EITA Frequently Asked Questions
How can we be certain we are in compliance?
The guidelines and standards required as part of the Resolution Agreement with the Department of Education (DOE) and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the upcoming EITA Policy and Procedures are largely industry standards and are listed on this site. The goal of the EITA Working Group and this site is transparency so there should be no surprises in the process. Please let us know about anything you believe we should include here.
Are we the only University focused on electronic and information technology accessibility?
No, we are not alone. We are among a number of leading universities who have or are addressing information technology accessibliity:
- California State University Accessible Technology Initiative
- Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA)
- MIT Web and software Accessibility Policies and Guidelines
- North Carolina State University Information and Communication Technology Accessibility Regulation
- The Ohio State University Web Accessibility Policy
- Oregon State University Policy on Information Technology Accessibility
- Penn State Policy and Accessibility Guidelines
- Purdue University Web Accessibility Policy
- University of Minnesota Accessibility of Information Technology
- University of Texas at Austin Web Accessibility Policy
- University of Washington Accessibility site
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Web Accessibility Policy
In a department, who will be in charge of ensuring that all materials posted in Moodle, for example, are compliant?
Infrastructure, such as Moodle or classroom podiums, will be the responsibility of specific departments. For those examples, UMOnline and IT respectively. Campus support exists so that closed captioning and instructional web page and software evaluation can be handled by others. (Call 243-EITA or 243-3482 for information.)
Nevertheless, each individual is responsible for providing accessible course content and EIT (electronic and information technology).
Why is accessibility (section 508) important?
The highlight to Section 508 is that it promotes accessibility over accommodation. Accessibility is proactive, whereas accommodation is reactive. For example under theory of accommodation (Sections 501 or 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), an agency might wait for hard of hearing people to assert their need for a telephone amplifier. However, under Section 508 accessibility requirements, a federal agency that purchases a new phone system must provide telephone amplification at each phone station. The barrier to hearing is removed in advance, so that future employees or guests with hearing loss will be able to use the phones without making special requests.
In addition, it is anticipated that accessible products, originally designed for sales to the federal market, will spill over into society as a whole. Some manufacturers have stated their intention to incorporate accessibility as one of several key features in their mainstream marketing. Manufacturers generally do not intend to have two classes of products: one that is inaccessible and the other that is accessible.
Finally, many private businesses are considering accessibility issues in their strategic planning. Even if they are not mandated to comply with 508 accessibility provisions now, they are concerned that such requirements may come into being in the future. Several companies, for example, have voluntarily made their web sites 508-conforming.
Excerpt from Emerging and Accessible Telecommunications, Information and Healthcare Technologies, Chapter 4, by David Baquis, p. 39 - 40.
Editors: Jack M. Winters, Charles J. Robinson, Richard C. Simpson, Gregg C. Vanderheiden
Copyright 2002 by RESNA Press.
What kind of enforcement is currently planned?
It sounds as though this will limit my individual freedom as far as my own computer/desktop. I want to use software on my own work computer. It will only be for my use. It has been tested and is rated inaccessible. Are you saying that a Presidential exception will be required for me to use it?
One desktop may not seem like an issue. However, accessible software may exist in that same category that meets the user and project requirements. We should avoid whenever possible building IT processes that are inaccessible and thus will require future changes. And, as soon as software becomes institutionalized by being used by 2 or more individuals or integrated into work processes, that danger arises.
Nevertheless, the current practice is to grant conditional use for software used for only 1 or 2 individuals when:
- the process is highly unlikely to expand past the original users and
- when VPATs and the EEAA-Roadmap has been filed.
Please read more about the UM software evaluation process.
I don't have extra time to focus on making my course or departmental material accessible.
Besides the support listed at the top of the page, here are some quick ways to get support for the various accessibility related categories:
- Web pages: IT's Web Technology Services supports campus toward creating accessible web content while IT's Accessible Technology Services can provide testing of sites that are in question.
- Instructional materials: As always, UMOnline supports online courses and IT supports educational technology in the classroom.
- Inaccessible image-based FTPs: most non-STEM topic FTPs can be made at least partially accessible on the fly by sending them as an email attachment to email@example.com. (Math and science notations and foreign languages may not be translated correctly.)
- Media: Many professionally produced recordings already have captions (videos) or transcripts (audio recordings). Audio descriptions for videos are also becoming more common. If you want to use a professionally produced recording, please ask Tammy Ravas (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance in locating a captioned and described video or a transcribed audio recording. If you are producing your own recordings, captioning and transcription services are available through IT's Accessible Technology Services.
- Software: The list of known accessible educational and business software will grow during the self-study and beyond. If you wish to submit a specific software for testing, please let us know at email@example.com.
Several of us have already started to standardize on software that we like. The standard known-accessible software in this area is desktop software but we like the collaborative nature of web options.
Have you researched other options? If several are moving to adopt it, are you continuing to build something that will most likely need changing in the future? Why start down an inaccessible road if there is an accessible alternative that meets your other criteria?
We are building a body of knowledge with other universities about accessible software. We may already know of an alternative software that will meet your needs. Please review the accessible software and hardware section.
It sounds as though this will limit my academic freedom in designing and developing courses. I may find inaccessible material that I want to include in my course and not have enough time to make it accessible.
Our goal is academic freedom and access for all. The Dear Colleague letter from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (June 29, 2010) is clear in stating that inaccessible materials constitute discrimination and that educational materials and activities need to be accessible even when no identified students are in the course.
So, even a single use of inaccessible material is non-compliant. Support is in place to help you prepare in a timely manner (see #1 above). However, it may be pedagogically important to include inaccessible resources once for spontaneous moments while providing accommodations that are equally effective, integrated and timely (see above for . If the resource is to be used a second time, it should be made accessible.
That said, most non-STEM topic documents can be made accessible on the fly by sending them as an email attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org. IT is supporting campus toward accessible web content and can provide testing of sites that are in question. Many professionally produced recordings already have captions (videos) or transcripts (audio recordings). Audio descriptions for video are also growing. The list of known accessible educational and business software will grow during the self-study and beyond.
Students can get accommodations through DSS. Why isn’t this sufficient?
The Resolution Agreement does not require us to go beyond what the law requires. The draft policy and procedures are also consistent with legal requirements. The bottom line is that the University is taking effective steps designed to ensure that EIT used in University programs and activities is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Accommodations then become a matter of dealing with EIT that is generally accessible but which requires specific individual accommodations.In the final analysis individual accommodations are more expensive than system modification because they need to be repeated with each requesting student and most frequently require equal time from a staff person. This is especially true when we factor in the fact that system modification has benefits for more than just individuals with disabilities.
I want to use an emergent technology in my course. New and innovative technologies are recognized as engaging students. In addition, it is highly appropriate to the subject and future career of the students in this discipline.
What if I find a video or inaccessible webpage that I'd like to use in my class the next morning?
Is this policy saying that I need to convert all paper documents into electronic ones?
The policy does not state that all paper documents need to be converted into electronic ones. However, electronic documents are more accessible to individuals using assistive technology. In most cases, hard copy documents originate as electronic documents, so providing them in that form shouldn't be too difficult.