Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Sharing Expert Thoughts & Actions

By: Danielle Chazen
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We’re inspired daily by the tremendous efforts being enlisted by champions of accessibility at institutions and businesses around the globe. Global Accessibility Awareness Day provides the ideal moment to share some of the stories and proactive work we’re seeing being done to drive access forward to include all individuals.

The biggest shifts we’re seeing and applauding are mindsets. Fewer are only delivering access when they need to in order to respond to individual requests for accommodations. Now, core teams are being established at institutions outside of disability-focused professionals alone. Champions for access are coming from the realms of accessibility & disability, but also IT, faculty members, college deans and other leadership.

These teams are promoting change and awareness for how all individuals – not just those with reported disabilities – can benefit from greater access to solutions and technologies that can assist them in their academic, personal and professional lives. They’re showcasing and training more professionals to understand how all individuals can benefit when their courses, events and materials are made accessible.

In honor of GAAD, here are some of their thoughts, as well as the technologies and initiatives they’re invested in to promote inclusivity. We also gathered two experts for a LinkedIn Live. Click here to watch the recorded discussion.

People with mortarboard hat

University of New Haven

“As the Director of our Accessibility Resources Center, I continue to look forward to a time when all persons notwithstanding ability will be able to fully participate in all offerings of the university in an environment that is fully inclusive,” said Linda Copney-Okeke, M.A., Director of our Accessibility Resources Center. However with the strides the University of New Haven is making, that day may come soon.

New Haven has taken a proactive and progressive perspective to improving access to individuals with disabilities on its campus. Within its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Prolonging Strategic Plan, it has included access so individuals with disabilities are actively included in its DEI efforts.

“Those access efforts have included the creation of a self-paced accessibility and inclusion course for our faculty in which UDL for our classrooms is promoted and encouraged to enable access for all students inclusive of abilities, cultural status, etc. From our initial launching workshop has come a faculty community of practice around UDL for the classroomOur school of business student DEI community conducted a disability and workplace forum which was widely attended. Our digital learning department is encouraging all faculty to utilize closed captioning for all videos and on Blackboard Ally for all courses in the fall semester.”

Woman with post-its on window“Our accessibility resources center works hand-in-hand with digital learning to ensure that videos that need to be captioned at 99% accuracy are completed in a timely manner, and we utilize Verbit for both post-production transcript and for all live Zoom sessions in the classroom and for campus events and activities.”

Recently, New Haven’s accessibility committee conducted a facility audit, added accessible features to its event management system and also developed and received approval of an accessible advance & accommodations policy which has been rolled out university-wide.

Additionally, its student government hosts regular forums and discussions regarding accessibility on campus to learn about and share information regarding accessibility. The university also has an Honor Society for Students with Disabilities, which in conjunction with its Accessibility Resources Center, recently conducted a day-long Disability Awareness Day.

Man with earphones

Ferris State UniversityIn her role as the Director of Accessibility & Disability Resources, Julie Alexander is spending GAAD recognizing how incredible it is how much things are changing and advancing in the world of accessibility, primarily due to technologies which are now the norm for teaching.

“There has been wonderful technological innovation, she said. “Video conferencing existed 11 years ago, but it was not widely used as it is today. This has created more opportunity for access, but also new things to consider, such as making sure captioning on video conferencing is as accurate as possible and that all users can navigate all of the features.”

Salt Lake Community College

Chris Luker, Media Manager SLCC OnLine & eLearning Services, at Salt Lake Community College, considers the importance of accessibility both on a professional and personal level.

My son is autistic and has been doing most of his courses online since the beginning of the pandemic. He has trouble sometimes following along with videos when there is music or other things going on at the same time,” Luker said. “Since we caption videos that transit through eLearning (where I work), he has been able to more closely follow along with videos by turning off the audio track and turning on the captions.”

Woman with laptop on sofaLuker noted that so many students can benefit when they’re exposed to helpful tools designed to promote access, such as captioning or transcripts for note taking.

“At Salt Lake Community College, in eLearning, we make it a practice to caption all videos that we produce or that we touch for courses,” he said. “That helps everybody have better access to the information. We have a lot of English as a second language learners here. That helps them. It’s something you’ve got to do.

The Greater Verbit Company & AST Are Honoring GAAD

AST, the Verbit Company’s education arm, is humbled to partner with these institutions and assist them in this important work to help all learners succeed. AST’s leaders are also working with brands and agencies across the government, cultural and non-profit sectors, who are turning to us to caption, transcribe and audio describe every day classes, museum and library experiences, events and more.

AST is honored to celebrate GAAD alongside Verbit, VITAC, Take Note and the latest Verbit brand, U.S. Captioning Company which are helping to make every and iconic moments alike more accessible. Watch below:

We’re also hosted a LinkedIn Live discussion in honor of GAAD. You can watch it on-demand to hear from Dr. Sherri Restauri of AST and Verbit who brought her expertise in education and Heather York of VITAC, who spoke about accessibility within the media, entertainment and business sectors. Click here to watch the recording of the LinkedIn Live.

To partner with AST in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, reach out to us. We’re happy to consult with you to help take your inclusion efforts to the next level and share some small fixes you can make today with the help of our specialized teams.