Indicators for Institutional Web Accessibility

Below is a document of institutional indicators, benchmarks, and evidence helpful for planning and evaluation purposes. It includes four statements that, if present at a campus level, would "indicate" an institutional climate that can foster and maintain web accessibility efforts. Each of these indicators is defined by a series of benchmarks and each benchmark has examples of the types of evidence an institution would have if they attained a particular benchmark. For more resources on a specific indicator, view Recommended Practice Resources

This document is intended for strategic planning of new accessibility efforts, or for self-study and continuous improvement of existing efforts. GOALS is using these indicators now as the basis for a web-based tool for institutional self-study and reporting. They are currently seeking field test sites for this tool. If interested please Contact Us.

Overview

The internet can be a tremendous asset for students, faculty, and staff with disabilities, providing a level of independence that was not previously available. Unfortunately, many postsecondary websites are not as accessible as they could be. Some institutions opt for after-the-fact accommodations, but this approach can be time consuming and is often an inefficient use of limited resources. Furthermore, inaccessible websites can compromise educational outcomes for students and hinder employees’ ability to efficiently and effectively perform their roles.

In order to ensure that all individuals are able to participate fully in postsecondary settings, the complete institutional web presence needs to be accessible. System-wide effort and support and, in many cases, a plan or “blueprint” is required to guide the process. This document provides a framework for planning and implementing web accessibility across an organization and draws from best practices in the field today.

The indicators and benchmarks found in this document can be used as part of a single self-study or a system of continuous quality improvement. These materials may be used in efforts focused solely on web accessibility or as part of a broader commitment to accessible IT. By using this document, institutions can assess their current accessibility standing, improve institution-wide web accessibility, and promote an institutional culture to sustain it. It is hoped that this document can also provide a path for evaluators who wish to assess current practices and improvements in web accessibility as part of their institutional processes or ongoing strategic plan.

The structure of this document is intended to help institutions link what they do with practices that positively affect institution-wide web accessibility. Institutional accessibility efforts are determined by the presence of four key institutional indicators, and each indicator is comprised of several benchmarks. These benchmarks are expressed through a series of actions that define and show evidence of that specific benchmark. The strength of institutional evidence for each benchmark can be evaluated by looking at various permanent products and documented processes. The exemplars found in this document show some of the options for providing evidence for benchmarks. As each institution is unique, this document should be used as a framework to determine the evidence that is appropriate in each context.

Indicator #1: Institutional Vision and Leadership Commitment

Institution-wide web accessibility is best attained and sustained when there is leadership to support institution-wide vision and commitment toward accessibility. This support should come from many levels including an institution’s governing board, administrators, and key personnel. Each must actively support, participate, and take ownership in the work and outcomes of accessibility.

Benchmark A: Commitment of Administrative Leadership

Administrative leadership begins with a vision and commitment toward change. Typically this vision, and its leadership support, stems from efforts made at top administrative levels within an institution. For some systems this would also include the institution’s board of governors or trustees. Over time the leadership commitment results in the development and enforcement of an accessibility policy and plan, along with the necessary resources to implement them.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

A statement of vision or commitment:

A statement of the institution’s vision or commitment to web accessibility is published and made readily available. Those with a vested interest in the institution know the vision and commitment to web accessibility. To the extent feasible, relevant stakeholders are made aware of their responsibilities under this vision. This may take the form of a letter, email, or memo from the responsible source, such as the Board of Regents, or the Office of the President or Chancellor. At times, this content is also posted to the web.

The creation and maintenance of a web accessibility task force or institution-wide accessibility group

Institutional leadership is provided to establish an accessibility task force or advisory group. This group is typically charged with and given the authority to oversee changes to the institutional accessibility climate and tasked to recommend, develop and/or enact accessibility initiatives. This group ensures that multiple perspectives are present in the planning and development of institution-wide accessibility efforts. This includes those who will recommend initiatives, design or create accessible content, those who will engage in the institution’s accessibility work, and consume the end product.

