GOALS Assessments Lead to Positive Change

Linda Goetze

GOALS staff are currently working on collecting cost case studies with diverse postsecondary institutions. The experiences shared by staff during focus groups at two participating institutions are shared below to illustrate the power of getting divergent individuals together to discuss institutional web accessibility. In these examples, those conversations resulted in significant change in practices and policy related to web accessibility for their campuses.

GOALS Cost Case Study Focus Groups: An Eye Opener

One of the key methods used in the GOALS cost case study is the focus group. It is a way to bring together diverse staff and students or other consumers of accessible web content to discuss past and current issues they face as digital content becomes increasingly embedded in the postsecondary experience for students, faculty and staff. These focus groups bring together between 8 and 12 staff and consumers including students or faculty with disabilities, staff from instructional technology, the library, student services, central administration, the disability student center, and the human resources office- to name a few. For some, the cost study focus group is the first opportunity they have to share their experience in regard to on-campus web accessibility with each other, and this sharing can be truly enlightening.

At one focus group staff described the effectiveness of an automated tool currently in use to make specific web pages and content accessible. Sitting next to the Director of Web Communications from the University Communications Office was a student who is visually impaired. This student pointed out that she could not access content on the sites that had undergone accessibility "fixes" with the automated tool. The Director of the Disability Student Center (DSC) has since hired this student to do user reviews of some key web and course content. The result is a review process that adopts a mixed approach combining automated review with user experience to create content that is truly accessible for those that benefit from full access. This is a great example of an unexpected benefit that can result from participation in conversations. While this occurred as a result of our focus group, institutions who participate in benchmarking and planning, or any assessment process, may find similar value. Focus group participants called the process an "eye opener" that has significantly improved the review process of digital content on campus.

An Ah-ha Moment: From the GOALS Tool to an Institution Wide Accessibility Policy

Another example of the power of getting people to talk about web accessibility campus-wide occurred for an institution that completed the GOALS Benchmarking and Planning tool. First, after agreeing to become a participating institution, they found that when any of the key staff tried to work asynchronously they made little progress. The five individuals changed their strategy and decided to complete the tool in face-to-face meetings where all five worked together to answer questions about where their institution had been and develop a plan about where it was going. They found they finished the tool after three two-hour meetings.

These five staff members, representing a consumer, student affairs, the provost office, instructional design, and the disability resource center truly had an ah-ha moment and concluded that a key component to their institutional progress on web accessibility was missing. They decided that they needed an institution wide web accessibility policy to move forward from where they are right now. They ran it up the flagpole with key institution leaders and obtained support for the policy and plan.

They are now in the process of developing, vetting and implementing a web accessibility policy that takes a very rigorous interpretation of the law. They are working with key directors across campus to develop the policy. This GOALS institution involved the institution's legal council to investigate best practice in web accessibility and now have a draft of a policy for their institution that represents a significant change from where they have been in the past. Their conclusion about the GOALS assessment process is that, "The GOALS tool has done its job for us and we would advocate to others to use the GOALS tool."