As states and districts across the nation increase their use of technology to support instruction and communication, the issue of accessible content for students, families, and community members with disabilities requires consideration in the decision making process. Addressing digital accessibility takes a team-based approach. In this webinar, Utah panelists discuss the accessibility challenges, the overarching infrastructure they developed on a state level, and break down the process they've established to ensure that materials are accessible to all audiences.
More information about Utah's approach to accessibility is available in the resource: State Spotlight: Utah. This document outlines the Utah State Board of Education's mission to increase their capacity to meet the needs of all stakeholders by developing a systemwide digital accessibility plan through a cross-departmental approach.
- [Alise] Get started in just about one minute. We'll give people a few more minutes to get into the room, but we're gonna go ahead and get started with introductions as people continue to filter into the room. Today, I would do State Perspective: How Utah is Strengthening its Infrastructure to Support Accessible Materials. My name is Alise Crossland, and I work on the Center on Technology and Disability. I'm gonna provide just a brief introduction to the webinar today, and then hand it over to our panelists from Utah to tell you about the great work that they've been doing. You go ahead to the next slide, Devin. So just a quick note, particularly as these slides will be available to download from the CTD website. There are some animations in some of the slides.
If you prefer to use them without the animations, we have some instructions here for being able to turn the animations off. In slide 11, there are some specific pieces of bright yellow text that are intentionally designed to be inaccessible, so don't worry if you see those. And there's also a video activity, but there's alternative text and a description of the video activity embedded in the slide box. So, we are part of the Center on Technology and Disability, and we're funded by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Program, specifically to provide learning and technical assistance related to increasing capacity of educators, parents, and families to understand and implement appropriate assistive and instructional technology tools. We develop products that promote best practices, and we deliver technical assistance to state and district leaders to strengthen their program. And you'll be able to find all of the resources we talk about today, as well as an archived copy of this webinar and the slides posted on the CTD website after the event. We're joined today by several folks from the Utah State Board of Education. We have Glenna Gallo, who's the State Director of Special Education, Brent Page, the IT Director, Anita Sorensen, the IT Supervisor, Kellie Tyrrell, the IT Administrative Secretary, and Rebecca Peterson, Education Specialist. They're all gonna spend some time talking to you about how they've addressed accessibility in Utah, the steps they've taken, and the specific tools and resources that they've used to help them do that work.
- [Devin] Go ahead.
- [Alise] Thank you. So to start, I'm gonna give a brief little introduction to some of the accessibility work we've been developing as part of our work in the Center on Technology and Disability. Utah's state accessibility team will take it over, and they'll introduce themselves and talk about the process. They have a section on eating the elephant, which I think is a great term to talk about this process in addressing accessibility at the state and district level. And they'll focus on capacity building, the tools they've used, how they know it's working, lessons they've learned, and resources. At the end, we'll leave plenty of time for Q and A, but as we go through, if you have any questions about specific content on any of the slides or that you want to pose to the panelists, you can go ahead and put questions into the chat window and we'll make sure that those questions get answered. Questions in advance when they registered, we'll be addressing those questions throughout.
There may be a couple of questions that are outside of the scope of this webinar, but we will reach out to people with suggested resources if there are things that we can't answer today. In particular, a few people asked about online accessibility for online learning courses. And that's not something we'll be able to address today. However, at CTD, we are working on developing some resources specifically focused on online learning for students with disabilities. So keep an eye out for those to come soon. Go ahead to the next slide, Devin. So CTD put out a Accessibility Toolkit late last year that we partnered with the Center on School Networking to develop And we focused on providing resources and guidance and information on how state and local leaders could ensure accessibility of their websites, of their materials, communications with families sort of the whole piece of the communication that happens in an educational setting.
And as part of that, we got to meet Rebecca Peterson from the Utah State Board of Education and hear about her accessibility work that she's been doing with her colleagues at the state. And we thought it was a great opportunity to be able to show our CTD audience how a state is addressing this, how they're really putting these things into practice. You can find the Toolkit on our website. We talk about procuring accessible materials, some of the benefits, and the legal requirements for digital accessibility. Also on our website if you haven't seen it, Utah spent some time writing up their process, the experience that they've had, and created a state profile for us that really digs deep into some of their lessons learned and their kits for other states and districts that are approaching this issue. So with that, I'm gonna hand it over to Utah to start to talk about the work that they've been doing.
