On May 18, Blackboard organized a series of eight webinars across the world to mark the sixth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day. With over 1,000 registrations from more than 400 institutions worldwide, Blackboard’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day webinar series got everyone talking, thinking and sharing ideas on how to make education truly accessible to all. A recap of the event sessions can be found here. You can also access recordings for the sessions on Blackboard’s YouTube channel. (A special thanks to all involved for a great day!)

In a preview session with Inside Higher Ed titled “Accessible, Inclusive Education: A Moral and Legal Imperative,” we asked the almost 300 attendees questions about how accessibility is viewed at their institutions:

Who is responsible for digital accessibility and ADA compliance in your instructional programs, resources and services?

In discussing who is responsible for digital accessibility and ADA compliance at their schools:

  • 36% said, “A central office provides review and support services.”
  • 32% said, “No clear institutional policy or procedure.”

This shows that there is still an opportunity to change the mindset around accessibility. Everyone at an institution can have a positive impact on the accessibility and quality of student content.

How does your institution think about accessibility? 

In discussing how their institution thinks about accessibility:

  • 52% said that institutions think about accessibility as “special accommodations only for students who request them.”

We can see here that many of the processes around accessibility at an institution are still centered around a reactive approach. With increased awareness around accessibility from both student and faculty, accessibility becomes a much wider issue beyond just those who request accommodations.

A common theme through our Global Accessibility Awareness Day events was the benefits to all students that come from incorporating accessibility into the classroom. Viewing accessibility as something that only affects a limited number of students and can be managed within a specific office often misses the students who may not disclose their disabilities. It is also a missed opportunity to improve education for students who learn better in a different modality and those who might simply appreciate a bit of support. For example, an audio version of written course materials makes it easier for students who commute to combine study and drive time.

In the end, we can identify some key takeaways to support that theme. As you look to build off of the discussion around Global Accessibility Awareness Day, keep the following in mind:

  • Consider approaches and programs that improve accessibility and remove barriers.
  • Leverage technology and tools that ease the path to accessible education.
  • Build and plan around what an inclusive classroom looks like and think about how you can create one.
  • Incorporate best practices from different institutions and organizations around the world into your plan.

To keep up with the ongoing accessibility efforts at Blackboard, please visit our website.

Playbook: Is your higher education institution accessible for all?

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