The creation of an institutional policy on web accessibility

The institution has a published policy on web accessibility. This policy defines the standard to which the institutional web pages will adhere. (Sample components for a comprehensive policy are detailed in indicator #2). It is anticipated that institution-wide policies such as this also appear in central administrative policy documents such as employee handbooks, student government guidelines, or faculty senate rules. Ideally, institutional web accessibility policy would stem from governing boards; however, when this is not the case, institutions will need to enact local policies. As with any policy, enforcement is necessary to ensure its effectiveness.

The creation of an institution-wide accessibility action plan

Institutional leadership has an established plan detailing how they will meet the vision of accessibility stated in the policy. (If there is no institutional policy, it is still imperative that a written action plan detail the work of the institution). An accessibility action plan includes both current and future accessibility efforts. This plan should be directly linked to the strategic goals of an institution. This plan can stand alone or be part of a full business prospectus. (Sample components for an implementation plan are detailed in indicator #2.)

Resources are available for web accessibility efforts

Administration plans for and commits the necessary resources to ensure the success of their action plan. This includes resources of time, money, materials, and personnel.

Visibility, promotion, and communication of web accessibility efforts

Statements regarding the institution’s vision, leadership, and commitment to web accessibility are evident. Ongoing communication and status updates about the plan and the administration’s dedication to it reinforces its importance and keeps the message from being lost. The target audience includes faculty, staff, students, and especially the community outside the institution.

Benchmark B: Relevant Stakeholder Participation

Including relevant personnel in the planning, implementation, and maintenance of web accessibility provides vital input, fosters ownership across stakeholders, and assists in sustaining the goal of an accessible web presence. Faculty, staff, and students are stakeholders as they are involved in the development, maintenance or use of institutional web content. Stakeholder knowledge and ownership of their role is important, as each will likely have slightly different responsibilities in planning for and achieving overall accessibility. These responsibilities encompass wide-ranging behaviors, including technical staff who design accessible web pages, faculty who identify and upload accessible materials into course management tools, staff who create accessible documents intended for the web, procurement staff who ensure that institutional purchases meet the accessibility standard, and individuals with disabilities who provide feedback on the outcomes. The participation of all these diverse individuals is an important key for success and underscores the vision and commitment of leadership to the end goal of institution-wide accessibility.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Individuals who represent the full range of stakeholders participate in institution-wide planning and continuous improvement

In order to ensure that plans are created and sustained with the needs of many different groups in mind, many different stakeholders are asked to participate in the development of the plan, to provide feedback, and to be fully involved in its implementation. This can be done at a committee or individual level. Stakeholders that commonly participate in institution-wide web accessibility planning include: staff from administrative units, central IT, student services, the disability resource office, representative faculty and staff members, accessibility specialists, and individuals with disabilities. At times individuals from risk management, procurement offices, sponsored programs, human resources, or university council are also invited participants. Not all members need to be accessibility experts.

Personnel engage in professional development that includes or is focused on web accessibility

Faculty, staff, technology specialists and students who create web content are provided with, and take advantage of, the training necessary to fulfill their responsibilities. As technology changes and the role of the personnel change, provision is made to ensure that they maintain the required level of knowledge and skills so they may respond with accessible products.

Faculty, staff and students take responsibility for web accessibility outcomes within their purview

All stakeholders understand their unique roles and responsibilities with respect to developing and maintaining an accessible web presence and are empowered to fulfill those responsibilities. Those in leadership have created a culture where there are expectations for the fulfillment of these responsibilities. This can be documented through role statements, evidence of training, and mechanisms for accessibility feedback from students and staff with disabilities.

Systems are present for individuals to provide feedback on the implementation and outcomes of web accessibility

Those in leadership sanction the creation of feedback systems that encourage faculty, staff, students, and task force members to provide opinions on progress and implementation of the accessibility plan. Consumers of the institution’s web site also have mechanisms to report on the accessibility of institutional web pages they visit. Feedback is reviewed and utilized throughout the planning, development and assessment cycles.

Indicator #2: Planning and Implementation

Web accessibility requires strategic planning. Administrators must establish policies and procedures along with a systematic plan to develop, institute, and maintain web accessibility across the organization.

Benchmark A: Inclusion of Key Personnel

Identifying and involving personnel who represent key constituent groups at your institution is essential during both the planning and implementation process. Key accessibility personnel may come from many departments or units and represent disability advocates as well as leaders representing technical, faculty, and staff positions. Administrators identify and include these individuals for input as the institution moves from planning to implementation and maintenance of an institution-wide accessible web presence.

