CSU’s new accessibility policy awaiting approval

Pamela Shapiro

Students shape society, and Colorado State University gives all students the opportunity to excel. CSU has helped students such as Joe Tiner, a senior studying journalism, to overcome challenges.

“I have professors who are very willing to make course material accessible to me,” Tiner said. The Resources for Disabled Students (RDS) is not only where Tiner currently works, but it’s where he gained support and became a leader.

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“The most rewarding part has been being a part of the disabled community and being able to give back to that,” Tiner said.

Students like Joe are the reason Colorado State University wants to better their assistive learning technology policy.

Marla Roll, the director of the Assistive Technology Resource Center (ATRC), said this new policy is ultimately just building off of already-existing guidelines. The “Accessibility of Electronic And Information Technology” is the new policy that is in the process of being approved.

According to Roll, this policy is different in terms of requirements: “There are standards that we have to adhere to as a campus to ensure that content is accessible. We have always had a web accessibility policy. What is different now is I think the prior policy spoke primarily to web pages, but now in this newer updated version, it’s been broadened to look at electronic information more broadly, that gets into things like course materials.”

The policy encompasses more than just the web. It includes course materials such as Word, Power Point and even PDF files.

If a student does have a disability, there are steps that they should take to get help.

“A student with a disability should first identify with the Resources for Disabled Students office, because that office makes the decision and determines if they qualify for accommodations,” Roll said. “Where these policies come into play is that you can have a student that’s using assistive technology, but that content may be designed in an accessible fashion and it may not. Our office (ATRC) determines an appropriate assistive technology to use and then we teach them how to use it and apply it to their every day lives as a student.”

Assistive technology impacts all and could be as simple as making an image file into a text file, Roll said.

“Hopefully, this course content will be more accessible earlier on and they don’t have to ask for it to be made accessible, it just will be,” Roll said. “The way it would impact faculty is they’re going to have to change their work behavior some and think about these accessibility pieces in their work flow when they create a course.”

In the past, these guidelines haven’t applied to things like course content, the registration system a student uses and CANVAS itself, Roll said.

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“The policy is asking CSU to request that vendors grant these accessible technologies to the University,” Roll said. “The biggest impact the policy will have is on people’s time to pull this off. It’s a cultural and attitudinal shift.”

Shaun Geisert helps to make these shifts happen as the assistant director of web development for Student Affairs. Geisert currently serves on an accessibility sub-committee that is tasked with improving the accessibility to all of our digital programs and services.

“Specifically, we are working on drafting language to be incorporated into CSU’s procurement procedures,” Geisert said. “This means creating web accessibility, testing checklists and finding tools to automate the testing of the many thousands of web pages on campus.”

Geisert feels that his job is rewarding because it directly impacts students.

“The best part of what I do is developing web solutions to meet the needs of students and staff, especially when the sites I develop are heavily used,” Geisert said.

Roll agrees that impacting students is the most rewarding part of her job.

“I see assistive technology make all of the difference for students,” Roll said. “Some come in and have never seen these tools and they come in and feel really empowered. We see the assistive technology do really amazing things for people.”

Collegian Reporter Pamela Shapiro can be reached at news@collegian.com or via Twitter @pb_shapiro.