Kodiak College serves as pilot campus for new website accessibility guidelines

The new regulations through the United States Access Board involve modifying code to make UAA’s website accessible to screen readers. (Photo by Michael Himbeault / Flickr)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kodiak College, a University of Alaska Anchorage campus, will be the testing grounds for making UAA online content and media more accessible to the general public and people with disabilities.

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In January of last year, the United States Access Board updated its Information and Communication Technology Standards and Guidelines. The changes went into effect a few weeks ago.

Heather Nash, the associate director for Academic Innovations and eLearning at UAA, says the Anchorage campus now plans to rehash its online content and documents to reflect those new federal regulations.

“The guidelines that, before last year, were in place around accessibility in distance classes really came from a day when web content wasn’t a premier form of delivery, and they didn’t really address web content in a way that they ought to or needed to. The guidelines were old was really what it comes down to.”

She says some of the changes would mean adding captions to video and writing code to make sure that the web content can be accessed on a screen reader, a text-to-speech device.

Nash says a small campus like Kodiak College is a good site to test out the implementation so that they can apply it to the rest of UAA.

“We’re not only looking at the processes and the tools that we have, but we’re also looking at whether the tools are effective, what the projected cost would be for those particular tools, how much time we’re taking for faculty for instructional designers, for other key folks who have to work on this.”

The updates could be useful to the general public. Debbi Canavan with UAA’s Academic Innovations and eLearning program in Kodiak says English language learners might benefit from captioning.

“Because that helps them see the terms, the words, the proper usage. So, that would be an audience here. We have a lot of people in the community that have intellectual disabilities, and so having multiple modes of getting the information also helps to stimulate them for comprehension and just for being able to pick out information.”

She says it’s an ongoing process and Kodiak College is working with structural designers at UAA, who fly onto the island periodically to meet with faculty. She says their deadline to pass along what they’ve learned is June, the end of the fiscal year.

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