- [Rebecca] Hi. We're glad to be able to be here with you. This is Rebecca withmembers of our team.
- [Anita] I'm Anita Sorensen. I'm the IT supervisor over our web redesign project, and we are bringing into compliance our website so that all of our documents and information on our site is ADA compliant and accessible.
- [Kellie] And I'm Kellie Tyrrell, the IT administrative secretary, and I've been working closely with Anita and Rebecca on making the content that goes on our website, the documents, ADA accessible.
- [Rebecca] And Glenna, do you wanna introduce yourself?
- [Glenna] Good afternoon. I'm Glenna Gallo. I'm the state director of special education in Utah. And we have been working with the IT team on ensuring accessibility for all users of the website and then taking that information further and applying it to all of the work done within the special ed section.
- [Kellie] The way to superintendency meeting, so he won't be joining us today.
- [Rebecca] So on our little diagram that we have pulled up on this particular slide, we have a map that shows the structure in general terms of how the state accountability team is structured. So we've got some members from the superintendency and the leadership. We've got components from our information technology team, education specialists. And together, we're working in a cross-departmental team to be able to address accessibility needs both from the web design point of view, and also from the documents side, because we've discovered that both of those things need to happen to be able to make the entire website, to make all of the items that we use accessible across a wide variety of needs and areas, depending on the audiences. One of the items that's been really beneficial in having a cross-departmental team is gaining perspectives on how everybody sees the needs, the different types of training, different roles that accessibility plays in the environments in which they interact. Let's see. Devin, do you wanna go ahead to the next slide?
So, this whole process began originally with our IT director, who looked at the website that we had and realized that it was not compliant with Section 508. And so he decided to set forth a proposal to the superintendent for the redesign of the website. When he put that proposal to our superintendent, she thought that the go ahead to flesh that out a little bit, and then brought that to the other assistant superintendents and leadership of the state board. From there, we were able to get state board approval and a little bit more direction on the way that that project could unfold. Incidentally, at the same time, we also received an OCR complaint about our website. However, the fact that we were already in the process and that these things were in place made working through that OCR complaint a lot easier than it could've been, because they were able to see that these things are already underway, they were already being addressed, and that there's a plan in place. You wanna add any other inside information?
- [Anita] I think you covered all of it. Oh, sorry. I was just gonna say the OCR They did work with us a little more than I think that they would have had we not had the plan already in place. And they were accepting of our plan. It was acceptable. And we continued to work with them to become compliant and keep them up to date on our plan. So it's a collaborative effort in completing the plan. And so far, we are on time, on track to be able to complete the plan and have our new website up July 1st.
- [Rebecca] So as we've continued through this process, once the school board approved it, the discussion continued from the upper administration level to the director level. And so Glenna, do you wanna add a little bit of your insight about the director level and bringing that to?
- [Glenna] Sure. So one of the things that we have noticed was that the staff at the State Board of Education didn't understand the concepts behind accessibility and weren't sure how to change their products so that they were accessible. When we started conversations with other directors and staff within the State Board of Education, that kept coming up over and over again. And even though it wasn't a special ed issue per se, it was something that we definitely felt that we needed to support as a department. So what we have done is, and we'll talk more about it, is we really started to integrate the trainings that were provided throughout the entire department, really start to examine our work products going forward so that we were not only correcting the mistakes we had made previously, but our new work was meeting accessibility standards. And then as directors really talked to, how do we hold people accountable? How do we provide them the professional development that's needed for them to make this change? And how do we build in a system of accountability that supports these changes?
- [Rebecca] So you kind of see how this is trickling from one person who had the vision for what needed to happen and then getting the buy in from the leadership and then building that capacity going through the directors level, and then now starting to really look at, how can we bring in more people? How can we build capacity within more members and staff members, education specialists, people who will be using these materials and items on a day to day basis? We realized that the need for capacity was critical, because this is too big of a job for any one person or any one department or section. And there were a lot of tools and materials that needed to be accessible able to train people and to help people to understand what was involved in not only updating the website, but also in creating materials that could not only go on the website but that could be involved in the things that we do on a day to day basis.
