ATHEN E-Journal Issue #2 (2007)
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Melanie Thornton Aimee Colmery Dixon
- Institution: University of Arkansas at Little Rock
- Student body: 12,000
- Faculty & staff: 1300 (full-time)
- Main Web developers: 1 - This is the web designer who designs and maintains the top two tiers of the university Web site. As we move to a more centralized model, this number will likely increase.
- How would you rate your institutional context with respect to Web development?
- Highly centralized
- Moderately centralized
- Moderately decentralized
- XXX - Highly decentralized - Currently, web development is highly decentralized with centralization only at the top two tiers of the UALR Web hierarchy. However the campus is moving toward a more centralized model in terms of design and development but will remain decentralized in terms of content. The campus is currently exploring the purchase of a content management system and is in the planning stages of implementing a portal. These tools, coupled with training and technical assistance, will move us toward this model.
- What is your institutional policy around accessible Web content (if any)? If you use guidelines instead of policy to assist in Web accessibility go ahead and note this.
- Please describe your policy or guideline. Specifically describe (or point to)
- the standard you use:
- if monitoring against the standard occurs:
- if consequences (good or bad) for accessible design are tied to policy:
- if procurement of accessible technologies is tied to policy:
- Please describe your policy or guideline. Specifically describe (or point to)
Policy:http://www.ualr.edu/provost/webaccesspolicy.html - See Appendix 1 for Policy.
Procedures: http://www.ualr.edu/provost/webaccessprocedures.html - See Appendix 2 for Web Access Procedures
The first policy on Web accessibility went into effect in September of 1998. The rapid increase in online courses made it necessary to revisit the policy and adapt it to address Web content associated with online courses. The policy requires that UALR Web content, at minimum, comply with Priority 1 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the W3C/WAI. Computing Services is charged with monitoring accessibility and following up with departments that are not in compliance. Supplemental documentation to the policy states: "Computing Services runs campus-wide accessibility checks approximately every six months. Departments or programs not in compliance with Priority 1 Guidelines will receive a warning and will be given two weeks (for online course content) or four weeks (for public-access Internet content) to make the Internet content accessible. After that time, if necessary changes are not made the links to the content may be deactivated, and notification will be sent."
Procurement of accessible technologies is not tied to this policy. The university follows state regulations related to procurement: http://www.tic.state.ar.us/SpecTopics/SEA/ITAccess.htm. We are currently exploring effective practices related to ensuring compliance with this legislation.
- How does your institution provide the training and support necessary for accessible design from your faculty and staff?
- Please describe your training and professional development activities (your model of training, technical assistance, & professional development so to speak):
Our approach to provision of training and technical assistance has included a combination of integrating accessibility information into other types of training as well as having separate workshops that are designed to raise awareness of the need for Web accessibility. This excerpt from the procedures for implementing our Web accessibility policy best describes the current approach to providing professional development:
Campus Plan for Web Accessibility Communication and Training
- The Provost will send a message to all full-time faculty and staff the 3rd or 4th week of each fall and spring semester providing information about the Web Accessibility Policy. This will include resources, technical assistance, and training available.
- Department chairs and directors are responsible for communicating to their faculty and staff that accessibility requirements will be met when designing or modifying Internet content, including content in online courses.
- Information and training will be provided to new department chairs during their orientation.
- Information and training will be provided for department chairs during their fall meeting or other regularly scheduled meetings.
- More in-depth training sessions will be held for faculty and Web designers during fall faculty professional development days.
- Information and training will be available on request for individual departments or colleges.
- The WebAlM Online Training Course is available at any time: http://www.ualr.edu/pace/webaim/. This training package is made available through Project PACE with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education.
- Accessibility information is already being provided as a part of all STaR WebCT training on campus.
- Accessibility information is already being provided as part of Computing Services Web design courses. (http://www.ualr.edu/computingservices/) In addition, Project PACE, STaR (Scholarly Technology and Resources), and Computing Services all respond to individual requests for technical assistance on Web design. Web Accessibility information and helps are provided in several locations: 1) associated with the Web accessibility policy; 2) on the Computing Services site; and 3) on the Project PACE website (http://www.ualr.edu/pace/webaccess). Links to these resources are also provided on the Disability Support Services page.
Another program established to specifically address the accessibility of video streams is Project ADEPT (http://www.ualr.edu/adept/). The staff of this project assist faculty in making their video streams accessible to students who are deaf or hard of hearing by incorporating a sign language interpreter and captions into the video.
- Are there differences in what is provided to Web professionals versus other faculty and staff? If so what?: Currently, there is no formalized training that is geared to the Web professionals on our campus. The WebAIM training, though, has been quite helpful to these professionals as well. We have responded to the needs of advanced designers by providing individualized technical assistance through Project PACE "a program of UALR's Disability Support Services funded through the Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. We are fortunate to have a large number of Web and IT professionals who make it a priority to design accessibility from the ground up. One of the current objectives of Project PACE is to develop a model for increasing and maintaining expertise on the campus in positions that play a key role in decision-making related to Web and IT accessibility.