The broader group of stakeholders are also included as important feedback mechanisms to the web accessibility efforts. Stakeholders are those who are either end users of web content or those who will implement the institution-wide plan. This benchmark can be differentiated from that found in Indicator 1, as the administrative vision exerted to include a variety of stakeholders is different from the actual participation of key personnel representing different stakeholders throughout the process.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Involvement of key accessibility personnel and those they represent in policy development

Key personnel are included in the development of the accessibility policy. Stakeholder groups are represented and members are solicited to promote buy-in and provide input that can help make the policy understandable and approachable to those who will be expected to conform to it.

Involvement of key accessibility personnel and stakeholder groups in the development of an institution-wide web accessibility plan

Key personnel are included in the development of an accessibility plan. Key members of different stakeholder groups participate to help promote buy-in and provide valuable insight and information to ensure that all contingencies have been considered.

Involvement of key accessibility personnel and stakeholders in the implementation of an institution-wide web accessibility plan

Key personnel are assigned to oversee and/or implement parts of the plan. They can also act to monitor its progress. Assignments are made to ensure that the plan is on track and that the work being done conforms to the web accessibility standards mandated in the institutional policy. All efforts are made to help departments and personnel meet the requirements set forth in the policy. In general, an institution will build a web accessibility committee comprised of key personnel. The committee chair will oversee the actions of the committee and report on progress to the administration in regular intervals.

Benchmark B: Comprehensive Accessibility Policy

A stated policy that provides specific guidelines and standards for web accessibility is necessary in order to ensure all administrators and stakeholders understand what is required of them. The web accessibility policy appears in the same set of governing documents as other institution-wide policies, rather than as a separate unit. Once established, the institutional policy is promoted and enforced.

Evidence of a comprehensive policy may include:

A summary statement of policy

The policy provides a summary that explicitly states the rationale for the policy, expected outcomes, when key steps are to be completed, and how these steps are to be achieved.

Effective date(s)

The date the policy comes into effect is stated. For institutions with a phased implementation of policy, multiple dates, deadlines, or interim dates for each aspect of the plan may appear.

The scope of the policy

Web content that falls under the scope of this policy is defined and included (e.g., are students’ pages included or exempt? Does the policy apply to all content under the institutional domain? What is the protocol for institutional content that is not under the main domain, such as alumni pages?). If the institution exempts legacy pages, they are defined or identified? Any exceptions to the policy, and those who can authorize exceptions, are identified and a process for obtaining exemptions is described.

A technical standard

A technical standard provides the institutional criterion for accessibility and as such is included in the policy. The stated standard helps staff members understand if their web content is in compliance with the policy of the institution. Web accessibility standards most commonly used by academic institutions as well as federal and state entities include Section 508 or WCAG 2.

A provision for procurement

Accessibility is a factor in all purchases, licensing agreements, requests for proposals, or other contracts. Procurement of accessible goods and services, in line with the stated policy, is expressly included in the policy. Accessible goods and services include any contracts for goods or services that will impact the institutional web including: content creation and delivery tools; authoring tools; course or learning management systems; student, financial and administrative tools; course resources that are shared but originate from other institutions; and products developed by the institution.

Consequences for non-conformance to the policy

Statements are included that detail consequences when the policy is not followed. These statements are included, or referenced, in the policy and are referenced in other governing documents.

Mechanisms for ongoing review

Changes over time may require that the institution’s accessibility policy be periodically reviewed to assess the appropriateness of current measures and make adjustments as necessary. A defined system for review and revision, along with provisions for who is responsible for these decisions, is included in the policy.

Benchmark C: Comprehensive Written Accessibility Plan

An institution-wide effort requires a systematic plan of action. This plan includes strategies for all aspects of implementation including: goals, timelines, budgeting, materials, personnel, ongoing assessment, and, when necessary, revision of the plan. For institutions that require a business plan for use during cycles of continuous improvement, these elements can serve as the basis for a prospectus that includes concept, marketing, position and market analysis, financial planning, and implementation.