Once we started getting a general hold on that information, we started creating materials that we could use for trainings. We started scheduling overview trainings just to dip people's toes into the idea of, "Okay, this is accessibility. "These are the things that we're gonna be looking at. "These are the things that we're gonna be changing." But also with an eye on keeping it manageable. From there, we moved into doing more detailed trainings and providing more detailed support, and also looking at how we could build more integrated and collaborative teams across the agency. We began doing staff trainings in a little bit more intensity and continuing to work on the website, which is still gonna be an ongoing process. So as you go across our timeline, we're now into this last box, which is the June, 2017. So we're working on getting that new website launched. We're continuing with the training and coaching of all of our employees and staff members. And part of that is also addressing all of the documents that go on the website and making sure that they'll be compliant when we have the new website up and ready to run.
- [Alise] Actually, I just wanna jump in very quickly, 'cause we do have a clarifying question from somebody in the audience. They're asking, "When you're talking about superintendent, "are you referring to what we would call "the commissioner of education "or the district level superintendent?"
- [Anita] State level.
- [Rebecca] Yeah. So it's our state level superintendent, which is probably equivalent to the commissioner of education.
- [Alise] Thank you.
- [Anita] And we did get the buy in all the way up to the top, which we found was very important.
- [Rebecca] Okay. Devin, can we go to the next slide? Let's see. So this is the, "How do you eat an elephant?" question. One of the reasons that I picked this particular question was because the answer is one bite at a time. And anytime you're looking at accessibility, when you first start looking at it, you realize that it's a really big elephant, and there's lots and lots of things that need to be considered. So go ahead, first click. So the first thing that we looked at as we were is realizing, and this is kind of what Anita touched on, and also the question about, "Who did we contact first?" is that the administration and leadership really needed to have the knowledge and the buy in to be able to support this project. Without having that support, the project really would flounder, and it needs to become a priority with the leadership involved. So when you're looking at the scope of this project, once you look at the coding, you look at the website, then you start to go a little bit further and you realize not only are there those items, but there are thousands of documents that are also housed on the website.
And in order to get those thousands of documents compliant, that means you need to now suddenly train hundreds of people on all of the details that are involved in having items become accessible. So the first thing we did was educate administration and leadership. And then from there, we needed to come up with a plan to build the capacity of all the staff. So somebody needed to begin the process. In our case, it was the IT director. Then we started asking questions to build the capacity of all of the staff. So some of the questions that needed to be answered were, "What does it mean to be compliant?" In our case, once we started asking that, we discovered really there are two sides. So we have the coding side, so the actual design of the website, the HTML language. And then there are materials, so things like Word documents, PowerPoints, PDFs, all of the things that go onto that website. And they require expertise in maybe different kinds of ways, but both needed to be addressed, but they needed to be addressed simultaneously, and that's one thing that we found as we were going. We needed to find a way to be able to spread the word.
And the people that needed to get that information were the people who had the capacity to be able to make decisions with funding and decisions where they could make policy choices. An example of this might be, as an education specialist, I could look at it and say, "Yeah, it's really important "for us to be able to create these documents. "However, I don't have a budget. "I don't have budget making, decision making capabilities. "It's not within my realm of my job." So without the support of people who do have that capacity, it could easily be a dead end space or a dead end project. So having that education and leadership and then the plan to build the capacity, those are important places to start. And that's what we discovered as we So looking at the plan to build capacity, we also discovered that we needed our staff to be able to understand what they needed to do, why they needed to do it, and then how to do it, and that all of those three things are important. We couldn't just teach people what Section 508 entails or what it meant to have alternative text with an image, but we also needed them to understand why it mattered, and then also give them the tools to be able to do it so that they could actually complete the tasks that were required.
So as we were doing that, we actually had some specific questions that we asked. So what skills and knowledge were needed? How are we gonna train and provide that information? How are we going to avoid overwhelming staff members? How can we provide ongoing coaching and support? And how will we know if what we're doing is working? So looking at all of materials, items that could be used that already existed that we wouldn't necessarily need to create on our own. Do you wanna go ahead and click on the next item? So developing the reference section became an important tool that we could just refer to. Originally, we were kind of like hunters and gatherers. We were going around, looking to see what information was out there. What tools have other people developed that we could use? How could we find things that were directly applicable to the project that we were going to create?
