Incentivizing accessible web content: Cost matters

Many institutions of higher education are striving to incentivize web accessibility in cost-effective ways.  GOALS staff at Utah State University are conducting the first known cost study of web accessibility in postsecondary education by holding focus groups with institutions of higher education around the country.  These focus groups will lead to the development of surveys and other data measures to get at issues of cost for each institution participating in the cost study.   Eventually 12 institutions will volunteer to participate in this ground breaking cost study that will result in case studies describing current costs of activities underway to improve web accessibility for students, faculty and other users.

Below are two interesting strategies we recently heard about during one of our focus groups.  Suffice it to say we are collecting a number of cost efficiencies and fabulous practices.  We’ll  be sure to share more of them in the future.

  1. One strategy being used is to make sure the student workforce can contribute to the institution’s accessibility efforts.  This institution provides free training to any student who wants to learn about web accessibly for any reason.  These students earn a certificate of completion when they successfully demonstrate accessibility knowledge and skills. These certificates happen to be required for a student to be hired for any on-campus web development job. The practice reduces inaccessibility errors of new hires and reduces the need for accessibility to be learned on the job. The certificate is so desirable that students are achieving 100% job placement in web related jobs on-campus.  Similar training is offered to faculty and staff for $150 per class.
  2. Another strategy that has incentivized accessibility comes from an institution who already had a clear policy on web accessibility, along with training systems and supports for staff.  They had struggled with conformance to the policy by faculty and staff.  Their current strategy is that whenever inaccessible content is reported (e.g., a student can’t gain access to needed content and reports this to the Disability Service Office – DSO), the transformation is quickly made by a team within central IT and the DSO and the resulting bill is submitted to the office of the Dean of that particular college.  While the Dean will take needed funds out of the college’s operating budget, it occasions a discussion with the chair of that particular department or unit regarding the charge to the college. The choice to run these charges through the Dean’s office instead of directly to the department or unit has greatly reduced accessibility problems and increased conformance to the policy across the institution. Colleges are learning that if departments within their college put web content up that is not accessible they will be billed for retrofitting or adaptions later.  Colleges and departments are learning the value of creating accessibly from the beginning.

Have you heard of other strategies that use cost or funding efficiencies to incentivize web accessibility?  We’d love to hear about them!