Evidence of a comprehensive accessibility plan may include:

Business Concept

An executive summary of the plan or statement of concept

A summary of the plan that provides an overview of the statement of concept. This includes potential benefits and market advantages to the institution (i.e., the business purpose of the plan) key points, dates, stakeholder responsibilities and expected outcomes.

Position and Market Analysis

A provision for benchmarking and market evaluation

Websites of peer institutions and other enterprises are evaluated and reviewed in order to assess where an institution’s web accessibility stands in relation to peer institutions and other enterprises. These evaluations are also used to provide exemplars of both good accessibility strategies and accessibility pitfalls to be avoided.

A provision to gather baseline information

A baseline assessment of the accessibility of institutional web content is outlined in the accessibility plan to provide critical data that will be used to evaluate outcomes of implementation and aid in necessary modifications.

Identification of existing institutional challenges and risks

Challenges to implementing web accessibility across the institution are identified. Problems may involve resistance to change by some groups, limited personnel with an understanding of web accessibility, or financial constraints. Identification of potential barriers along with recommendations that detail ways to solve or mitigate the barriers are incorporated into the accessibility plan.

Identification of existing institutional priorities

Web accessibility goals fit into many institutional priorities. Examples include the redesign of the institutional web site, training initiatives for faculty and staff, hiring exceptional employees as well an institution’s strategic planning initiatives for the accreditation or reaffirmation process. Institutional priorities that are a good fit for the work of web accessibility are identified and recommendations are made to leverage existing initiatives that can promote successful accessibility implementation.

Marketing

A process to communicate and market the plan to the campus and other communities

All relevant stakeholder groups are informed of the institutional effort and given sufficient information to understand their role in the process. This may be accomplished through orientation meetings, institutional memos, email, or campus-wide newsletters.

Financial

A provision for budget items appropriate to accomplish the plan

An adequate budget is established to support the accessibility plan. Provisions are made for the necessary funding of items such as start-up costs, personnel, training, materials, and licenses or equipment.

Implementation

Metrics, milestones, and measurable steps

Implementation goals are expressed in measurable steps- as long-term objectives and short-term activities. Expectations are made explicit so that all personnel and stakeholder groups better understand what is required for conformance to the plan. A set of detailed benchmarks or metrics help an institution set goals and assist stakeholders in understanding what is expected of them.

Timeline

Timelines are set for measurable steps throughout the process. Step-wise checks help stakeholders manage their responsibilities and provide an additional measure of understanding. The timeline is developed so that the target dates are achievable and they work in conjunction with established deadlines for conformance. Periodic assessment of timeline and goals are set to help the plan stay on track.

Assignment of specific responsibilities

Critical elements of the plan are assigned to individuals with the expertise to carry out specific responsibilities. Sufficient time and resources are allocated for these personnel to accomplish assigned responsibilities, including meetings for the web accessibility team or task force.

Education plan for staff, faculty and students

Mechanisms are detailed to provide education and support of those who will be part of the institution’s change to accessibility. The plan details how individuals will receive the education and support they will need so they may do what is expected of them. While creating an education plan, institutions should determine whether education on accessibility can be embedded into existing training events or whether a new specialized training program is necessary. Additional and ongoing support is available for those with technical or special responsibilities under the plan.

A plan to obtain and use feedback institution-wide

Mechanisms are incorporated to gather and use data and feedback from both the consumers of web content (e.g. faculty, staff, and students with disabilities) as well as those who are expected to implement the accessibility plan (e.g. staff, faculty, technology staff, procurement officers, human resource staff). Plans are in place to use feedback in a timely and dynamic manner.

A plan to monitor progress of accessibility outcomes

Oversight is included in the accessibility plan. Details such as how, who, when, and what, are specified for monitoring accessibility outcomes over time to help the efforts stay on track.

Explicit strategy to evaluate and revise the plan in an ongoing way

Once the objectives for web accessibility have been achieved, provisions are made to ensure that the institution maintains or improves its level of accessibility. Provisions are also made to address changes in technology, evolving standards, and procedures in the future. These assessments occur at regular intervals and data are used to revise the current plan and address emerging needs.

