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, you are usually, if not always, improving the overall user experience for anyone visiting your website. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come into the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing and Helix Education, and we're here today with Mark Greenfield, digital strategist at the University of Buffalo. Mark, welcome to the show. Hi, Eric, pleasure to be here. Mark is an extremely influential leader in a very helpful voice when it comes to higher Ed web strategy in general. We're going to have an important conversation today about making your...

...higher at website accessible, in both the improved user experience and legal necessity of doing so. Before we get too deep into that, mark, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both University of Buffalo and your role there? So currently I serve as a digital strategist at the University of Buffalo. I've been at Youb for thirty years now and have served in a variety of technical web mark getting digital rolls, and currently my focus is on really understanding how we can utilize the web to meet our organizational goals and objectives. Love it mark why does web accessibility and Higher Ed matter more than we may think? So it's really been interesting as I've been traveling over the last year or so and talking with people at a variety of conferences and events. It seems that Web accessibility is top of 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 dramatic increase in the activity within the office of Civil Rights as it relates to web accessibility. That being said, that's really...

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

...to be at a disadvantage. You know, another thing for people in enrollment management and marketing is thinking about the impact of brand now, as these oc our complaints become more public, the negative publicity of a lawsuit is certainly something you need to think about. Mark I really love that that concept of thinking of both the justice and the enrollment aspects of this issue. Can you give us a high level overview of the legal requirements today when it comes to web accessibility and higher ad as? We're talking to today in December of two thousand and seventeen, what is the low bar of compliance. Is that bar different for public's versus privates? So that Bar, you know, this is actually one of the challenges with Web accessibility over the twenty years I've been working in this space, and that is really defining what exactly is the bar that we need to meet. So the standard that gets reference most of the time in higher education, whether it's public or private, is section eight. And one of the things that keep in mind with section five, hundred and eight is that it is going through a change that's going to take effect in next Jan...

...this coming January, in a month from now, and traditionally the section five weight rules were different from the w you see threes rules, known as the White Egg, DUP two double a standard. They were different. As of this coming January they're going to be the same. So that's important to keep in mind. The second thing that is really a game changer that happened in two thousand and seventeen was the win Dixie case. So the wind dixie grocery store was sued in Florida because their website was not accessible and for the first time a case at the federal level actually went to trial and they judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff and found that the wind Dixie case did not meet accessibility guideline. So that's the first time we really have case law. So those are a couple things that keep in mind. Is that there is some solid case law now and the section five eight refresh, as it's known, is going to now aligne that base standard with the wicked EG double a two...

...standard. One of the things I like to say real quick as well is all because you meet the standard doesn't necessarily mean that your website is completely accessible for people with disabilities, and won't necessarily get into the details about that, but you need to keep in mind that just meeting the standard isn't necessarily good enough. So in terms of making sure that at the very least to meet those standards and and better, talk about how to take a strategic approach to web accessibility at your institution, how to 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'm called in as a consultant because I'm on the outside, is really understanding why your 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 and ethical reasons to do accessibility, and this...

...is where it can really tie back into 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 about expanding your market. There are, as I mentioned before, about twenty percent of the population who has an issue. If you have an address some of these accessibility you know standards. So do you? Are you missing out on part of your market because you're not thinking about that? And then the final one is thinking about the overall user experience. When you address accessibility issues, you are usually, if not always, improving the overall user experience for anyone visiting your website. On the example I like to use right now, my biggest pet peeve on the web are autoplay videos. It just drives me crazy when all of a sudden a video starts playing. Now, for me it's just kind of a nuisance and it's frustrating, but for somebody who is relying on a screen reader, somebody who is blind and using assisted technology, they need to hear the controls to stop that...

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

...broader that conversation is, the better off the campus will be. Mark there are a whole lot of automated tools out there to help you test your websites compliance or lack thereof. Are there certain tools that you like, or is there a different approach you take to compliance testing alltogether? Sure, so I like to look at compliance testing in three phases. The first is using automated testing. You can do this through free browser plugins that do a decent job. There are a number of companies out there 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 entire site I think are really valuable and cost effective. But the one thing to keep 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 because these tools are coming back and saying your site is okay, know that they miss a lot of information and know they...

...they can also give you a lot of 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 base level of manual testing. Typically, this is involving using the keyboard. So keyboard accessibility is very important for people are using assists of technology and for people who 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 the site, making sure that all of the elements on the site are reachable through the keyboard, making sure that as you're tapping through, it's following a logical order and making sure that you can visibly see where the focus is of of your keyboard as you're taking through, so if you hit the enarchy, you know 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 you know, if you're using a temploted system, you know for a couple of those templates, doing what I call functional testing, which is making sure site works with the system of technology. So...

...using something like jaws on the window side, making sure that that actually somebody who is using the site with that technology 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 are accessible, both to provide a better user experience with their students and, legally, to protect their institution. Sure. So one of the things I recommend is creating a comprehensive web accessibility program a mistake a lot of campuses make is that they get an OC our complaint. There are some very specific steps and things that need to be done. Is Part of that complaint. So they look 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 with a comprehensive accessibility program that's addressing this, you know, throughout you know going forward. Let me preface this by saying I am not an attorney, so this is don't take this as legal advice.

I've also noticed that in my travels the exact requirements through the OCR will vary depending on the oce our Turner you'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 as it looks at creating this accessibility program so let me just go through those real quickly for you. The first is making sure that you have a web accessibility policy and that policy has been communicated to everybody throughout the campus. The second thing is putting somebody in charge of accessibility on your campus, depending on the size of your institution, that maybe you know, a half Fte for larger campuses, I'm seeing, you know, web accessibility teams being built that are four or five full time equivalents, so really making sure you are putting resources toward that. A third thing is looking at, you know, purchasing automated testing 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 scan your websites. As you're going through the process, make sure you come up with a remediation plan where you're strategically looking how you're going to fix the issues that exist right now. Another thing to consider is the process you use for procurement, so working with your procumerent office to make sure any software that's being purchased 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 have a cms, making sure that all of your content contributors are trained, making sure that your faculty are trained in your Lms, providing that training so people going forward aren't going to continue to make materials that are inaccessible. Then the final thing, which a lot of people don't think about, is adding an accessibility statement to your website. Typically this gets done in the footer of every web page. So in that accessibility statement what you want to see is just you know what your policy is, a...

...link to that policy, but more important 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 walk into a restaurant if somebody is blind, the local mom and pop restaurant might not have the resources to make their menu in Brail, especially if that menu is changing daily. Yeah, so in accommodation would be make sure that your weight staff is trained that if somebody can't read that menu, that they read the men you to you know to them. So the accessibility statement is a similar thing. 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 the help that you need. So I think that's a really important piece and I know in talking with some oce our attorney's that's something that they find that they want to see as part of your accessibility efforts. Mark, such great stuff and so incredibly helpful. Well, what's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow questions? Sure so. Probably you know my website is Mark Grcom, m a...

R K GRCOM. That's probably the easiest way to get in touch with me. I'm also very active on twitter and my twitter handle is Mark Gr so those are probably the two best places to start and I'd be happy to work with anybody, help anybody out of they have questions about this. I know what's top of mine for a lot of people and hire it right now. Mark, you the best. Thanks against so much for joining us today. Thanks for having me. Attracting today's new 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 this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content. On how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university...

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

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