5 Steps for Introducing an Institution-wide Accessibility Approach
Traditionally higher education institutions have been handling accommodation requests through manual processes and homegrown databases. As more students with disabilities enroll in college, staff in accessibility services are tasked with processing more accommodations without the tools to effectively respond to requests. Furthermore, gaining the executive buy-in needed to allocate budget into streamlining accessibility requests is often challenging. Staff members need more guides and resources to make accessibility a shared responsibility on campus and overcome resistance to new technology solutions.
Establish Executive Support and Strategy
A strong executive leadership is integral for supporting campus accessibility and complying with mandated disability legislation. Without executive buy-in, resource allocation to support the business objectives will not be given. The goal for this first step is to define the intended strategy to better support accessibility and gain executive buy-in.
Assess Effectiveness of Current Processes
Conduct a gap analysis to understand your current accommodation processes and how these can be automated. Gather feedback from students, faculty, and disability services staff to recognize how services can be improved to better serve their needs and the needs of the institution. Identify all the current tasks that require multiple steps and additional stakeholders to learn how these could be better integrated into the system. Assess the amount of waste, time and physical, that could be minimized with an online accommodation system. Establish baseline metrics and information you can use to track progress and efficiencies.
Identify who you think will be involved in any institutional changes around accessibility. The stakeholders should include people responsible for accessibility activities on campus, as well as those who undertake the development, testing, and processing of tasks and accommodations. Recommended stakeholders include administrative support staff, IT staff, disability services staff, accessibility steering committee or designee, procurement department, etc.
Develop a Procurement Process
Gather all the necessary product information and identify all the functional and business requirements for an accommodation system. Understand your institution’s individual software purchasing process and work with the vendor to develop documentation to support the purchase such as a Request for Proposal (RFP), a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), and/or an Equally Effective Alternate Access Plan (EEAAP).
Determine Costs and ROI
Outline the total budget for the accessibility services and define how it could be allocated for supporting technologies. Explain the potential ROI in annual dollars if many of the processes are automated. Describe how services can also be improved with better tracking and recording keeping.
Accessibility services staff in higher education need a central hub for consolidating and managing all aspects of the accommodations process. Similarly, students need a convenient and stress-free way of submitting accommodations requests for anything from assistive devices, alternate testing rooms, and note-taking services to special religious or dietary requirements.
Accommodate by Symplicity helps higher education institutions modernize their accommodation request process with a fully-ADA compliant interface that allows students to submit all types of accommodation requests online and empowers staff to eliminate endless manual processes by approving all accommodation requests in real-time.
Institutions using Accommodate saw the following results in 2017:
- 25% return on investment (ROI) and annual department savings over 3 years.
- 65% increase in student engagement within the first 12 months.
- Average of 2 hours a week saved in inter-departmental communications.
- 35% decrease in paper and print materials annually.
- Data analytics and reports are produced 90% faster than reporting without a database.
- 40% increase in accommodation requests in the past 18 months.
- Can process requests 5x times quicker than without a database.
- 50% decrease in student traffic in the office.
Symplicity is the global market leader of cloud-based solutions in higher education. At Symplicity, we are deeply committed to partnering with the higher education community to redefine student and institutional success by breaking down departmental silos and leveraging Symplicity’s smart, innovative technology. With over 20 years and working with more than 1300 offices globally, Symplicity’s goal is to help create the most user-friendly and exciting experience for students, faculty, and staff.