Benchmark D: Implementation of the Written Plan

Once the accessibility policy and plan are in place, administrators and others put that plan into action, ensuring it stays on track by continually monitoring and assessing its progress.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Meeting minutes of the accessibility team/task force

Minutes and discussions of the accessibility team or task force serve as a record of the implementation and commitment to progress of the institution toward institution-wide web accessibility.

Documentation of baseline information

Baseline information can include reports and evaluations on the current accessibility of a sample of an institution’s web pages, personnel training in web accessibility, the accessibility status of equipment and software currently used by the institution, and analyses of institution-wide challenges and priorities.

Institution-wide budget and committed effort to sustain web accessibility

A commitment of resources and personnel to plan, implement, and sustain institution-wide web accessibility is included in the budget. Specific items include faculty and staff time commitments (e.g., faculty role statements, dedication of staff time and effort), and infrastructure needs (e.g., purchase of software necessary for testing or consultants to aid in training).

Campus communication and marketing of the accessibility plan.

The institutional accessibility plan, and information on its progress, is disseminated to ensure that those in the institutional community know about and understand their responsibilities. Dissemination can be done through a variety of channels including emails, newsletters, reports, a dedicated webpage, and even campus radio.

Data on training personnel

Education and training of all relevant personnel is planned and performed. Education can be implemented in a variety of different ways. Documentation data can include: the dates of training, number of trainings, number of personnel trained, types of trainings, and training evaluations.

Documentation of implementation progress

Existing records can document and track the progress of the implementation plan. These may include documentation on budget, metrics, milestones, and progress reports.

Documentation on feedback from different levels of implementation

Feedback from end-users (faculty, students, and staff with disabilities) and the personnel involved in implementation of the accessibility plan is used as a resource for assessment and improvement of the plan. Methods of feedback collection include surveys, periodic evaluations, staff reports, and mechanisms for reporting problems within specific web pages.

Indications of actions taken for nonconforming web content

The accessibility plan is enforced. Appropriate and consistent action is taken for non-conformance as outlined in the policy. Records of assessment and action taken are maintained.

Web accessibility outcome data

Periodic evaluations and checks are made to ensure that the web accessibility outcomes are obtained at expected levels (e.g., per the institutional policy and stated technical standard).

Indicator #3: Resources and Support

An institution-wide web accessibility plan requires adequate resources and support. Administrators must provide the resources necessary to implement the web accessibility plan with provisions to ensure that the system is sustainable and will remain accessible.

Benchmark A: Focus on Personnel

An effective plan cannot be carried out without personnel who have the expertise to implement it. Make sure you focus on hiring, retaining, and supporting personnel at all levels who will help you attain accessibility goals. For example you need to have technical individuals, and those with special responsibilities, to implement the web accessibility plan. Moreover, typical faculty and staff have multiple responsibilities that require their time and attention. Therefore, it is important to provide them with clear and helpful information, sufficient time and support, and the motivation or incentives to ensure that they give the accessibility work in the plan the necessary attention.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Position announcements that include requirements for accessibility experience or knowledge

The institution includes the need for accessibility knowledge and skills in the competitive process of new hires. For critical roles such as web developers or other technical staff, minimum employment requirements include web accessibility. Other job descriptions may include components such as the requirement to participate in the institutional web accessibility effort.

Presence of incentives and motivators for participation in accessibility efforts

Incentives are present to help ensure that web accessibility gets the necessary attention from faculty and staff. Incentives can take the form of rewards or recognition (e.g., including accessibility work in promotion and tenure portfolios and recognizing staff who create accessible content), or sanctions if their work does not comply with requirements or is not achieved in a reasonable time with support and assistance.

Data on retention rates for personnel key to accessibility implementation

Every effort is made to retain key personnel in order to maintain continuity and momentum of the plan. Steps are taken to ensure that essential knowledge or understanding of the plan is not lost in transitions and that the loss of key individuals (e.g., web accessibility task force committee members, web developers, procurement specialists, or those who train faculty and staff in web accessibility practice) does not affect the plan’s timeline while new personnel are hired or trained. Institutional knowledge of retention data is used to aid in adjustments to the plan and to promote improved retention of key personnel over time.

