Achieving web accessibility across higher education campuses has not been easy. Aside from the evolving ADA regulations, there is the unfortunate fact that some universities are being sued over inaccessible content and equal accommodation issues. The Department of Justice and The National Federation of the Blind want universities to take a proactive approach to accessibility.
Community college web accessibility coordinators are facing a growing backlog of inaccessible PDFs. Disability Services has to work with publishers to source PDF textbooks that then must be manually converted. As always, there are also a variety of diverse departmental goals and budgetary concerns. So, how do universities develop and meet an accessibility plan that benefits the whole campus?
An estimated 11 percent of undergraduate students on campuses today have a disability. Ensuring that these students have equal access to information is a complex challenge requiring a coordinated effort across campus departments. Universities must maintain compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA, which is considered the standard for measuring web accessibility.
Administrators from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) took a campuswide approach to developing proactive web accessibility strategies. Tim Ferebee, Web Accessibility Coordinator, and Estela Landeros, Director of Disability Support Services, took advantage of tools that enable web accessibility to ensure that their campus is WCAG 2.0 compliant — and meets the needs of students with disabilities.
NOVA created an initiative to become a 100 percent accessible college for all, regardless of disability. NOVA has over 75,000 students from more than 180 countries on its six campuses. Their ages range from high school kids to seniors and include people changing careers or seeking a certification. NOVA’s accessibility initiative is based on a universal instructional design approach. “To achieve this goal, we created a steering committee. We included a representative from each academic and administrative department to develop, coordinate and implement a collegewide information accessibility plan,” explained Ms. Landeros.
Beginning with an external evaluation, the college conducted a complete website review to determine problem areas. This resulted in a redesign of the school’s website; the team continues to work to ensure that all pages are fully accessible.
One major issue was the amount of instructional materials that had to be made accessible. “We evaluated two potential solutions — to hire an external company or to do the work in-house. We opted for the second option and are training all the faculty to do their own captioning,” said Ms. Landeros.
NOVA launched a universal instructional design faculty training session which is conducted three times a year. New faculty come to these training sessions, and experienced faculty are encouraged to attend.
Nova also leveraged Equidox by Onix, a software solution that converts inaccessible PDFs into WCAG 2.0 AA compliant HTML and accessible PDF and EPUB 2 content. Equidox helped NOVA “...convert 62 PDF documents to HTML code, totaling approximately 800 pages and 303 images captioned. In the past, converting that many documents would have taken NOVA six months to a year. But with Equidox, it only took 2.5 months. It’s easy too,” said Mr. Ferebee. “Simply upload your documents, run it through the product’s converter and voilà; you’ll receive HTML output that you can easily copy and paste into your LMS or CMS.”
With WCAG 2.0 AA being the new industry standard for accessibility, Equidox provides an automated process for converting inaccessible PDF files to WCAG 2.0 AA. Never has it been so easy to upload and convert documents, enabling community colleges and other organizations to meet web accessibility requirements.
NOVA continues to make progress toward their goal of making the college 100 percent accessible. Mr. Ferebee stated, “We have also been working to get Equidox for all of the Northern Virginia Community College campuses, and we’re hoping that the entire Virginia Community College system will link to these programs.”
To hear the full NOVA story directly from them, watch “Web Accessibility: A Campuswide Approach,” a University Business Web Seminar. You can access it here.
Please complete the form to the right, and one of our highly qualified experts will contact you shortly.
We’ll discuss your pain points and goals to determine the best technology solutions and services to meet your specific needs.