As technology progresses, higher education institutions continue to make strides toward more inclusive, accessible experiences for students. Yet according to a 2019 report by the National Center for College Students with Disabilities, there are still many barriers to campus access.
Professionals at Verbit continue to seek out ways to partner with organizations that educate higher education institutions on accessibility and inclusivity for all students.
Most recently, Scott Ready, Verbit’s Accessibility Evangelist and Senior Customer Success Manager, led a presentation on building an efficient budget that moves universities from a reactive to a proactive approach to accessibility. He discussed this strategy at the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD)’s 22nd Accessing Higher Ground conference.
From Accommodations to Inclusion: Verbit’s Session
Ready, who has more than 20 years of experience with global higher education and K-12, including serving as the Director of Accessibility Strategy at Blackboard for 14 years, spoke about how all students, not just those who submit requests for accommodation, can benefit from increased inclusivity. He discussed how universities can prioritize inclusivity by building efficient budgets that accommodate resources, such as captions, that benefit all students.
Captions, for example, should not just be thought of as aides for deaf and hard of hearing students. From sports scores on restaurant screens to video snippets on social media feeds, captions are proven to also help with information retention and simplify understanding for those attending universities where English is their second language.
Ready said the best approach for overall student success is to establish an educational culture that provides all students with a multimodal approach to content engagement. Progressing from accommodation to inclusion also helps universities empower students to improve their grades, which increases student retention and graduation rates, he said.
Kieran Morse, an Account Executive at Verbit, gained some key insights from the conference. She noted that a theme throughout the event was a need to account for students with disabilities who do not disclose them:
- Most students with disabilities don’t register with the disabilities services or accommodations departments for fear of being labeled ‘different’ by their peers.
- Most students prefer remote CART services to having a physical person in class. Instead of being the only student being assisted in class, they open the CART session on their computer. It helps them fulfill their needs and reach optimal capacity without sharing personal medical information with classmates.
- More students are being proactive to seek out ways to meet their individual learning needs.
The Overall Conference Impact
The event serves both institutions of higher education and business audiences who want to understand the benefits of universal design, assistive technology, curriculum accessibility, accessible media and information resources, campus accommodations, and reaching untapped audiences through accessibility. The conference also features sessions that clarify current and upcoming legal and policy issues relating to disabilities.
Conference speakers were also tasked with providing practical solutions and introducing tools to help organizations implement their learnings from the event.
Ready was thrilled by the diversity of those who attended, including student affairs personnel, faculty personnel, diversity officers, ADA coordinators, AT/IT staff, and other professionals committed to this important goal.
Additional Topics Addressed
The conference covered a wide range of topics, and provided multiple points of view, including sessions from software providers, case studies, personal lessons from working toward increased accessibility, and proven study results.
The event and its sessions were designed to help attendees:
- Create Inclusive Learning Environments and Cultures
- Teach Students About Accessibility
- Make STEM Topics Accessible for Students with Disabilities
- Tap into Advanced Technologies to Expand Your Impact
- Create an Efficient Budget that Helps Your Organization Thrive
As more individuals participate in events like AHEAD’s Accessing Higher Ground conference, we can continue to remove existing barriers to student success, including uninformed and unaware faculty, the stigma of disability, lack of support for self-advocacy, disclosure and more.