A Guide to Using GOALS Materials to Evaluate Web Accessibility Evidence During an Accreditation Review
While there are many different methods that review teams can use to evaluate institutional evidence of web accessibility, not all team members may be familiar with the topic. Staff of, Project GOALS have created a set of materials and evaluation guidelines to help review teams understand and evaluate this evidence. These guidelines are based on a set of Best Practices for Institution-Wide Web Accessibility consisting of four Indicators, each focusing on an essential aspect of institution-wide web accessibility. Accreditation review teams may find these materials useful when considering an independent evaluation of institutional efforts to improve web accessibility.
The resource that follows is a quick primer on these materials and how to use them:
Learning About Web Accessibility
To start, you may want to learn a bit about web accessibility and how it relates to accreditation. The article “Accreditation and Web Accessibility: Why Should Accreditors Care?” provides context and highlights the value of web accessibility for the accreditation community.
Armed with this information, you may even want to ask institutions about their web accessibility when starting the review process.
Understanding the Reviewer Guidance Documents
As mentioned earlier, the reviewer guidance documents are organized using content aligned with institutional best practices. Thus, you can expect to see four key Indicators of institutional web accessibility — each indicator is made up of a set of Benchmarks. Each Benchmark includes examples of evidence that would support a claim of adherence to that benchmark along with some questions or guidelines for evaluating that evidence. To assess any benchmark, you would review the strength of the statements and evidence presented by the institution.
Where to look
Project GOALS staff have created a template and examples that can assist institutions in organizing their web accessibility work. These materials are structured to align with the layout of the Reviewer Guidance Document making it easy to find the specific areas of guidance necessary. However, not all institutions may use the GOALS structure when including evidence on web accessibility in their portfolios.
Therefore, a Matrix is available to help you find the guidance that is applicable to the evidence you are reviewing. The Matrix lists common areas or aspects of accessibility that may relate to the evidence at hand. For each area, we link to the most likely places to find the appropriate guidance for that evidence.
Using the Reviewer Guidance Document
Once you have found the appropriate section, you will see examples of common activities and documentation that can support the evidence provided by the institution. Please note that these are common examples but are by no means the only possible types of evidence.
Each example can be expanded using the (+) at the end of the line. This will open a list of questions or components that you can consider when determining whether the information is sufficient and appropriate to support institutional statements or evidence of accessibility work.
Things to Keep In Mind:
- Ascertain the goals and overall plan regarding institutional web accessibility. A commitment from the institution in the form of a policy and plan is ultimately necessary for long-term sustainability.
- You may want to look/ask how the institution is including web accessibility as a component of their portfolio. Some may include this work as part of what they are doing to increase diversity, to improve outcomes for all students, on improving technology across campus, or as part of other initiatives.
- There are many avenues to successful implementation. While all of the indicators will eventually need to be addressed, some institutions will find that a systematic approach focusing specifically on web accessibility will yield the best results while others may find that incorporating various aspects into existing aspects of their institutional planning may work best for them.
- Be wary of piecemeal or scattershot work across a campus. While any efforts to improve accessibility are to be lauded, if accessibility efforts are not institution-wide, they will likely be inconsistent and breakdown with changes in personnel and focus.
- Be skeptical if an institution claims to be fully accessible unless they are engaging in a wide range of accessibility work and have the assessment results to back it up. Engaging in one or two accessibility activities does not make an institution accessible any more than taking a couple of cooking classes makes you a chef.
- Instituting a policy or plan is useless unless people are actually doing the work. Change only comes through effort, enforcement and ongoing evaluation.
- Are institutional efforts implemented in timely and logical ways? A policy that is several years old with no updates or a policy with no implantation plan can be indicators of execution issues.
- Beware of statements that accessibility is handled exclusively through Disability Services. This likely means they are using the Accommodation Model - providing accessibility after the fact rather than ensuring that materials are accessible from the beginning. This creates inequities in timeliness and experience for the students and effects learning outcomes.
As awareness grows and legislation evolves, more institutions will likely engage in web accessibility work. Institutions can capitalize on their efforts by including digital accessibility as part of reaffirmation with their regional accrediting body. Project GOALS has resources for both the institution and accreditation agencies and would like to help. Please visit Project GOALS for more information.