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Lucy Greco

  Accessibility in Education


Making the Impossible, Accessible

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In Part I of this post, web accessibility expert Lucy Greco took us through the decade long advocacy campaign at University of California, Berkeley to establish a pan-University IT accessibility policy. In this post, we learn about the positives of team work, collaboration and user feedback through the policy roll-out.

Part 2: Making the Impossible, Accessible

Our next project was providing our developers with some high-end tools to help them evaluate their websites’ accessibility. This is when participation from the widest variety of individuals became key. One of our members from the office of the president always had an excellent understanding of where we could turn to for support. She brought our ideas to the right people and always helped get support when we needed it. When we realized that a tool to help developers learn and test for accessibility was a much bigger project than we could expect the ITLC to fund, she was able to find a sponsor to help pay for our enterprise tool of choice.

Team Spirit. A group of sky divers in formation

Image: A group of sky divers in formation

Every year she has been able to find us funding to pay for excellent training opportunities for the developers at UC. We have brought in speakers and provided webinars to help people understand that accessibility was attainable. For many of the members of the EALT, participating in this committee was as much of a learning experience as it was for the developers we were supporting. As topics were brought up in our monthly meetings, EALT members were always saying, “I didn’t realize that could be done” or “I didn’t realize that that would be something we needed to address”. The goal of our committee quickly became not only to create a policy but also to come up with as many ways as possible to educate and inform people about electronic accessibility.

We realized that another critical area was acquisitions. A subcommittee was formed to create guidelines for purchasing technology to help individuals understand how to avoid purchasing inaccessible technology. The interesting thing we did with this particular set of guidelines once they were complete was to release them to the people in the campus purchasing offices so that they could make comments and help us form guidelines into a growing document. These guidelines are currently available and we are always open to comments from users of the guidelines on how to improve them. 

Our working group has done a wonderful job in realizing that these particular documents are very difficult to create because the implementation is always different than expected. By publishing these guidelines and asking the people who use them to help us make improvements, we refine more collaborative guidelines.

During the time we were drafting this policy, technology was not standing still. Things were developing rapidly in the online world. Online education was becoming a reality and we needed to support this quickly to be sure that it was accessible. Our group quickly expanded to include people participating in different types of online projects throughout our system. We brought in staff from the California Digital Library, agricultural and natural resources, the national laboratories, and other entities. We were on our way. The working group that created the policy must be highly praised for the excellent job they did. Each time a draft was presented to different organizations, the working group was able to incorporate the feedback and change the document to reflect what the needs were. I was very proud to work with these people and know that they brought years of experience to the table. 

Yes, along the way there were concessions that were made and changes that not everyone liked, but ultimately we were able to create a policy that not only stated that the electronic infrastructure at UC should be accessible but that each campus could implement their own unique way of making their technology accessible. Having a policy that says you must do something but not telling you how to do it is extraordinarily difficult, after all, policies tend to state concrete ways to do things most of the time.  However, if we were to say that UCLA and UC Davis must both do the exact same thing to comply with a policy, we would never have had any success. We set out guiding principles within the policy and laid down general instructions on how to prioritize projects and left the implementation in the hands of each individual campus. In this way, we were able to pass the accessibility policy.

The education that we have provided to the University in the last five years has paid off. Many more people across the campuses are aware of what electronic accessibility is and how to implement it. We still have a long way to go, but now we have tools to use along the way. We will continue to educate people and inform them about our new policy. 

I would like to thank the team that worked specifically on the policy for their wonderful contributions. UC Berkely is a better place to work and learn today because of these professionals. Thank you to the committee, to President Yudof, the ITLC, and the EALT, for including people with disabilities in the UC community. As we share with others the lessons we learnt in the process of implementing the IT accessibility policy, I also hope we help improve electronic accessibility for everyone.


Related Resources

Blog: Accessibility of Commercial Premises: My Experience in Calgary | Read Lucy Greco's Post.
Publication: The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework | Download Free PDF.
Event: Future of Web Design | New York, October 7-9, 2013 | View Event Details.