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ITS is now requiring all of its employees to complete digital accessibility training.

For this next performance plan cycle that ends March 31, 2022, all ITS employees are asked to complete a 90-minute Digital Accessibility Awareness course provided by the Digital Accessibility Office. That training sets a good baseline for understanding the importance of digital accessibility.

Kate Hash
Kate Hash

In addition, ITS is asking each manager to work with direct reports to identify one or two additional courses to take. This may vary depending on the team or individual. For example, teams involved with web development and programming work may select Web Accessibility Basics while team members who assist others in choosing products or services may decide they want to take the course on Procurement.

Enables equal access

ITS is taking this important step for several reasons. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 57 million Americans have a disability — that’s nearly 19% of the U.S. population. Millions have hearing impairments, vision impairments, and/or physical impairments that make using standard technology a challenge.

“A focus on digital accessibility enables our students, faculty, staff and community to have equal access to our digital resources,” said Kate Hash, Assistant Vice Chancellor for ITS Customer Experience & Engagement. The Digital Accessibility Office (DAO) is one of the groups she oversees.

We can do better

“Too often people think digital accessibility is just about alt tags on images or the colors you choose for websites,” Hash said. It’s so much more than that. “As IT professionals, the choices we make — about user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), the platforms we purchase, the presentations we give and the PDFs we create — have the potential to impact the ability of our users to fully experience University resources. We can always do better. We should want to do better.”

Hash and other ITS senior leaders hope other University departments, schools and groups will likewise encourage their staff and faculty members to sign up for digital accessibility training.

“The quality of the DAO’s training is excellent,” Hash said.

ITS employees and those working across the University, she said, will learn valuable information and skills about digital accessibility.

Chelsea Porter
Chelsea Porter

Like several other groups and content providers across campus, the DAO offers registrations through Carolina Talent Learning.

Interest in accessibility increasing

The four-person DAO team has noticed an uptick in campus community members’ interest in digital accessibility in 2021. The group is receiving more emails and questions about document accessibility, web links and other issues.

“More people are thinking about digital accessibility in their everyday work, which is fantastic,” said Chelsea Porter, a Digital Accessibility Consultant with the DAO. “We are thrilled to see more inquires coming from faculty members at UNC,” she said. “We have been striving to do more outreach to our instructors in an effort to support more inclusion in the classrooms. Many have begun attending our trainings and reaching out to us for project support and course accessibility reviews.”

Training enrollment jumped

Last year 608 people attended DAO’s trainings via Zoom. From January through mid-August of this year, the tally is already 703, surpassing the total from all of 2020.

As for ITS employees, enrollment has jumped in the past few months since the current performance plans commenced. Since May 1, 53 ITS staff members have taken or signed up for the DAO’s Digital Accessibility Awareness training. In comparison, 79 ITS employees took the training from 2019 through May 2021.

The DAO launched in July 2019. The staff members of the DAO are responsible for helping UNC-Chapel Hill meet standards and live its values of inclusiveness and diversity with respect to access to University resources.

In addition to the courses mentioned earlier, the DAO offers such training as:

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