But also, what things were available that were written using terminology that people who perhaps are not trained using, we call it computer lingo, And we found that there are some good references out there, but we also found that there were things that we needed to create to be able to have those items be usable for our team members. And so we created a group site where we could post information, where we could post tools, where we could have, any time somebody might need, "Oh, how do I create a meaningful link text? "I can't remember how to do that. "I remember hearing it, but I don't remember how," they could go to that group site and they could find information on how to do that. And so that became kind of a repository for all of the training information and the how to. Let's see. The other challenge that we came across was that when we were beginning we needed to identify experts who could answer questions. And because we didn't have a built-in accessibility we were on the hunt for people who could answer questions outside of our agency, which actually led to us tracking down Devin and Alise and people at the CTD, as well as some people at Adobe and at AIMSWeb--
- [Kellie] WebAIM.
- [Rebecca] Oh, I'm sorry, WebAIM, AIMSWeb is an assessment but WebAIM, and some other people who could answer specific questions when we got stuck and weren't quite sure how to proceed. And those resources were really valuable as we worked to build capacity here, as well. Do you wanna go ahead and click on the next item? So, once we were looking at, when we developed these basic materials, developed items so that we were ready to begin, we started with overview trainings, and these overview trainings were designed to just provide a brief touch on, what is accessibility? And what does accessibility mean for you in your job? What does accessibility mean for things that you're creating? But not necessarily go into the depth and technical information on how to do every single thing that would need to be done. So we are trying to avoid the big bites of the elephant and instead stay with little bites.
So the overview is to provide that, "Here's what's coming up. "Here are the things that "you're going to need to know how to do. "And we're gonna provide training to you along the way, "but, just so that you're aware, "this is where we're going." Okay, Next button. From there, the next step was to do in-depth trainings. And on that, we would just identify, what are the areas that people are needing to address first? Sosection, one of the things that we use the very most are Word documents. So by doing some survey work, we could identify, "Where were people's areas of weakness?" and start there. And we targeted the first about four months really looking at Word documents. What were the things that people needed to know about creating accessible Word documents? What were common errors that there might be? And what does it mean to create an accessible Word document? And so creating materials, resources, coaching, doing work groups, things like that around that topic, which incidentally led to other things that were connected, like PDFs and PowerPoints, but that was the place that we were able to start with what we used most often so that we could begin those in-depth trainings. Go ahead and click the Next button. From there, Go ahead.
- [Kellie] We also started with the support staff throughout the agency, as they're the bulk of the individuals who usually do the document work and getting it ready for final publication. So we wanted to make sure that they had the best handle on the information and had the most in-depth training so that they could support not only each other but their specialists as they go through.
- [Rebecca] We found that that's been a really helpful way to go, and it creates a built in expert in each section or area so that when people have questions they have somebody that they can go to to get more help and more information. Once we felt comfortable getting the training process started, we've just started with reaching out to LEAs and other agencies. This part is still in its infancy, but some of the things that we're doing to reach out to LEAs are reaching out to special education directors with doing the overview training We have some newsletters that have information about accessibility that have been sent out on a monthly basis. And really what we're doing is just looking for any opportunities that we can come across to reach out to other people, sometimes in other agencies, to help them to become aware of accessibility and resources that we've developed and things that we can do to support each other as we're working on becoming fully compliant and accessible not just in a checklist way, but also in a fully functional and meaningful way.
Our last items that we're really working on doing is creating a go-to team for quick access and support. So as we're looking at, within each section, having a person who really is designated as the that is an immediate access person so that when people are creating different kinds of media, documents, materials, they have somebody who is close by who they can ask for quick coaching, quick help, just if they need somebody to review something and help them. But we're also trying to avoid having a person who is doing the work for other people but instead having everybody become capable of creating the materials themselves, but with coaching where they need coaching and support to be able to do those things. Okay. Go ahead with the next slide. So some of the tools that we use, I've divided these into two categories. So we use the ready resources as in our trainings, but we have, the trainings are more in the portal Within the trainings, we start with presentations. So we have our overview presentation, and then we do the in-depth materials. And then we move into small group and individual coaching, work groups.
