Summertime, the perfect time to reflect on accessibility

Summertime for many in higher education is a time to catch up on tasks not completed during the academic year. It is also a time when the seeds are sown for new initiatives and priorities that will be fleshed out and approved in the coming year.  Many individuals, who work on web accessibility for their institution, work beyond the typical nine-month academic calendar. This combination of events makes summer the perfect time to reflect on initiatives for, and outcomes of, the institution’s web accessibility efforts.

Of course when we talk about “web accessibility” we are talking about two things. It is both the process on campus created to improve web accessibility as well as the product of those efforts (i.e., the accessibility of your web content).  We have written about this important coupling before (See Assessing your Institution’s Web Accessibility Efforts; Part 1: Evaluating the Process; Part 2: Evaluating the Product).

I am hopeful this summer you will ask yourself if your campus is ready for an increased focus on web accessibility this coming year.  Some of you are just beginning the process of institution-wide web accessibility efforts –you may be crafting plans to secure administrative support or identifying the best team to guide the campus-wide plans.  Others of you are in the midst of writing draft policies or crafting implementation plans.  Finally, there are others of you who have these in place and are working through the issues to make sure your planned efforts are receiving the resources and supports necessary for success, and will begin a round of assessment by looking at the actual accessibility of pages.

With any of these efforts, knowledge of your institution’s culture of change is vital; is it top-down, or does it require grass roots support?  Knowing this can streamline the support of those in administrative positions who can make sure you have not only the support necessary to complete the work, but also the administrative muscle, to work around the roadblocks that inevitably impede the path. Also critical is your knowledge of other institutional priorities such as increasing diversity at your campus or beginning a cycle of reaffirmation with your regional accreditation commission.  These are times when you might want to reach out to those whose role it is to engage in those priorities and have a conversation about the many outcomes that are indeed shared ones. Often reaching out to coworkers with these shared priorities can be more effective than attempting to tackle accessibility on your own.

So, if your answer is “Yes, I would like to help my campus increase our web accessibility efforts next year”, take the time needed to commit those ideas to paper and reflect on the best strategies to meet your goals.  For some of you it may be time to engage in another round of the GOALS Benchmarking and Planning tool. If you create a new cycle before benchmarking again, you can compare your progress to date.  You may benefit from looking at where you have already made progress to determine next steps.

From all of us at Project GOALS, have a wonderful summer, enjoy some vacation time, and start making plans now for the academic year to come.  Fall always comes sooner than we want.

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