Leyna Bencomo August 29, 2018
Developing a Culture of Accessibility at UCCS
Accessibility for people with disabilities is most often an afterthought for faculty, staff and developers on campus. This causes undue hardships on our Disability Services Office as well as creating barriers to overcome for our 1100+ population of students with disabilities. Although there is no department dedicated to creating an accessible environment at UCCS, I am in the unique position of being able to influence faculty members and key staff members on campus via committee membership in the ADA Taskforce, the Digital Signage Committee, the LMS (Canvas) Advisory Group as well as through my training sessions for the professional development committee and upon the request of various faculty groups and colleges.
Most faculty do not realize that many of the challenges exist due to poor course design which creates barriers for people of diverse abilities. This is unintended, of course. When I discuss this with faculty members, the most frequent comments I hear from them is that they were not aware of any barriers they were creating. Many of them have great intentions and are very interested in retaining students in their classes but have had no exposure to or experience creating accessible curriculum. In other words, one of the biggest problems on our campus is a lack of adequate faculty training.
The creators of our digital environment which inhabits so much of the students’ daily lives are our web designers and web content managers along with the rest of our Office of Information Technology. These groups need to be enlightened and supported with our basic rules of accessibility for websites and other digital presences.
Various staff members who control our physical environments which include not only furniture and facilities, but events such as orientations and club meetings have no idea that they are excluding populations with diverse abilities. They also lack an awareness as well as education.
Another key issue is that ignorance breeds fear. Some may wish to address the needs of people with disabilities but are fearful of creating offense, worsening the situation in some way or creating more work for themselves. There are many instances when needs are ignored or hushed due to these fears.
Goals: What I hope to accomplish with this internship project, is to provide staff and faculty with ready resources to teach themselves how to handle the challenges presented to them when they encounter students with disabilities on campus and especially in classes, both face-to-face and online.
Face to face and recorded training sessions for staff, faculty and IT
A website about available assistive technology tools that can help faculty and students
Welcoming printed materials in the form of posters, brochures and/or learning aids to answer questions and allay fears
Methods of Determining Success:
Surveys before and after events
Sticky note activity
Evidence of changes in behavior from web developers, faculty members
Surveys of specific students with disabilities
Surveys of Disability Services Office Coordinators
I expect to be able to influence the creation of web templates to be more universally designed.
I would like to see our colleges start to adopt universally designed syllabus templates.
I hope to create more champions across campus who will voluntarily bring up accessibility challenges without prompting.
Ida Dilwood, Director of Disability Services Office and Testing Center. (719) 255-3653