The way the work groups work is, for example, I can send out a note and say, "Hey, we're gonna be meeting in Room 248, "and we'll be working on accessibility items. "If you have projects that you are working on "and you wanna come, bring your project with you. "And if you have questions, we can address them together." And so people can bring whatever they're working on, and if they have questions, we can help each other work through things. We've done this with fillable PDFs. We've done this with ... Sometimes people will say, "Hey, I need help on," this certain kind of document, like fillable PDFs. And so people can bring whatever they're working on related to that particular item, and then we can work through doing individual coaching or intensive coaching as needed to the learning and the capacity building with those particular skills and development. Also, just proofreading, too, and doing double checking for accessibility requirements. Working with sending out the publicity or the PR side of things, sending out newsletter articles for LEAs to spread the information, spread the word about accessibility to raise awareness for LEAs. Utah is a local control state, which means that all of our school districts are in charge of purchasing their own curricular materials. They're in charge of their own decisions on a local level. And so they're ultimately in charge of looking for and training their staff on accessibility, and so we're trying to help them to do some of the same process, a big overview, detailed overview, so that we can help them to be able to build the capacity in their district in the same ways that we've been able to work on building capacity at the state agency level. In the process of doing these trainings and coaching, we've got our ready resources. So these are how to videos and tutorials. So these are items that Kellie has just worked on compiling where she goes through, and actually, Kellie, why don't you go ahead and explain these sinceon the project?
- [Kellie] So I was able to find some written tutorials on the website from both Microsoft and Adobe, but nothing in a video form or very, some were very detailed explanations, but as Rebecca said, computer lingo. So if you didn't really understand HTML and the tagging trees, you may not understand exactly what they were trying to get you to say. So I went through and created videos, step by step. Here's the problem. Here's how you solve it. Here's where you click. This is what you go to. This is document opened, showing my mouse movements, showing my clicks, so that anybody who's watching the video can easily follow through. And so I broke it down starting from a Word document, taking it all the way through accessibility and then through PDF accessibility so that it is ready for web publication.
- [Glenna] Why don't you share what you found ...
- [Rebecca] So those are ready resources that are available that people can log into the groups that we have and they can find those. Other items we have are example documents. So if people wanna see what a compliant Word document looks like, we've got some examples of those. And we have little boxes that say what it is about the Word document that makes it compliant. So sometimes, those and so we have little call out boxes that say, for example, "Meaningful link text," and it shows that that's what's being used in the document, or that the color contrast is appropriate. So items that show, this is what an accessible Word document or an accessible PowerPoint looks like. We have checklists of various kinds that people can use to refer to as they're working to create their documents, media, Piktocharts--
- [Kellie] We also had a staff member here at the agency create a really quick, I think it's got maybe 10 items on it, checklist for her specialist to use that says, "Did you check your font size? "Did you check your alt text? "Did you check your headings?" Just very simple, quick items that, "Hey, remember these." So their specialists are able to start getting into the habit of they pass them on to their support staff for additional finalizing, they don't have to go back and redo items.
- [Anita] And just so you guys know, when we bring up our new website, it probably won't be at the time that our site is up 'cause we're focusing on the main pages, but shortly thereafter, we have discussed putting these resources out and available to the public so that anybody can get to them. So if you are interested, check back on our USBE website, probably the first of August, for these kind of resources. And we'll make those, including the videos and the tutorials, the checklists, all of those resources will be available. But you can also contact us, and we would be more than happy to share those with you.
- [Rebecca] So a couple of other items that we've used. One is we created a color contrast guide where we've taken the colors and actually was to, within the special ed section, we looked at it and we thought, "Well, if we're gonna do this, "then let's hit this at a AAA level wherever we can." And so we created a color contrast guide according to AAA contrast requirements that we could use within our section. And we wrote down what, the red, green, blue color, I call it the color recipe, I'm sure it has a technical term, I don't know what the technical term is, but the red, green, blue color code is that meets the color contrast requirements with either black text or white text so that people can just plug that in so that there's appropriate contrast if they wanted to have a background with a red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, gray, they wouldn't have to go hunt for that information. So that's one type of tool that we used and created with some people within our section.
