22: Web Accessibility in Higher Education w/ Mark Greenfield

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Mark Greenfield, Digital Strategist at University at Buffalo, talks about how to make your higher ed website “accessible”, and both the improved student experience and legal necessity of doing so.

When you address accessibility issues, youare usually, if not always, improving the overall user experience for anyone visitingyour website. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the bestprofessional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college oruniversity. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools andresources, you've come into the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcomeback to enrollment growth university. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing andHelix Education, and we're here today with Mark Greenfield, digital strategist at theUniversity of Buffalo. Mark, welcome to the show. Hi, Eric,pleasure to be here. Mark is an extremely influential leader in a very helpfulvoice when it comes to higher Ed web strategy in general. We're going tohave an important conversation today about making your...

...higher at website accessible, in boththe improved user experience and legal necessity of doing so. Before we get toodeep into that, mark, can you give the listeners a little bit betterunderstanding of both University of Buffalo and your role there? So currently I serveas a digital strategist at the University of Buffalo. I've been at Youb forthirty years now and have served in a variety of technical web mark getting digitalrolls, and currently my focus is on really understanding how we can utilize theweb to meet our organizational goals and objectives. Love it mark why does web accessibilityand Higher Ed matter more than we may think? So it's really beeninteresting as I've been traveling over the last year or so and talking with peopleat a variety of conferences and events. It seems that Web accessibility is topof mind for everybody, and this is primarily due to the increase in litigation. So over the past twelve the eighteen months, there has been a dramaticincrease in the activity within the office of Civil Rights as it relates to webaccessibility. That being said, that's really...

...not the only reason why to thinkabout accessibility, especially for people in an enrollment role. One of the thingsthat people fail to realize is that up to twenty percent of the visitors toyour site may have an accessibility issue. Most people think about accessibility, theythink just about people who are blind, and that's really just a small percentageof the people who have a disability that would impact their ability to use yourwebsite. You need to think about other things such as deafness, motor impairments, their ability to use a mouse, and even things like cognitive impairment suchas dyslexia. One of the stats that I reference a lot is that ofall of the people with a disability visiting your website, only two percent ofthose people are blind. You you need to think about things like color blindnessand even, like I mentioned before, dyslexia. Fifteen percent of the populationin the United States is dyslexic and if you're not really thinking about how theycan use your website, you're really going...

...to be at a disadvantage. Youknow, another thing for people in enrollment management and marketing is thinking about theimpact of brand now, as these oc our complaints become more public, thenegative publicity of a lawsuit is certainly something you need to think about. MarkI really love that that concept of thinking of both the justice and the enrollmentaspects of this issue. Can you give us a high level overview of thelegal requirements today when it comes to web accessibility and higher ad as? We'retalking to today in December of two thousand and seventeen, what is the lowbar of compliance. Is that bar different for public's versus privates? So thatBar, you know, this is actually one of the challenges with Web accessibilityover the twenty years I've been working in this space, and that is reallydefining what exactly is the bar that we need to meet. So the standardthat gets reference most of the time in higher education, whether it's public orprivate, is section eight. And one of the things that keep in mindwith section five, hundred and eight is that it is going through a changethat's going to take effect in next Jan...

...this coming January, in a monthfrom now, and traditionally the section five weight rules were different from the wyou see threes rules, known as the White Egg, DUP two double astandard. They were different. As of this coming January they're going to bethe same. So that's important to keep in mind. The second thing thatis really a game changer that happened in two thousand and seventeen was the winDixie case. So the wind dixie grocery store was sued in Florida because theirwebsite was not accessible and for the first time a case at the federal levelactually went to trial and they judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff and foundthat the wind Dixie case did not meet accessibility guideline. So that's the firsttime we really have case law. So those are a couple things that keepin mind. Is that there is some solid case law now and the sectionfive eight refresh, as it's known, is going to now aligne that basestandard with the wicked EG double a two...

...standard. One of the things Ilike to say real quick as well is all because you meet the standard doesn'tnecessarily mean that your website is completely accessible for people with disabilities, and won'tnecessarily get into the details about that, but you need to keep in mindthat just meeting the standard isn't necessarily good enough. So in terms of makingsure that at the very least to meet those standards and and better, talkabout how to take a strategic approach to web accessibility at your institution, howto get different areas on campus involved and what exactly that could look like.Sure. So one of the things to start with, and probably why I'mcalled in as a consultant because I'm on the outside, is really understanding whyyour campus thinks accessibility is important. There's for four areas to think about.In this regard. One is the legal obligation, which we've just talked about. The second is the idea of social responsibility and thinking about the moral andethical reasons to do accessibility, and this...

...is where it can really tie backinto brand and if you're in your brand value talking about inclusive you know,an inclusive community, this ties right into that. The third is thinking aboutexpanding your market. There are, as I mentioned before, about twenty percentof the population who has an issue. If you have an address some ofthese accessibility you know standards. So do you? Are you missing out onpart of your market because you're not thinking about that? And then the finalone is thinking about the overall user experience. When you address accessibility issues, youare usually, if not always, improving the overall user experience for anyonevisiting your website. On the example I like to use right now, mybiggest pet peeve on the web are autoplay videos. It just drives me crazywhen all of a sudden a video starts playing. Now, for me it'sjust kind of a nuisance and it's frustrating, but for somebody who is relying ona screen reader, somebody who is blind and using assisted technology, theyneed to hear the controls to stop that...