- How are these training and or technical assistance activities staffed and funded? Computing Services occasionally provides Web development workshops. The STaR (Scholarly Technology and Resources) office (http://www.ualr.edu/factech/) provides training in HTML, an Introduction to Using Dreamweaver, and an Advanced Dreamweaver workshop approximately annually. They also integrate Web accessibility concepts and techniques into the other workshops and courses that they provide such as the Interactive Design for Learning Course (http://www.ualr.edu/star/idl/IDLsyllabus.html). Their focus is primarily to provide support to faculty but other university personnel are also welcome to participate in these workshops. The STaR office was established through the Provost's office to support faculty who were creating Web-based and Web-enhanced courses. The director of that program" Aimee Dixon" previously served as the Web Accessibility consultant for Project PACE and Disability Support Services. Having a person who understands the importance of accessibility and the techniques needed to design with accessibility in mind in this important position has been a key to making Web accessibility a natural part of the process of posting Web content. STaR has played a major role in integrating accessibility into the design of online courses and other Web-based media. These programs" STaR and Computing Services" are both fully supported by the university. Project ADEPT (http://www.ualr.edu/adept) was initially funded through Distance Education Technology fees, but is now funded through Off-Campus Programs. This program was established by Sharon Downs, UALR Disability Support Services and Specialist in Deafness, in coordination with the STaR office. Project PACE is the only program that provides training and technical assistance activities that is not a university-funded program. Project PACE is currently in its seventh year and third grant cycle. It has been funded through three separate grants of the Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education" 1999 through 2002 (Award #P333A990056), 2002 through 2005 (Award #P333A020010), and 2005 through 2008 (Award #P333A050010). While additional funds have been available to the university as a result of this project, the goal has been to seek sustainable practices that can be adopted and supported by this and other universities.
- Are there any incentives for those that participate or any consequences for those who refuse? There are incentives to participate in some of the activities sponsored by Project PACE such as the opportunity to obtain software or other materials to assist in accessible course or web design. In general, however, the university does not have incentives to participate in training or consequences for not doing so.
- Is there any follow-up to the activities to assure skill implementation? At each workshop, trainers provide information to participants on where to find online resources and how to get further assistance. Technical assistance that is provided as a follow-up to these workshops may include an accessibility check of their site or template. This allows trainers the opportunity to see how skills learned have been translated into practice and to further assess the effectiveness of the training.
- What do you see as the successes and limitations of your model (or set of activities)? Successes: The awareness of the need to make Web content accessible has grown exponentially over the past 6 years. More and more faculty, staff and administrators see the benefits of designing accessibly from the start. We have advocates for accessible design all across the campus. Initially, there were only a handful of people who would ask the question about accessibility to vendors and designers, but now the question is often raised by other university personnel who are not directly connected with disability services. Limitations: Currently, we have many individuals who post content to the UALR Web space and online learning environment. These individuals represent a wide spectrum in terms of their levels of expertise, and they utilize many different software applications to accomplish these tasks. Getting the support needed to all of these individuals is a monumental task. Add to that the constant change in web developers for individual departments and programs and the challenge becomes even greater. It seems that there are never enough resources to meet this challenge. Project PACE and Disability Support Services have begun to be involved in the decision-making process about campus-wide solutions to the problems that result from a highly decentralized Web development model. The primary solution will most likely be a content management system. Accessibility of the both the authoring tool and the code it generates will be of the highest priority. A solution implemented on this level will allow resources to be more streamlined and effective in reaching and supporting a greater number of people.
- How would you rate, from one (lowest) to ten (highest) your institutions' training and professional development in three areas (scope, focus, results)? There are three ratings below with anchors that will define places along the continuum from 1 to 10 to help you determine each rating.
|Rating continuum (10= high; 1-low)||Rating #1: Scope Training and development gets to . . .||Rating #2: Focus Training and development focus is. . .||Rating #3: Results Training and development results are that . . .|
|10||All the folks that need them||Accessible design skills for all of the participants||All of the campus Web content is accessible|
|7||Most of the folks that need them||Accessible design skills for most of the participants||Most of the campus Web content is accessible|
|5||About half of the folks that need them||A mix of awareness of accessible design with a couple of skills needed for accessible design||About half of the campus Web content is accessible|
|3||Some of the folks that need them||Awareness of accessible design is the focus, however, participants may learn a new skill||Some of the campus Web content is accessible|
|1||A few of the folks that need them||Awareness of accessible design is the sole focus,||A few elements of campus Web content is accessible|
Rating of Scope: 4 Comments: This is an purely an estimate. Since many of the supports are provided in a "˜just-in-time' format, we do not have good data currently regarding those who have accessed those helps.
Rating of Focus: 6 Comments: We try to include at least some skills training with all of our workshops even if it focuses on an introduction to creating structured documents in a word processing application. Aside: We also try to incorporate techniques that increase adoption of good practices, such as the ability to create a Table of Contents at the click of a button if you structure your document appropriately.
Rating of Results: 8 Comments: This rating is based on results of AccMonitor which indicate almost 80% of the content on the main campus server passes the validation process.