- [Kellie] Also, there are some really great, WebAIM has a color contrast checker, and there is one out there called ColorContrastChecker.com that if you get the hexadecimal number from your, or the RGYB, from your Word document, you can go in and plug in those numbers, and you can tell what your background is, what your font color is, and it will rate based on A, AA, and AAA, and it will also let you know if it is good for low vision. So it gives you a rating on all of those. So you could actually fail a couple but still pass on a couple, depending on which rating you're looking for.
- [Rebecca] The other item that we use, and this is part of the eat the elephant in small bites, is a weekly tidbit. And this has come in the form of a newsletter called the Weekly Accessibility Advice Newsletter. We're just gonna hit one particular skill or one particular piece of knowledge that has already been addressed at a training and a coaching and we're going to re-address it, but in smaller chunks. So this is like a review, a practice, and also a small guide, but it's coming in people's email in their inbox directly to them, and it's on a regular basis so that people can review these things. And that's part of our strategy for not doing a one time sit and get but also keeping the content manageable and usable.
- [Glenna] Rebecca, sorry, this is Glenna. I just wanted to add on here, the way that she's done this with the weekly tidbits has been extremely helpful for a few reasons. One is staff were feeling overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge that they needed to have Put it in smaller chunks that is easier for them to read through, understand, and apply. The other thing that we've been doing with this is saving it to a shared drive for our department so that as new people come on they have access to all of these training materials, and this can be part of the on-boarding process. We don't have to re-create these materials moving forward.
- [Kellie] And Glenna, we also put all of those in the Office 365 group so that they're available to the whole building.
- [Rebecca] The weekly accessibility advice item has also been something that has been successful in sharing with outside agencies, too. So there have been other groups who have requested access to that information because it is in small chunks, and so that's been a successful endeavor. So next slide on that one. Devin, can you hit the next slide for me? Thank you. So I wanted to just do some examples of a couple of things that I've used in trainings. One of the important things that we've discovered is going beyond the checklist and helping people to understand the why behind what we're doing and really getting people to be bought into the fact that this is not something we're doing just to avoid an OCR complaint, or this is not something we're doing just because we need to do it and it's on a checklist, but that this really matters and it makes a difference in people's lives. We want to be able to build understanding for and have this really become personalized to people. Go ahead with the first button.
So as we're working to build understanding, one of the things that I share, and I'll share it with you guys, isaccessibility, and this doesn't necessarily have to do with text accessibility or website accessibility. This has to do with a building. Let's say there's a restaurant. And there was a time when I was in a wheelchair for about three months. And it was difficult for me to get out and around, and I was going to a restaurant with my husband, and we got out of the car and went to go into this restaurant and went up the wheelchair ramp, so they had a wheelchair ramp, they could check that off their list, and went to go open the door, and the door swung toward the sidewalk, toward the wheelchair ramp, which meant that you actually couldn't get in the door. So in order to get in the door of the restaurant, you actually had to go down off the curb or you could go back down the wheelchair ramp, but then you would have to go up the curb to get into the door. So the door was three feet wide. They had a wheelchair ramp. But it was completely non-functional for somebody who wanted to actually use the accessibility features that were built to be able to help somebody who was using a wheelchair to try and get into the building, or to get out of the building for that matter.
So if I had been there at the restaurant by myself, and the curb coming in and out of that door was fairly tall and I did not have an off road wheelchair and I was not a very skilled driver, either, so it would've been very difficult if I was by myself. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't have been able to do it. But really trying to help people to understand that this is what we're doing with accessibility, is we're making these things so that, we want people to understand that this is about everybody. This is about equity. This is more than a checklist. This is more than just meeting some requirements some building in Washington. These are real people, and it could be any one of us at any time in our life. It could be any of our children. It could be any of our neighbors' children. It could be any of our family members. So really trying to personalize this. So can you click on the Next button for me? So one of the things that I do is, during the trainings for LEAs and for other people, is I like to illustrate items where I am intentionally causing problems with accessibility. And I pick on elementary teachers just a little bit, because elementary teachers have a fondness for curly fonts. Sorry if there are any elementary teachers in the audience. I taught science and biology, and we tend to like straight lines and although I'm sure we're guilty of too many straight lines and labels. But trying to really illustrate the difference between making things that are accessible and things that are not accessible in the ways that we're designing our materials on an everyday basis.
