place to host products, such as manuals, datasets, or instructional videos, that faculty and staff create and can sell,” she said. The Ventures website currently features three items on its Shop page, with more in the works.
“Stories of Inclusive Technology” is available for free to anyone with a CSU electronic ID, and for $100 to organizations outside of CSU. By the beginning of 2019, nine organizations in four states had purchased the bundle, including Denver Public Schools, based on presentations by ATRC staff at conferences.
“We couldn’t have done it without Ventures,” Roll said.
Originally posted in SOURCE, 2/4/19.