Insights from the Field: Crafting a Shared Vision for Web Accessibility

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Kaitlin Garrett

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Plan for Web AccessibilityThe Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is reaching out to our global community of thought leaders, faculty, innovators, and practitioners to bring you insights from the field of online, blended, and digital learning. This week, Wendy MacColl, OLC Institute faculty for the Strategic Planning for Web Accessibility online workshop and the pre-conference workshop at Innovate 2019, Big Sandwich, Little Bites! Planning and Strategies for Web Accessibility, joins us to answer our questions about the importance of having a strategic plan when tackling this important issue.

OLC: You have designed, and are facilitating, the upcoming workshop on Strategic Planning for Web Accessibility. Why do you believe that strategic planning is essential for institutions that provide online education?
If you don’t know where you’re going, that’s exactly where you’ll end up! Without a strategic plan for providing an accessible environment for online learners, much time and energy will be wasted in either remediating content or litigating complaints (lawsuits) filed by frustrated students. It’s absolutely the right move to plan ahead and have everyone at your institution heading in the same direction with web accessibility. This shared vision informs all divisions/departments on their roles and responsibilities and avoids duplicated efforts and missed opportunities.

OLC: How did you become engaged in strategic planning for web accessibility?
I’ve always been dedicated to providing all students with a “level playing field” and my interest in Universal Design for Learning and web accessibility were a natural extension of that passion. When the Colorado Community College System began to develop policy and guidelines for web accessibility, I volunteered and was chosen to be a member of the original working group at the state level. After that, I participated in a grass roots initiative at my home college which resulted in the process that we will be examining in this workshop.

OLC: What are the 3 most important things prospective participants should know about your upcoming online workshop and the one you will offer at Innovate 2019?

  1. Web accessibility is a huge sandwich, but you can get through it by taking small bites!
  2. There ARE methods and approaches to get faculty and leadership on board at your institution.
  3. You will leave this workshop with templates and practical tools to help you get started, or continue your efforts towards web accessibility.

OLC: What potential challenges or obstacles might institutions have to overcome in regards to strategic planning for web accessibility?
The usual issues with managing any complex change – crafting a shared vision, reviewing/providing needed skills, deciding on what incentives are necessary and reasonable, determining what resources are available or needed, and coming up with an action plan that sends everyone in the same direction.

OLC: What advice would you give to institutions that are looking to get started with strategic planning for web accessibility?

  • Being proactive is much better than being reactive (in response to a DOJ lawsuit, for example), so get started now.
  • Any moves you make towards making electronic content accessible will benefit ALL learners, not just those with disabilities.
  • Get all departments and divisions involved – this isn’t just an “IT problem” or an “eLearning problem” – and make sure that decision-makers are on your planning committee.
  • Depending on your institution, it can be a huge cultural shift to move groups towards caring about this issue, so stick to the plan and be patient – it won’t happen overnight.

OLC: What was the last book, journal, or article you read that relates to the topic of strategic planning for web accessibility?
WebAIM is a great place to start and is an excellent resource for all things related to accessibility. I am also a fan of the company Audioeye and follow them on LinkedIn and their website. They have a Frequently Asked Questions page about Accessibility Law.  This information can be very useful when initially presenting web accessibility plans or when doing research for questions that might arise from faculty or college leadership about digital web accessibility and the law.  I also suggest checking out WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0/2.1.

About Wendy MacColl:
Wendy MacColl has extensive experience in online learning, instructional design, and teaching. She has worked in higher education as a teacher and administrator, and also in executive education training venues. Ms. MacColl was Associate Director of the Center for Management and Executive Development, Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, and was promoted to the Director of Instructional Design at Walton College. She was later hired as Director of the Office of Distance Learning at John Brown University and was an Assistant Professor of Distance Learning.

Currently under contract by Colorado Community Colleges Online, from 2013 to 2017 she was Director of eLearning at Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC) in Colorado Springs and has served on a number of state-level committees addressing Web Accessibility and captioning solutions. Ms. MacColl was co-chair of the Web Accessibility Planning committee at PPCC and chaired the Web Accessibility Implementation Committee as the college worked towards compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards.

She earned her undergraduate degree in Trade and Industrial Education from Colorado State University, and graduate degree in Administration, Supervision and Curriculum Development with an emphasis in Instructional Design and Technology from the University of Colorado-Denver. Wendy enjoys hiking with her two dogs and riding her motorcycle through the beautiful mountains of her home state.

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