Who is Responsible for Accessible Technology at SMC?
We all are! Providing accessible technology to all members of the SMC community is a campus-wide responsibility shared by everyone involved in creating, purchasing, adopting, and/or using technology.
As an education institution, access for all students is a prime consideration. Working directly with students, faculty and Disabled Student Services (DSPS) form an essential partnership to help students access digital instructional resources.
How do DSPS and Faculty Work Together?
Disabled Student Services is responsible specifically for developing and implementing accommodations for individual students. Faculty are responsible for creating and adopting accessible materials as well as collaborating with DSPS when accommodations are necessary.
What is the difference between Accessibility and Accommodations?
Accessible design is a design process in which the needs of people with disabilities are specifically considered. One example is how students who are blind experience the SMC registration process. The schedule of classes and registration web pages have been thoughtfully designed by SMC's web coordinator and IT programmers with accessibility in mind so that blind students can register independently using their screen reading software that verbalizes what is happening on the computer. Another example is captioned videos. Captioned multimedia are accessible to deaf/hard-of-hearing students without their needing any accommodation.
Accommodations are case-by-case arrangements for individual students based on challenges resulting from their disabilities. Examples of accommodations include:
- Providing video magnifiers for partially-sighted students in the classroom to see enlarged images of classroom activity such as a professor writing on a white board.
- Providing blind students with a screen-reader friendly Excel spreadsheet for every image of a spreadsheet in an accounting text, and
- Providing students who learn better by listening with options for listening to textbooks, tests, and other instructional resources.
Why is Accessibility Better than Accommodations?
Students can use accessible technology independently. For example, thanks to captions, deaf/hard-of-hearing students can access multimedia as independently as their hearing peers. Uncaptioned videos require an accommodation such as providing a sign language interpreter to sign the audio track of an uncaptioned video. These accommodations undermine independence and are not supported by the interpretation of disability rights laws.
Accommodations and the Digital Publisher Resources Dilemma
Inaccessible digital publisher resources present one of the most challenging obstacles to providing students with disabilities equal access to instruction. Although significant progress continues (e.g. captioned videos becoming standard), significant obstacles persist. The mandate is to choose accessible resources, though rarely are the best possible educational resources also completely accessible. Nonetheless, because faculty are choosing these resources for students, faculty and the overall campus are responsible for its accessibility.
So what are we supposed to do? We need to work with the publisher to identify existing accessibility obstacles and proactively develop backup accommodation plans we can implement as needed. Having a backup plan is critical to implementing accommodations in a timely manner. Last minute, ad hoc accommodations have made an increasing number of colleges and universities subject to lawsuits and Office of Civil Rights complaints and investigations.
What Specific Actions Should Faculty be Taking?
Include a statement in your syllabus about accommodations.
I encourage students requesting disability-related accommodations to contact me and the Center for Students with Disabilities in a timely manner. I will work with you and the Center for Students with Disabilities to provide appropriate and reasonable accommodations. An early notification of your request for test-taking and/or other accommodations is necessary to ensure that your disability-related needs are addressed appropriately; testing accommodations may not be applied retroactively. The Center for Students with Disabilities is located on the 1st floor of the Student Services Center. The phone numbers are (310) 434-4265 and (310) 434-4273 (TDD). The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accessibility statements are also encouraged. Below is an example.
My instructional resources for this course are designed to be accessible to all students. Please notify me immediately if you have challenges accessing any instructional resources required for this course.
Instructional Resource Adoptions
- Provide the SMC Bookstore with instructional resource adoptions according to the SMC timeline.
- If not going through the Bookstore, have instructional resources information available for DSPS within the same timeline required by the bookstore.
- Open a dialogue with publisher representatives about the accessibility of their digital resources. Begin this dialogue by asking the representative to complete the letter for publishers. (Download a Word file of the letter for publishers.)
- Refer follow up questions from the accessibility interaction with your publisher representative to the faculty in the DSPS High Tech Training Center: Elena Throckmorton, x4267 and Aaron French, x8934.
- When requested, provide DSPS as soon as possible with course materials for transformation into each student's preferred format in accordance with his/her documented disability.
- Retain original files (e.g. Word docs, PowerPoint files) from which other formats are created (e.g., PDF files, Camtasia movie).
The Office of Civil Rights requires faculty to provide students with disabilities instructional resources at the same time (or before) other students. As Paul Grossman, retired Chief Regional Attorney, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights says, "Leaving students who have requested accommodations to spin in the wind is a direct violation of the law." For example, if students who are partially sighted need PDF files of their textbook chapters so they can enlarge the text on the computer screen, the students need those digital files when the readings are first assigned. Please help SMC comply with this timeliness imperative.
Instructional Resource Creation
The Creating Accessible Instructional Resources pages provide specific instructions on how to design instructional media so all students and employees can access the information that is communicated.
For questions or concerns, contact the Disabled Student Services High Tech Training Center faculty (Elena Throckmorton, x4882) to request assistance with integrating accessible design into the creation process.
- Collaborate with DSPS to ensure all multimedia is captioned before courses begin. Keep in mind the captioning process can take as long as 6-8 weeks to complete.
- Collaborate with DSPS regarding potential accommodation plans for inaccessible instructional resources for which there is currently no accessible equivalent. Ensure the collaboration takes place at least six weeks before your courses begin.
- In collaboration with DSPS, as needed, check the accessibility of required software and web pages. If accessibility obstacles exist, work with DSPS to determine if an equally effective alternative exists. If an equally effective alternative does not exist, faculty cannot require that instructional resource. Once again, ensure the collaboration takes place at least six weeks before courses begin.
More SMC Resources.