Administrators at Greenvale State University recently decided to develop a comprehensive accessibility policy. Institutional leaders recognized a need to bring more clarity and cohesiveness to a pastiche of accessibility policies in various departments and offices. They also wanted to avoid finding themselves in the same situation as a nearby college that received a “Dear Colleague” letter from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights sanctioning that institution for insufficient accessibility across much of its learning-related information technology. Greenvale convened a task force that included administrators, faculty, students, staff, and community members. After auditing the university’s existing accessibility policies, the task force discovered that while some institutional departments and programs have long maintained accessibility policies, they are inconsistent and poorly executed. Meanwhile, some areas of the university have no such policy.
After working diligently over the past academic year, the task force unveiled a university-wide accessibility policy. The policy starts by defining the rationale—couched in terms of the institution’s values and mission—and the scope of its applicability across campus. Several sections detail expectations for accessibility in the classroom, for information technology, and across the institution’s physical facilities. The report specifies expected outcomes for compliance, as well as accommodation procedures for students, staff, and visitors. It details remedies for noncompliance. The policy places the provost in charge of compliance but names other individuals, including the CIO, as having specific responsibilities for components of the policy.
Since implementation, the plan has been applied to help answer specific questions around accessibility. It has been praised for having brought needed consistency and clarity to a critical dimension of university operations. Among other benefits, the plan has proven helpful as a tool to help Greenvale administrators explain the university’s accessibility requirements to software vendors, and it has been cited by some incoming students and new faculty as a factor in their decision to come to Greenvale.
Greenvale believes that its work on accessibility must be ongoing and that the policy must evolve over time. Accordingly, the task force meets quarterly to review how well the policy works and has recommended amendments to make the policy even stronger and more useful.