Accessibility Network Forges New Partnerships

The Accessibility Network at the University of Cincinnati partners with local programs to discuss potential areas of collaboration.

Electronic accessibility permeates nearly every aspect of university processes, especially when preparing materials for student use. The constantly growing and evolving task of eAccessibility education and awareness requires attention to relationship-building and collaboration. This past month, The Accessibility Network at UC took their work directly to the university and local community, exchanging ideas and gaining new perspectives.

The Accessibility Network table at New Faculty Orientation

Mitch Jones, Assistive Technology Specialist with UC's Accessibility Resources Clifton, working one-on-one with during a small group session centered around practical application of eAccessibility.

Starting with UC Women Lead

UC Women Lead is a signature program in the provost’s office at the University of Cincinnati. This experiential leadership development program is for women faculty and staff who wish to develop their core leadership skills. Program members participate in a wide variety of activities including receiving peer and executive leadership coaching, cultivating campus-wide relationships, and engaging in an impactful institutional development project.

One of the project goals this year is for participants to create a project centered around eAccessibility. To kick things off, the Accessibility Network was invited to present at the opening retreat, introducing accessibility to the group.

2017 UC Women Lead participants seated around a conference table.

Eileen Strempel, UC Women Lead program sponsor (fourth from the right), discussing eAccessibility learning scenarios with program members.

“The idea is to get everyone up to speed on what eAccessibility is, why it is important, and how to achieve accessible electronic materials,” commented Annette Ready, Accessibility Network program sponsor, and Associate Vice President of Innovation and Partnerships in IT@UC. “We talked about the Start Small approach which focuses on incremental progress and takes the pressure off being perfect.”

During their eAccessibility basics introduction, participants discussed several real-life scenarios involving accessibility in practical academic settings.

UC Women Lead participants will be working closely with the two programs until spring 2018 when they graduate.

Discussions with the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) is a private, non-profit organization that empowers individuals who are blind or visually impaired with opportunities to seek independence. Their certified staff assist more than 4,000 individuals a year with offerings such as rehabilitation, counseling, employment, and information services. The Access Technology Service team provides instruction and consultation on using assistive technology, alternative tools used to navigate electronic documents and internet information.

The Accessibility Network attended a half-day information session hosted by CABVI in their Gilbert Avenue location, initiating a partnership surrounding accessibility. The two groups were able to exchange ideas on assistive technology tools, real life application, and website accessibility. 

Audience members listen to a presentation about color contrast.

Mandy Van Cleave, Access Technology Specialist at the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, talks with the audience about assistive technology.

For many in the group, listening to stories from different vantage points helped to broaden their understanding of the importance of creating accessible electronic materials. “Our conversation made me think about how the ability to navigate our online environment really does send a message to visitors about our values as an institution,” observed Heidi Pettyjohn, Interim EIT Coordinator and Director of Strategic Priorities, Division of Student Affairs.

The visit to CABVI proved invaluable to the Accessibility Network for creating connections with a key constituent community, providing a chance for the two groups to exchange ideas and feedback.

“It was a great chance to learn more about what UC is doing to provide a more inclusive environment for their students. We hope to stay in touch with what the Accessibility Network is doing and provide consulting services where we can,” remarked Todd Farmer, Access Technology Service Manager at Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The Accessibility Network was created to provide assistance and resources for UC’s faculty and staff and their electronic materials accessibility needs. If you haven’t seen our newly revamped website containing additional best practices, tutorials, and online learning options, please stop by. Or, if you’re a UC faculty or staff member and just getting started, we created an eAccessibility Introduction course in Blackboard just for you. If you need to speak with someone directly, please email our program at Accessibility.Network@uc.edu.