Providing training for faculty and staff: An essential element for your campus

Many of our readers are already sold on the importance of web accessibility and the need to ensure that the broader institutional web is accessible to all. Many readers are also engaged as their institution creates policies and implementation plans, some even work with the procurement office on procedures, and provide training and support to institutional web developers and other technical personnel. However, fewer have embarked on the challenging journey of getting mainline faculty and staff equipped with the knowledge and skills to do their share for accessibility.

One element of institutional success over the long-term is the notion that faculty, staff, and student employees take responsibility for web accessibility outcomes within their purview. Examples of this include the notion that as a faculty member creates a PowerPoint to be uploaded into the institutional CMS for her class, she does so accessibly; as a staff member creates a new PDF document to be posted onto the Human Resources website, he does so accessibly as well; and students who post Word Docs on a virtual campus kiosk likewise create it in an accessible fashion. To the extent that native accessibility from the work of faculty, staff, and student employees cannot be achieved, someone will forever be redesigning and reposting completed work. Not only is this an expensive way to proceed, but it also perpetuates the cycle of after-the-fact accommodations, which have become the focus of complaints.

In order for faculty and staff to create accessible web content successfully, training and supports must be designed and delivered to them. One of the chief problems, however, is the sheer size of this task. Many institutions report that they have thousands of faculty and staff. How can you begin to design something this big?

In this piece, I will share my thoughts along with what I'm seeing on campuses who deal with this tricky issue. Also, I contacted 2 institutions to ask them how they are doing it and I have included their responses here.

Thoughts about faculty and staff training

There are many vehicles available to an institution wishing to provide training and support to their faculty and staff. It is important that you ask yourself if you want to make available the training, resources, and support needed for faculty and staff (i.e., voluntary), or if you will require training of your faculty and staff (i.e., mandatory). Your response to this question will determine the techniques you employ. In either case you can look to current successes on your campus around the issue of widespread training.

If you want to provide faculty and staff training and supports consider the following:

If you will require training for all your faculty and staff consider the following:

Case Studies in Faculty and Staff Training

The descriptions below offer practices in use by two groups, a large community college and a state office of education, as they provide training and support to their faculty and staff. There are many roads to Rome, and these contributions will help you find your own path. Both contributors have offered to respond to questions that come in from our readers. Our thanks to them for sharing, and engaging us in this important dialogue.

Training Online Faculty on Accessibility at Portland Community College (PCC)

Contributor:
Karen Sorensen
Accessibility Advocate for Online Courses
www.pcc.edu/access
Portland Community College

Instructors at our institution are required to go through training before they can teach a fully online class. Their courses must adhere to our accessibility guidelines for online classes. In the training they have a short assignment on document accessibility, and it is recommended that they attend the accessibility trainings offered multiple times throughout the year (both online and face-to-face) on these two topics:

Currently the trainings are not required, but we are considering making them mandatory.

Newly developed online courses and revised courses go through a review process before they are recommended. One of the standards we review for is accessibility. This review becomes another faculty training opportunity.

While these trainings have been fairly successful, another approach we have found to be highly successful is to fund and support a faculty study on the accessibility of a particular subject area. PCC's Distance Learning and the Math Department recently split the cost to have two, math faculty receive release time for one class each in order to study how math could be made accessible. This was a huge success and transformed those two, math faculty. They "got-it" on a level much deeper than they could get in a 90-minute training. We would like to replicate this model with more subject areas.

Training Massachusetts Department of Education Staff to Include Accessibility in What They Do

Contributor:
Rachael Traub
Web/SharePoint Administrator
Massachusetts Executive Office of Education

I manage a large public website for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We have 608 staff, 102 sub sites and nearly 40,000 pages and files. In order to expedite web posting requests and ensure compliance with both Section 508 and Massachusetts Accessibility Requirements, we have a system of approved content providers. If not for this, we'd likely have all 608 staff trying to interface with my small team! We train, coach and advise 75 content providers on how to properly prepare documents for posting with a focus on accessibility. Over the years I've built and arsenal of training presentations, help docs, job aids and even a SharePoint site to assist out providers and writers. You will find some of them here:.

We start by giving all new providers a brief orientation so they know how to prepare "web ready" documents and other details about how we expect posting requests to be sent to us. We focus on "The Big 5" so as not to overwhelm them and send them off with a checklist. These are our BIG 5:

  1. Content needs structure
  2. PDF only is not OK
  3. Images need alt text
  4. File size must be less than 5 MB
  5. Title Office Documents

We inspect their docs for the items on the checklist - Every time - really! And send it back if it's not "web-ready".

We are very strict, but the truth is it is not hard stuff. We make it as simple as possible and offer as much help as they need. We have been doing it this way since 2005 when the Commonwealth published their Accessibility Requirement. We also give longer presentations focusing on the "hows and whys" of accessibility. We find it helps if they understand the challenges of navigating an inaccessible website.