#a11yOLC: Making Accessibility a priority

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

It’s difficult to find someone who fundamentally disagrees with the concept of Universal Design; however, its principles can be difficult for us to make actionable. In this conversation, participants will discuss the barriers to institutionalizing web accessibility practices and will share out resources and potential solutions break these barriers down.


Cole Eskridge is the Course Support Specialist for the University of Arizona's Office of Digital Learning (ODL). They have a Master’s degree in Higher Education from the University of Arizona and a Bachelor’s of Science in Biological Sciences from the University of Mary Washington. Prior to working in the ODL, Cole was a graduate assistant for the University of Arizona’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center and was the lead designer and developer of their Online Safe Zone Network Workshop. Cole has also had the opportunity to work with UA Sky School, Biosphere 2, the Arizona Science Center, the UA Department of Entomology, and the UA Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology as an instructor in and outside the formal classroom. When they’re not on campus, Cole can be found hiking in the mountains, hanging out in a coffee shop while researching access in education, experimenting in the kitchen, or performing with their community chorus.
Janet Smith serves as an Instructional Designer leading quality assurance initiatives at the University of Arizona with the Office of Digital Learning. She manages a multitiered and collaborative quality assurance process to ensure that courses developed for UA Online are designed for student success and engagement. Janet works with partners across campus to integrate best practices around course design, copyright, UDL, and accessibility into the instructional design process and leads the Quality Matters program for the university. She received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona, her master's degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education from Northern Arizona University, and a graduate certificate in Educational Technology from Northern Arizona University. In her free time, Janet enjoys spending time with her family and friends, cooking, and practicing and teaching yoga.

Extended Abstract

Knowing where to start with accessibility initiatives can be a difficult task. There are resources to educate professionals about Universal Design, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 compliance, and WCAG 2.0; however, it can be difficult to make the jump from looking at these standards and knowing how to make them actionable in our offices. Online communities of accessibility advocates (called #a11ies) have formed to address these issues, propose solutions, and even generate resources to assist interested others.  

In this conversation, we aim to bridge this gap by inviting participants to name the barriers that prevent us from making accessibility actionable at our respective institutions. It's our hope that by naming and documenting these pain points, we will be able to collaboratively share out and outline resources needed to make accessibility central to our practices as online educators, designers, and administrators of these programs. This will allow for a relevant of conversation and a series of notes and directives that participants will be able to bring with them to their institutions, and can allow for future collaboration beyond OLC Innovate 2018.

The discussion will be framed and flow as follows:
Q1. What are the barriers that prevent us from institutionalizing accessibility? Which factors, if removed, would empower us to center accessibility in our practices?
Q2. What are resources that we know about that can help us address these barriers? These can be through institutional modeling, websites people know of, etc.  (Participants will break into caucuses based on their experience or interest in certain Q1 responses. For example, someone may be interested in discussing the finances behind these practices, so they’d go into the  “money” group (if that was proposed in Q1)).
Q3. What are the resources that we want  developed to inform and support our practices? How can we form a more collaborative community around accessibility?