- If you could add to or take anything away from your model (or set of activities) what would it be and why? Our model would be strengthened if we could offer more training and technical assistance than we do currently and if we could be more strategic in how that training is offered. This will be a focus of Project PACE during the coming year. Another objective will be to begin looking at strategic places to add links to the online content that we have available. Improving our methods of tracking the use of online resources will also be a priority. This will allow us to follow up with the individuals that access those materials.
- What advice do you have for anyone who is just starting to plan for Web accessibility training and professional development at their institution? Collaboration and administrative support are first and foremost. Now is a good time to take on this challenge because there are many more applications that support Web accessibility that were available even three years ago. If we were starting over right now, we would begin with encouraging the university administration to adopt Web development standards that include accessibility guidelines. We would then work with our Web professionals to seek applications such as a content management system and Web design software that support these standards. Regardless of a university's budget, this is a real possibility because of the number of open source products available. We would advocate for the adoption of a CMS that: 1) requires the designer to include accessibility features, such as alt tags and table headers; 2) includes an accessibility monitoring tool; and 3) has work flow features that would prompt an accessibility expert to conduct a manual check when potential problems are identified. Finally, we would work cooperatively with the appropriate allies on campus to develop training opportunities and tutorials that support the utilization of the applications the university has chosen. The exploration of promising practices in achieving web accessibility on this campus has brought to light the fact that true accessibility of web content occurs at the intersection of several key elements: 1) the availability of accessible information technology applications; 2) the choice of web content development tools; 3) the skills of the designer/developer; 4) the availability of the needed assistive technology; and 5) the skills of the student or end user. It is important that any approach address all of these areas of concern.
Appendix 1 - UALR's Web Accessibility Policy
In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990) and the Rehabilitation Act Section 504 (173), it is the policy of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to make UALR Web page information and online course material (hereafter" Internet content") accessible to persons with disabilities in order to provide them with effective communication through the Internet. Communication should be, to the extent possible, as effective for persons with disabilities as it is for persons without disabilities. This includes information that departments, programs, faculty, or staff present over the Internet. The UALR policy is designed to ensure that the communication available to Internet users with disabilities is effective and useful. With that in mind, Internet content will follow the guidelines as promulgated by the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C/WAI) at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10.
The policy does not cover the accessibility of sites outside of UALR to which a UALR page may be linked. However UALR encourages other providers to make their content accessible. An exception: if outside links are required course content, this content must be accessible.
It is required that designers of UALR Internet content comply with the Priority 1 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the W3C/WAI (hereafter" Priority 1 Guidelines") in order to make Internet content minimally accessible. Compliance with Priority 1 Guidelines means that UALR Internet content must receive an approval rating from a self-assessment tool as recommended by Computing Services, which can be found at http://www.ualr.edu/accessibility/. Department chairs and directors are responsible for communicating the information to full- and part-time faculty and staff that new Internet content and modifications to existing Internet content should be made in accordance with this policy. The procedures for enforcing this policy are available at: http://www.ualr.edu/provost/webaccessprocedures.html Policy enacted: July 15, 2004
Appendix 2 - UALR Web Accessibility Procedures
The following is provided as supporting documentation to the policy and explains how the policy will be supported and enforced. We decided to have these procedures separated from the policy because they will change more frequently than the policy changes.
New public-access Web pages are checked for compliance by Computing Services before links from the UALR Web site to those pages are made. Internet content that does not pass the Priority 1 Guidelines will not be linked. Computing Services runs campus-wide accessibility checks approximately every six months. Departments or programs not in compliance with Priority 1 Guidelines will receive a warning and will be given two weeks (for online course content) or four weeks (for public-access Internet content) to make the Internet content accessible. After that time, if necessary changes are not made the links to the content may be deactivated, and notification will be sent. For online course content when a student with a disability is enrolled in the class, the goal is to have materials available to this student at the same time the materials are available to other students. It is understood that in some circumstances a short delay may be unavoidable. Access to course content through an alternative means should be used when there is a delay in making the course content accessible online. Technical assistance is available through Computing Services. Faculty and staff should plan ahead to make Internet content, whether it's a public access Web site or course information, accessible from the initial stages of design. Failure to do so may result in emergency retrofit projects to make Internet content accessible to students with disabilities who enroll in an online course.
Online course material must be accessible to students with disabilities at the same time it is available to any other student enrolled in that program. Because of staff limitations, assistance may be limited for emergency projects. An exception to the above is that for complex graphics a simple alt tag may be used instead of a more detailed one until a student with a disability enrolls in the course. For example, the alt tag might read, "Graph showing an increase in sales. If a disability accommodation is needed, contact the instructor immediately." Once made aware that a student needs a disability accommodation, the instructor should refer that student to Disability Support Services, and work closely with Disability Support Services in creating more detailed descriptions and/or tactile graphics. Another exception is that transcripts for online course video streams will not be produced until a student who needs them is enrolled (contact Disability Support Services).
In the event that inaccessible off-campus sites are required for a course, faculty will work with Disability Support Services in determining how best to make that information accessible. The solution may be as simple as copying and pasting the information into a word processing program.
Faculty are required to include the current Disability Support Services accommodation statement on each syllabus. This statement can be copied from http://www.ualr.edu/provost/docs/disabilitystatement.shtml.