Campus Leaders Speak Out on Value of Keeping Tech Accessible

Make sure campus technology is accessible to everyone who needs it before you adopt it. That’s one of the takeaways from a video set to premiere today at the annual Educause higher-education technology conference.

The 15-minute video, “IT Accessibility: What Campus Leaders Have to Say,” features university leaders and campus-technology staff members speaking about the importance of using technology to make college campuses more accessible. The AccessComputing project, run by the department of computer science and engineering and the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology Center at the University of Washington, produced the video with funds from the National Science Foundation.

The idea to create the video stemmed from panel discussions on technology accessibility at the Educause conference last year, said Terrill Thompson, a technology-accessibility specialist at the University of Washington. “It’s pretty apparent to all of us that for accessibility to happen, there needs to be buy-in at a high level,” he said. “So we had this idea to capture some of those sound bites to make sure the message was getting out from these CIO’s and other IT leaders.”

Leaders from several campuses sent in videos of themselves speaking, and the video is a conglomeration of their input. Many of them stressed planning ahead to make technology accessible before adopting it rather than retrofitting it to meet student needs later.

“If we design things well right from the start, they actually aren’t more expensive,” said Peter Siegel, chief information officer and vice provost for education and technology at the University of California at Davis. “This is something we can fit into even our very, very tight budgets.”

Universities also need to use their purchasing power to pressure vendors into creating accessible products, said Pat Burns, vice president for information technology and dean of libraries at Colorado State University. The university checks for accessibility throughout its process for purchasing hardware and software, he said.

The premiere at Educause will include talks from some of the video’s participants.

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