Benchmark B: Sufficient Time and Effort Allocated to Personnel

The process to move to an accessible web presence takes time. Both the time and effort required for this work is identified when allocating faculty and staff responsibilities.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Accessibility work is recognized in job descriptions and role statements and is reflected in personnel time and effort.

The duties and responsibilities of institutional personnel with regard to web accessibility are a part of their role statements or job descriptions. For some roles, these increased expectations will require additional time and effort to achieve. Therefore, sufficient time to carry out those requirements is included as part of their allocated time and effort. This includes web developers and disability support personnel, as well as less obvious positions such as those in purchasing, human resources, sponsored programs, faculty training as well as faculty and staff members.

Feedback on sufficiency of personnel allocation

Feedback is obtained during both the planning and implementation stages of the web accessibility plan to ensure that personnel resources are considered and adequately allocated. Periodic review of staff and faculty time allocations are performed to ascertain whether the current allocations are appropriate.

Benchmark C: Budget Sufficient for Institution-Wide Efforts

Administration takes financial requirements into account when developing the written accessibility plan and budgets are designed accordingly. Necessary materials, licenses, equipment, personnel, and training are considered. The funding necessary to sustain accessibility of the system is also factored into the budget.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Feedback on sufficiency of budget allocation

Feedback, or reporting, on the plan includes comments on the adequacy of allocations of funds, time and effort to support key accessibility personnel, training and technical assistance, any necessary equipment, licenses, and materials, and the provision for sustainability and ongoing support for web accessibility. This information is used to revise and adjust the budget request and the written plan.

Benchmark D: Training and Technical Support

All personnel (i.e., faculty and staff) are provided with the knowledge, support, and materials they require to carry out their roles in implementing institution-wide web accessibility..

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Documentation that training of faculty, staff, and students occurs in conjunction with expected accessibility roles

Personnel (e.g., faculty, staff, and student employees) have the training necessary to achieve their role in web accessibility.

Technical assistance and support is available to, and used by, faculty, staff, and students

Beyond training, provisions are made to aid personnel who may need assistance or advice as they work to perform their responsibilities. Provisions are made to ensure that there are necessary supports for personnel at all levels. This support occurs in various forms, such as professional development via selected conferences, focused technical assistance, consultants, and involvement in communities of practice or discussion forums. Support does not need to be hierarchical; fellow practitioners and peers can be valuable sources of information and ideas (e.g., by forming a community of practice).

Presence of materials necessary to support training, technical assistance, and implementation

Those charged with the duties to provide training and support to personnel are given the necessary materials or their own technical support. Materials can include training and other technical resources, accessibility evaluators, assistive technologies used for testing, or the creation of a technology lab that can be used to test for accessibility. Periodic consultation or leadership training in teaching others the principles of web accessibility are employed as necessary. Feedback is elicited to ensure that the personnel and trainers have sufficient resources to achieve the desired accessibility outcomes.

Benchmark E: Procurement, Development, and Use of Technologies That Will Result in Accessible Web Content

To create and maintain an accessible web architecture, personnel choose tools that render accessible web content. Failing to procure or develop accessible technologies perpetuates new and existing problems. A strong procurement policy, with language included in contracts, helps ensure that personnel use the institution’s resources wisely and purchase products and services that are in line with institution-wide web accessibility efforts, including programs such as open source, shareware, and freeware that don’t go through the traditional procurement process.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Accessibility procurement language included in contracts is consistent with the institutional standard

Contracts for goods or services that will impact the institutional web site include a requirement that the vendor conform to the institution’s standard for web accessibility. Accessibility procurement requirements are used as a factor in purchasing decisions, and provisions are in place to evaluate and ensure the vendor’s accessibility claims. When accessible products are not available, every attempt is made to purchase products that conform closest to the institutional standard and require in contract that the vendor improve the product to the accessibility standard over a specified period of time. Examples include purchases of content creation and delivery tools, authoring tools, course management tools, student registration and financial tools, as well as campus financial and human resource tools.

Accessibility requirements for course resources that are shared but originate from other institutions

The web accessibility policies of potential partners are considered when making cooperative agreements across institutions to ensure that shared content conforms to the institutional standard for accessibility of both institutions. This practice is applied consistently across all institutional agreements.

