ODEE Accessibility Task Force Campus-Wide Success

Have you ever felt that certain elements of a presentation, website, or online course didn’t hit home for you? Or if information had been presented differently you’d have connected with it more? Whatever the situation, the bottom line is that an opportunity to connect with important information in a meaningful way was missed. For those who have disabilities this is something they experience every day. In light of this reality, the Office of Distance Education and eLearning assembled the Accessibility Task Force, a group formed to improve learning and user experiences for everyone.

The ODEE Accessibility Task Force is a group of ODEE staff who are committed to incorporating accessibility, inclusive design, and universal design literacy in all aspects of their work to achieve the highest level of functionality and user experience. This group recognizes that accessible design improves the experience for everyone, and is absolutely critical for those with disabilities. By promoting accessible design they help create a positive learning experience for all students.  

“There is a misconception that it’s hard to make a course accessible but the truth is that even the smallest action can make a big impact,” Jessica Phillips, senior instructional designer and lead facilitator of the task force, said. “Things like structuring a document for screen readers, providing captions, or giving multiple options for assignments make all the difference.”

During 2016, the task force experienced huge wins for the campus community. The team minimized risk on multiple projects, included accessibility considerations into popular events, like Innovate: Excellence, and expanded their audience and impact beyond the university.

With the help of task force members, risk with three inaccessible products was minimized and partnerships with vendors were created. Risk in this situation is defined as the potential of engaging with an inaccessible product. This can be minimized when members of the task force ask key questions about the accessibility of a product. Asking these questions and developing relationships with vendors holds them accountable for meeting accessibility requirements and also forges a partnership for making accessibility improvements.

The Innovate: Excellence event had more accessibility considerations integrated than ever before. These included ASL interpreters, live captioning, and accessibility tips sent out to presenters. The registration form contained questions about special accomodations so the ODEE team could meet the needs of all attendees. Collaboration among multiple groups, including the task force, Web Accessibility Center, workshops, and the Innovate team helped to improve the event for years to come.

To expand their reach beyond the university community, the task force hosts UDL Think Tanks; hour long sessions that discuss a topic related to accessibility. For this event, the task partners with insitutions such as University of Illinois-Springfield, and community groups like Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities.

“We are leading the way in thinking about inclusive design, which I hope inspires others to think the same way,” Phillips said. “The wins we have had this year really showcase how the task force is positively impacting the campus community.”

For question about the task force or how you can incorporate accessibility into your work, contact the ODEE Accessibility Task Force.

Screen shot of one of the slides from an accessibility task force online presentation.Screen shot of one of the slides from an accessibility task force online presentation.During Think Tank sessions, the Accessibility Task Force hosts an online session so people from outside of the university can participate. Past topics include online tools for accessibility and professional insights.