...video. Well, but if theycan't hear it because the audios playing now there's a huge barrier there. Ithink it's really important for campuses they have a frank conversation about why they areaddressing accessibility. I have never come across anybody who says that they are notdoing it because of the kind of social responsibility piece, but when you lookat how they're investing, the reality is the only reason they're doing it isbecause they've gotten a no see our complaint. So I really think it's important tounderstand exactly why you're doing it and that will help drive your strategy goingforward. Another thing that I think a lot of campus is a mistake theymake is not involving everybody in the conversation about accessibility. Typically this has beena conversation within it offices or compliance offices. Sometimes you know, going out intothe web development folks, but this is something where anybody who touches theweb, makes the decision about the web or is impacted about the web needsto be thinking about accessibility. So the...

...broader that conversation is, the betteroff the campus will be. Mark there are a whole lot of automated toolsout there to help you test your websites compliance or lack thereof. Are therecertain tools that you like, or is there a different approach you take tocompliance testing alltogether? Sure, so I like to look at compliance testing inthree phases. The first is using automated testing. You can do this throughfree browser plugins that do a decent job. There are a number of companies outthere where you can have them scan your entire website and find accessibility issues. You know, there's no right or wrong approach to that. However,if you have a large website, having those automated tools that scan your entiresite I think are really valuable and cost effective. But the one thing tokeep in mind is that any automatic tool is only going to find twenty,five to thirty percent of the errors on your site. So, all becausethese tools are coming back and saying your site is okay, know that theymiss a lot of information and know they...

...they can also give you a lotof false positives where they're finding an error when an error actually doesn't exist.So start with that. The second thing you want to do is a baselevel of manual testing. Typically, this is involving using the keyboard. Sokeyboard accessibility is very important for people are using assists of technology and for peoplewho have motor impairments and can't use a mouse. So this keyboard testing,you're going to use the keyboard just to make sure you can navigate through thesite, making sure that all of the elements on the site are reachable throughthe keyboard, making sure that as you're tapping through, it's following a logicalorder and making sure that you can visibly see where the focus is of ofyour keyboard as you're taking through, so if you hit the enarchy, youknow what you're going to select. In addition to that, I recommend,not for necessarily for all the pages on your site, but for the youknow, if you're using a temploted system, you know for a couple of thosetemplates, doing what I call functional testing, which is making sure siteworks with the system of technology. So...

...using something like jaws on the windowside, making sure that that actually somebody who is using the site with thattechnology actually can make that site work. Mark such good stuff. Well,what are some next steps for listeners who want to make sure their sites areaccessible, both to provide a better user experience with their students and, legally, to protect their institution. Sure. So one of the things I recommendis creating a comprehensive web accessibility program a mistake a lot of campuses make isthat they get an OC our complaint. There are some very specific steps andthings that need to be done. Is Part of that complaint. So theylook at this as a project. Once they get the site up the snuff, they check the box that it's done and don't think about it anymore,when reality is the sites always changing. So you need to come up witha comprehensive accessibility program that's addressing this, you know, throughout you know goingforward. Let me preface this by saying I am not an attorney, sothis is don't take this as legal advice.

I've also noticed that in my travelsthe exact requirements through the OCR will vary depending on the oce our Turneryou're dealing with and the OC are investigator you're dealing with. That being said, there are a series of things that every campus should be thinking about asit looks at creating this accessibility program so let me just go through those realquickly for you. The first is making sure that you have a web accessibilitypolicy and that policy has been communicated to everybody throughout the campus. The secondthing is putting somebody in charge of accessibility on your campus, depending on thesize of your institution, that maybe you know, a half Fte for largercampuses, I'm seeing, you know, web accessibility teams being built that arefour or five full time equivalents, so really making sure you are putting resourcestoward that. A third thing is looking at, you know, purchasing automatedtesting software, so companies out there like site improve. Another one is MONSETO. There's a whole variety of tools out...

...there that you can use to scanyour websites. As you're going through the process, make sure you come upwith a remediation plan where you're strategically looking how you're going to fix the issuesthat exist right now. Another thing to consider is the process you use forprocurement, so working with your procumerent office to make sure any software that's beingpurchased meets the accessibility standards. Another thing that's really important is developing training materials. So anybody who touches the web, whether it's developer, if you havea cms, making sure that all of your content contributors are trained, makingsure that your faculty are trained in your Lms, providing that training so peoplegoing forward aren't going to continue to make materials that are inaccessible. Then thefinal thing, which a lot of people don't think about, is adding anaccessibility statement to your website. Typically this gets done in the footer of everyweb page. So in that accessibility statement what you want to see is justyou know what your policy is, a...

...link to that policy, but moreimportant is a is contact information for people to get help if they need it. So the analogy that I see use a lot is that if you walkinto a restaurant if somebody is blind, the local mom and pop restaurant mightnot have the resources to make their menu in Brail, especially if that menuis changing daily. Yeah, so in accommodation would be make sure that yourweight staff is trained that if somebody can't read that menu, that they readthe men you to you know to them. So the accessibility statement is a similarthing. Where somebody is having a problem assessing any information on your website, there's a contact there so they can call or email somebody and get thehelp that you need. So I think that's a really important piece and Iknow in talking with some oce our attorney's that's something that they find that theywant to see as part of your accessibility efforts. Mark, such great stuffand so incredibly helpful. Well, what's the best place for listeners to connectwith you if they have any follow questions? Sure so. Probably you know mywebsite is Mark Grcom, m a...

R K GRCOM. That's probably theeasiest way to get in touch with me. I'm also very active on twitter andmy twitter handle is Mark Gr so those are probably the two best placesto start and I'd be happy to work with anybody, help anybody out ofthey have questions about this. I know what's top of mine for a lotof people and hire it right now. Mark, you the best. Thanksagainst so much for joining us today. Thanks for having me. Attracting today'snew post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven,enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in thisnew education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollmentgrowth playbook with fifty percent brand new content. On how institutions can solve today's mostpressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university...

...from Helix Education. To ensure thatyou never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcastplayer. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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