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4 Ways to Get Buy-In for Accessibility at Your Institution

By: Spencer Kirschner
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This guest blog was contributed by Spencer Kirschner, Customer Success Manager at Automatic Sync Technologies. Kirschner works directly with higher-ed professionals who are driving accessibility and inclusion efforts forward at the University of Arizona, Oregon Community College System and Lewis University, among others.

While many leaders realize the importance of video accessibility, there are others who see it as an extra cost. Getting direct buy-in from faculty before adopting a captioning service is critical to its success.

Here are some tips and guidelines I’ve seen firsthand while working with universities and colleges across the country which work well for establishing buy-in.

1. Identify a project team of individuals whose constituents are directly impacted by the use, or non-use, of captions. This team could include faculty from different departments, such as Instructional Technology, Disability Services, Teaching and Learning or IT. This team will become the face of inclusivity and stewards of captioning, hopefully guiding the institution toward equal access. It’s therefore important to build a diverse team that represents various interests.

2. Work together as a team to build awareness and tell the institution’s story through the eyes of students. Gather feedback from students about how captions enhanced their learning experience. Weave in anecdotes and stories on how accessibility shaped their education. Was there a time when captions enabled a student to capture key ideas? How about a student who was frustrated trying to navigate the university’s website to understand how to request services? Was there a professor who received thank you notes at the end of the term because of her dedication to ensuring that all of his or her content was accessible?

Image of two women chatting at a table.

3. Sometimes, stories simply don’t offer enough to drive action. The next level of building awareness should be to ensure that all stakeholders understand the legal obligation of captioning. Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and many state laws, educational institutions are required by law to caption their online content. There have been some high stakes examples in recent years of institutions – even Harvard – not meeting those standards and paying the price. The cost of not meeting students’ accessibility needs can be great, not just financially, but it can be a detriment to the institutions’ reputation for years to come.

4. Showcasing the ease of using and offering accessibility is another important step to getting buy-in. Here are a few tips to ensure that professors understand they can get captions done with ease:

  • Make contact early and often with professors.
  • Create a centralized portal where requests can be managed.
  • Encourage text supplements when creating a video.
  • Consider a backwards approach: some instructors create their lecture via a script in advance, ensuring a more organized approach to video.
  • Ensure that your captioning service integrates with your video platform of choice. (We refer to integrations between CaptionSync and your video platform as “workflow integrations” because they vastly simplify the workflow of adding closed captions to online videos. Rather than uploading video files to CaptionSync, downloading the caption files that we generate, and then uploading those caption files to your video platform (“the manual method”), our integrations automate this entire process.)
  • Find opportunities to educate staff: Ongoing, continued education is a key principle that we at AST hold in high regard and can help with.

Image of woman laughing with coworker at a desk area with her laptop.

Establishing a team of key players at your institution who can serve together as advocates for accessibility is a great place to start. Then, educating the greater campus community on key integrations and ease of use of the captioning and other accessibility solutions available to your school will help you get the buy-in you need to drive accessibility forward. The legwork must be done up front, but once you have an effective captioning solution set up, you and your colleagues will have true peace of mind that you’re doing everything possible to set not just students with disabilities, but all students, up for academic success.

AST can be a real partner to you in this process, so if you’d like to learn how we’re working with some of your peer institutions, reach out to us.