The University of Illinois has officially recognized the Electronic Information Technology (EIT) Accessibility Policy (HR-86) for our campus. The Technology Accessibility Review Committee (TARC) was formed and charged with the duty of finalizing and implementing the policy. One of the initiatives started by the TARC is called the IT Accessibility Liaison (ITAL) program. The purpose of this program is to establish point-people in all campus units to serve as resources for digital accessibility.
The three primary goals of this program are:
- Honor and recognize accessibility work that’s already being done,
- Equip our staff through training, networking and community building,
- Scale our accessibility outreach by providing a knowledgeable person(s) within each campus unit.
This is a volunteer effort and doesn’t require a technical background, only an interest in learning about and promoting digital accessibility. The liaison will receive training and support to help guide their units in making sound accessibility decisions. The commitment will involve a monthly meeting and additional training as appropriate. For the foreseeable future, there’s no cost for involvement and training other than time. Units can elect as many liaisons as they feel necessary for their representation. Supervisors and managers will also receive program information so that everyone is aware of how things are progressing.
This program encompasses far more than just web accessibility. Here are some of the things we envision liaisons doing:
- Assessment – ITAL’s will be trained on how to go through an easy checklist on a periodic basis (semi-annually or annually) to determine the accessibility "health" of their unit's EIT,
- Exception Requests – The ITAL will work with their unit to help them prepare and process Exception Requests for EIT products that have accessibility issues. The TARC is streamlining this process and will work with the liaison,
- Product Review – As departments and colleges purchase software/web products, the ITAL will help vet the tools to forewarn the unit regarding accessibility liability,
- Policy Promotion – The ITAL will be knowledgeable and able to advise their unit about the EIT Accessibility Policy and required standards (WCAG, Section 508, IITAA),
- Roadmap Preparation – ITALs will work with their unit leadership in preparing a roadmap plan for correcting any current accessibility problems and moving their unit to compliance with the EIT Accessibility Policy in a 3 or 5-year timeframe,
- Accessibility Promotion – ITALs will be alerted to accessibility resources and educational opportunities on campus.
These tasks will be spread out over a one or two-year time span so they won’t be a burden. Additionally, each liaison will receive:
- Training for the various tasks mentioned above,
- Support from the TARC for things like processing an exception request, etc. Liaisons will have direct access to the TARC for support, not something readily available to individuals working on their own,
- Community support from the ITAL program and network of fellow liaisons,
- Monthly training and discussion about problem areas, needs for additional support, etc.,
- A listserv for posing immediate questions or calls for help,
- Access to the ITAL BOX folder with resources, Powerpoints, meeting minutes, etc.,
- Updates on federal/state regulations,
- Easy connections to subject matter experts.
If your unit needs representation and you, or someone you know, would like to join the ITAL program, please contact Tim Offenstein.
- Membership and participation in the ITAL program continues to grow. Currently we have almost 60 Liaisons and around 35 units represented in the program. This includes liaisons from UIS and UIC! We are at about 10% coverage for the UIUC campus so there's plenty of room to grow.
- The ITAL program holds monthly training for participants. A few of our training topics have covered website evaluation, automated accessibility checkers, use of assistive technology, introduction to the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Future topics are accessibile e-mail preparation, PDF's, HTML/CSS best practices, using the TARC exception process, and vetting third-party software.