Having operated under emergency Distance Education addenda for the better part of 2020, as the pandemic turned the spotlight on accessibility of online courses and instructional materials, California’s community colleges may see the new year as an opportunity to begin a process of establishing or updating accessibility compliance documentation.

A January virtual workshop, hosted by the California Community Colleges Accessibility Center, outlined one college’s process to adopt accessibility board policies and administrative procedures and the systemwide resources that are available to colleges undertaking a similar effort.

Laurie Vasquez, a faculty member and assistive technology specialist at Santa Barbara City College, described 2021 as a time to “hit the reset button” on a campus-wide effort to get board adoption of a board policy and administrative procedure. The documents are derived from a Community College League of California template issued in support of the CCC Accessibility Standard.

Board policies help shape broad institutional goals and influence compliant decision making. Administrative procedures provide more specific details regarding specific technology and accessibility standards. Together, these help to provide clear guidance for accessibility practices on campus and are valuable documentation during the accreditation process.

In an audit of California community college websites early last year, the Accessibility Center found that just 16 out of 116 colleges had taken these measures. “There is still a huge need to push getting board policies adopted within our system,” said Dawn Okinaka, interim director of the Accessibility Center. 

At SBCC, Vasquez said, all BPs and APs are reviewed by an interdisciplinary committee. The group is currently reviewing and adapting AP 3725 for new circumstances faced during the pandemic. In January, the Curriculum Committee was in the process of reviewing all Spring courses to ensure accessibility and equity. District Technology and Instructional Technology committees were working together to examine tools needed for online instruction based on student and faculty surveys. And the District Technology Plan was revised to incorporate stop-gap measures.

According to Vasquez, the end goal is to adopt practices to reduce equity gaps among underrepresented student groups in alignment with the CCC Vision for Success.

Some steps to help colleges in this effort include:

  • Find an executive-level champion to start the process of the board policy and administrative procedure approval.
  • Seek out campus committees to begin the conversation and gain support from colleagues to put processes in place.
  • Update any existing accessibility policy to ensure the new policy captures all previous work.
  • Increase training that helps faculty members understand how students with disabilities access their course materials.

Because accessibility is a campus-wide responsibility, the importance of collaboration in this effort cannot be overstated, Vasquez said.

“No one person can do this work alone,” she said. “It’s hard work but worth it because the outcome is our students graduating. We can’t stop having this conversation.”

A video recording of the presentation is available here. For information about accessibility compliance and tools available to colleges, visit the CCC Accessibility Center.

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