A new policy at Ohio University is one of several recent steps in making OHIO’s online presence more accessible, ensuring an equal opportunity for all students to access technology and online tools related to their educational experience. In addition, the policy will enable the University to establish an information technology infrastructure that makes its online programs and services accessible to employees and community members.
Information Technology Accessibility Policy 04.001 was co-sponsored by the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC). Approved by the Executive Staff Policy Committee, the policy went into effect Aug. 17, 2017, and requires an initial review of any information technology, including software, hardware, and third party vendor software-as-a-service (SaaS), purchased by the University to determine the user groups and anticipated number of users. Those purchases deemed to be “high risk” (targeted users are more than 50 students and/or members of the public) will undergo an accessibility assessment.
The assessment evaluates accessibility based on federal standards for information technology accessibility and is given a score. This review is built into the regular process any unit must complete through Procurement and Contract Services within the Division of Finance and Administration when purchasing new software, hardware or other technology, or renewing contracts for technology already being used. The policy is not retroactive – meaning that technology already purchased will not undergo a review, but is subject to review at the time of any contract or purchasing renewals.
“Many groups and departments across the university have been committed to moving this policy forward, including the Web Advisory Group, the Universal Design and Assistive Technology Implementation Team, and the Information Technology Accessibility Policy Implementation Team,” said Dianne Bouvier, Ph.D., director for equal opportunity and accessibility and ADA/504 coordinator in the Office of University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance. “They have each played a role in the research, development and revision process of this policy and I commend all of the team members and our campus partners for their efforts in enabling this policy to come to fruition.”
“The IT Accessibility Policy aims to help OHIO reach its goals related to accessibility and inclusion efforts, while also fulfilling our legal obligation as a public institution to provide an equal opportunity to education for all students,” said Toni Marinucci, web services manager in OIT and co-chair for the Information Technology Accessibility Policy Implementation Team. “This policy coincides with efforts to make our web presence more accessible through the OIT Web CMS conversion project.”
Examples of technology subject to review under the IT Accessibility Policy include hardware, such as projection equipment used in University facilities; software, like a room booking system or ticket purchasing system; and technology used to deliver course material to students online. CDs and DVDs that come with textbooks are not required to be reviewed as a part of the policy.
Assisting in the evaluation efforts is OIT Web Accessibility Coordinator Laura Fathauer, who will work with vendors and purchasing units at the University to answer questions and concerns; an FAQ document about the policy is available. In addition, Procurement and Contract Services has begun outreach to current technology vendors with contracts expiring in the next six months to inform them of the policy.
The IT Accessibility Policy dovetails with other efforts across the University to create a more accessible, inclusive environment for all members of the OHIO community.
“From our physical spaces – like restrooms, classrooms and residence halls – to the availability of assistive technology and professors employing universal design concepts when developing their course materials, Ohio University has come a long way in raising awareness and taking concrete steps to address accessibility,” Bouvier said. “Though we still have a long way to go, I’m encouraged with the progress we’ve made as an institution with the help of our students, faculty and staff who bring these discussions to the forefront.”