The Difference a Policy can make

Just a few short months ago, the outgoing president of the University of California created a policy to have all electronic assets be more accessible. In this post I’m going to explain to you what changes that has made in the past few months and what we have learned. Typically in academia, other than research, nothing much happens without a policy. In this case, the policy provided a little guidance to people who wanted to do the right thing to get them on the path.
I’d first like to apologize for not having posted in a long time. It’s been extraordinarily busy at Berkeley and throughout the University of California system. I am astounded to see so many people who previously threw up their hands in frustration now initiate accessibility in their projects. Their frustration was the complete lack of direction and guidance they had and how to begin to become accessible. With the small inclusion of this policy people now have a direction and purpose. By having a written statement telling people what standard we must work towards and how to prioritize accessibility, people are now jumping on the bandwagon of accessibility. I’ve received more phone calls or emails in the past few months asking for assistance in creating their project plans for accessibility. It’s wonderful for an advocate such as me to suddenly be the center of attention and to see people doing what you’ve always wanted them to.
Once we caught our breaths after passing the policy, we quickly realized that the priority would be creating a prioritization scale. This scale will permit us to evaluate requests for assistance in making projects accessible and how best to serve them. I have a small team at Berkeley – there are three of us now. And the number of requests we are receiving could easily overwhelm us. What we have done is created a rubric to evaluate each request we get and rank the level of service each of those requests will receive. We have not yet published this rubric but will do so in the future. The rubric will also assist site owners and project leaders in determining where they are in the priority.
Another project we have begun in tandem to the rubric is creating language and information to be included in requests for purchases (RFPs) and requests for information (RFIs) about purchases the campus will be making. When we created policy for UC we knew that the US federal government would soon be changing what its requirements were for accessibility on the web. To better align with what we thought would be the new standards within the federal government and many other agencies around the world, we decided to require the World Wide Web Consortium’s accessibility guidelines version 2.0 AA standards. We did understand that this was a web standard primarily, but we wanted to be more complete than the current soon-to-be replaced federal government standards Section 508 of the US rehabilitation act. We did not exclude 508 standards but asked people to work towards the more complete W3C accessibility guidelines. We’ve only had a few major purchases happen on all of the UC campuses since the policy passed so we are busily working on language that can be included in all future purchases. We will publish this information as appropriate when completed.
I apologize that this update did not give you a formula for implementing and accessibility policy. However, I wanted to write to give you all something to look forward to. Please feel free to reach out to me with ideas on any of the above that I can include or comments in general. Thanks for your continued reading.

By lucy greco

Lucy is a technology enthusiast that is passionate about getting people with disabilities the best access to the same technology as their able-bodied peers.