UC Berkeley recently launched the Information Technology Accessibility Policy Advisory Committee, a committee made of students, staff and faculty which will focus on increasing digital accessibility for its 65,000-person community.
According to a campus press release, over 4,000 students are registered with the Disabled Students’ Program, and more than one-fifth of staff, faculty and students have disabilities. The committee is intended to improve access to digital resources, which may include captioned video lectures for audibly impaired students or screen readers to narrate web pages for visually impaired staff.
Committee co-chair and director of Berkeley’s Office of Disability Access and Compliance Ella Callow said the new committee will look at both hardware and software points of accessibility.
“The IT Accessibility Policy Advisory Committee was formed to provide a permanent home for the extensive, ongoing, multi-disciplinary campus project to ensure information technology is accessible to everyone,” Callow said in an email. “We are focused on the accessibility of websites, databases, and learning management systems, but also all the content thereon, in addition to software and hardware.”
Callow added that long-term, the committee seeks to make campus’s digital domain as accessible as possible for the widest possible audience.
To that end, committee co-chair Jenn Stringer, who is the associate vice chancellor for IT and campus’s chief information officer, cited a short-term goal of completing the Websites and Third-Party Remediation, or WaTR, Project. Stringer said the WaTR Project would ensure platforms and content are accessible and train IT professionals for when barriers arise.
“For us, this is a civil rights issue, this is a social justice issue,” Stringer said in a press release. “Berkeley understands that better than anyone, and perhaps that’s why we’ve been quietly doing all this work, because that’s what we do.”
However, Callow acknowledged that there would always be more work to do and new challenges to confront in order to increase digital accessibility. For Callow, there is no box to check off; rather, digital accessibility is a “living” process.
Still, Callow is excited about the new committee, describing it as a “home.”
“We are really excited that all of us who have been working together over the years will have a permanent ‘home’ for this work, a place from which to imagine a more accessible digital tomorrow at Berkeley,” Callow said in the email.