Products developed by the institution meet the accessibility standard

All web-based products developed by campus personnel, or in conjunction with the institution, meet the standards set forth in the institution’s web policy.

Indicator #4: Assessment

Ongoing assessment is necessary to ensure that your web accessibility plan is working and on track. Processes must be in place to measure progress, constituent satisfaction, and outcomes. This information is then used to help determine the sustainability of the current efforts and make improvements to the overall program.

Benchmark A: Evaluation of Implementation Progress

Provisions are made to ensure that the plan is implemented as intended (e.g., scope, training, and support of staff, timelines). Progress is monitored and evaluated to ascertain if implementation is occurring at predicted levels, and that alterations in planned implementation are identified and communicated.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Data or information on institutional progress within the implementation process

Data or information that is gathered in the course of developing and implementing institution-wide accessibility is used as a resource for evaluation and improvement of the process.

Formal reports on the progress of the intended implementation plan

Formal reports on progress serve as a catalyst for evaluation and review. Information from a variety of sources and viewpoints are brought together in a formal report to provide insight into the institution-wide process that may not be apparent when components are reviewed in isolation.

Informal summaries or communications on the progress of the implementation plan

Informal information and summaries are used to supply quick and useful information on the progress of the plan. Data is used to provide an early warning of potential problems and to alleviate or resolve them before they become critical.

Benchmark B: Evaluation of Web Accessibility Outcomes

No plan or policy is useful if it does not provide the intended outcome. Those tasked by the institution to improve web accessibility must periodically monitor and evaluate its status to determine if it is meeting the institution-wide web accessibility standard. Because automated web accessibility tools don’t provide a complete assessment picture, key accessibility personnel should include manual checks in their evaluation plans. As technology and standards change over time, it is also important that the institution determine if the stated outcome is sufficient or if alterations could bring it more in line with current standards and practices.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Institutional web accessibility data

Data collection and analysis is an ongoing process incorporating both formative and summative information. Accessibility samples (both automated and manual) of a percentage of pages across different parts of the institution’s web site provide periodic snapshots of accessibility outcomes.

Institutional reports containing web accessibility data or summaries

As web accessibility is enacted across the institution, periodic reviews and accessibility audits are conducted to ensure continued progress and web pages, once made accessible, remain accessible despite changes made to them. These data are typically summarized in formal reports whether they are reports that have a sole focus on accessibility or not.

Reports from external evaluations of web accessibility outcomes

Periodic evaluation by an external reviewer provides fresh perspectives and an impartial assessment of an institution’s progress and outcomes. This review can come from many sources including peer institutions, web accessibility groups, or standards specialists.

Correspondence describing outcomes

Correspondence between administrators and key personnel and stakeholders regarding accessibility data is used to provide a valuable window into the status of web accessibility outcomes at an institution.

Benchmark C: Assessment Results Are Used To Improve Institutional Accessibility

Data gathered from evaluations of both the process and the outcomes of web accessibility are of little value unless they are used to improve and inform what is to happen in the future. Those tasked by the institution to improve web accessibility use ongoing oversight and review of data sources continually to revise procedures to ensure the institution can create and maintain institution-wide web accessibility. Moreover, these same data can be used for future changes in institutional policy.

Evidence of this benchmark may include:

Reports that reflect recommendations for change

Recommendations for action can affect any aspect of institutional web accessibility including policy, staffing, budget, process, or plan. The recommendations can come from a variety of sources, both formal and informal, and can be recorded in a range of formats including reports, meeting minutes, or correspondence.

Documentation that describes how data sources inform institutional efforts

The ability to adapt once the need is shown is essential to facilitate institution-wide web accessibility. Sometimes documenting how data sources will inform efforts is all that can be demonstrated until cycles of monitoring begin.

Acknowledgments

Project GOALS (Gaining Online Accessible Learning through Self-Study) is an initiative of the National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE), an initiative of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. Partners in this effort include the Southern Regional Education Board, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Michigan Community College Virtual Learning Collaborative, Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, and WebAIM.

View Full Acknowledgments

FIPSE logoThe Project has been made possible by a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education. No official endorsement should be inferred.