Emerging Cost Issues

Linda Goetze

GOALS staff are working with diverse postsecondary institutions on case studies that will illustrate cost issues faced as web accessibility becomes institutionalized. GOALS staff are currently conducting focus groups on cost issues at Universities, Community and State colleges nationwide. The focus groups revealed both diverse issues and issues of commonality for institutions that are challenged to deliver millions of pages of web content in ways that are accessible to all.  

The table below describes several issues that arose during our focus group discussions. These issues were highlighted by institution staff as areas of greatest concern in terms of cost. The focus groups were designed to identify both areas of challenge as well as actions undertaken by postsecondary institutions to effectively and efficiently improve the degree of accessibility of their institutional web.

Cost Issues Emerging from Focus Groups

Issue

Description and Examples

Procurement

It is a challenge to develop and implement a procurement policy that has teeth and results in the purchase of accessible software across the institution; many loopholes are found even in institutions that do establish policies, or a review process

Costs of accommodations/ retrofits to software

The cost of having to make accommodations or retrofits to digital content when it could be created accessible and no retrofits would be necessary. Creating something twice rather than once in an accessible fashion.
Another example is the problem of an inaccessible Learning Management System --what is gained/given up when an institution purchases software that is not fully accessible. They bear the cost of retrofits and reasonable accommodations per legal requirements unless they had the foresight to build this into their contract at time of purchase.

Captioning

This is currently a big budget issue on most campuses and there are different models emerging, such as creating an in-house cadre of qualified staff to do captioning for multiple institutions to lower costs and increase capacity and timeliness

Use of automated tools to evaluate and improve the accessibility of the web content

Establishing a process for training and using automated tools (often in conjunction with more limited manual reviews) to give feedback into the system and improve web accessibility, (even when human evaluation is best, it is not always feasible).

Training models to increase the human capital

On-campus training and incentives to increase personnel capacity that are capable of creating more staff who have training and experience in accessible web development

Prioritizing accessible web efforts and budgets

What are the costs and benefits associated with prioritizing accessibility efforts? For example, should institutions make all online courses accessible first, or new large entry-level classes, or focus on training new faculty?

Accessibility through accommodations

Student disability center efforts at remediation of inaccessible web content. If this model predominates, what are the costs (perhaps lost opportunities for students and faculties), and what is the budget impact of such a decision.

Flow of funding

Complexities arise with funding. Should institutions budget for future contingencies vs wait until there is a deficit and ask later; who gets the funds and what is the timing for those funds?

How to incentivize faculty

It is a challenge to insure that faculty are incentivized to create course content that is accessible; one institution has a policy that charges an internal college or school rather than faculty or a department because it is a smaller percent of the colleges operating budget

Lawsuits

Costs and risks, benefits of prevention. This contrast is possible because of lawsuits by students, faculty and staff due to inaccessible web content that prevented completion of coursework, degrees, required work assignments and accomplishments required for promotion. What are the costs and benefits from creating accessibly compared to costs and benefits to prevent these lawsuits and battles?

 

The next step for the cost study is to explore these areas in more depth by documenting staff time and costs associated with different practices in place at diverse institutions that are at different phases of web accessibility. The results of this cost data will begin to emerge in future newsletters and in our cost case studies scheduled for completion early in 2013. Stay tuned for more cost findings!