So by intentionally pointing things out, people start to realize, "Oh, I never thought about "the challenge that this really cute curly font "could make for somebody who might have "a difficulty with reading that particular font." So if you'll go ahead and click on the next bullet for me. So I don't know about you, but if this next sentence, if you had to read this, and let's say it contained really important information, so this is a sentence that is written in bright yellow text, and if I told you, "You've got 10 seconds to read this "and there's a quiz on the information," you might have some difficulty reading it because the bright yellow text does not have enough contrast. So being able to look at that, especially if they're sitting at the back of the room and this is up on a PowerPoint projection, people are like, "Ugh." They can't read that. That's difficult to read. But it becomes personal, and they start to understand some of the challenges that can be associated with why color contrast matters or why having appropriate fonts matters. And then you can start to branch that discussion into other things that have to do with accessibility. Incidentally, the sentence actually says, "If this sentence that is written in bright yellow text "contained really important information, "I would be in trouble."
Do you wanna go ahead and click on the next item? So this next one is an activity from a website on PBS. It has a website section that is dedicated to discussion about different types of learning disabilities. And this is an experiential activity. And within this activity, there's an opportunity haven't had the perspective of what it might be like to pay attention to something that has distractions or distracting elements and try and have reading comprehension occur at the same time. So we're gonna go ahead and do this. At the end of this, there are some reading comprehension questions. Go ahead and hit Begin. You'll have to enable the Flash player. Okay, your time is up. So there's three comprehension questions on here. One is, what was Tom trying but failing to fasten? Seat belt, his trousers, his mind, or a new banjo string. The second question, how many students were in Tom's class? Were there seven, two, 11, or 25? And the third question, what objects described in the passage has or have soft sides? A nearby hill, Tom's pillow, the cows in the meadow, or the birds floating silently overhead.
Okay, so go ahead and close the activity for me. And if you really want to know the answers, you can actually open the PBS activity and you can go through that. But the reason that I used that particularly activity is because it gives people the opportunity to be able to see how having distracting elements, sometimes having too many pictures, too many colors, maybe blinking items, maybe could really make trying to comprehend text or meaning challenging. And it really helps people to gain some understanding and personal buy in to why accessibility matters. Okay, click one more time for me. We want people to really personalize this and make this be their way of doing business so that as they're going through, this can become an automatic process, and because it becomes important to them they don't skip it. They do it because it matters, not just because it's that thing that they have to do in order to have their item published on the website or to be able to send it out.
Okay, go ahead and click on the next slide for me. So then there's the big question of, so how do we know it's working? We go through all of this work. We put these things How do we know that it's actually making a difference? How do we know that people are learning these skills? Are we just putting this out there and doing all this but it's not doing anything? One of the things that we do is we do progress monitoring. And as an education agency, that makes sense. We want to know if what we're doing is working. We do this through either Survey Monkey surveys or Google Forms surveys. This screenshot image that's over on the right hand side is a screenshot of one of the questions that was sent out at the beginning where we were probing to see, of the different items that we were looking at, where do people feel like they need the most help? And that helps us as we're prioritizing tools that we're creating, materials we're working on, coaching. We want to know, where do people need help?
Then over time, we can ask questions and we can look at how the answers change. We can also ask specific questions about create alternative text. What are the items that are required to create an accessible Word document? Can people actually do those things? So we want to be able to monitor the progress on the skill development. Also feedback from training. And then the ultimate test, though, is actually looking at the products that have been created. So can people actually do these things? Are they making things that actually meet the requirements of the accessibility? Are they compliant? Are they meeting the standards that we've set? How many questions are people asking? Are they doing these things independently? How often are they accessing the materials? Do they know where the help materials are? What is the frustration level of people on the staff? So those are the kinds of information, the things that we are looking at, to know if what we're doing is working. Glenna,on that from the director point of view?
- [Glenna] Nope, I don't. Sorry.
- [Rebecca] Okay. Okay, go ahead to the next slide, Devin. We've got a number of lessons that we've learned as we've gone through this process. I think it's hard to prioritize the lessons, but one of the biggest ones is really to keep it simple and to try and put it in those bite size pieces. So looking at that accessibility elephant, realize that it's gonna take a long time. This isn't something that you can do in a month. It's not something you can do in three months. This is gonna take a long time. But also, kind of going along with that, that you need to just start. But you start, and you do that in bite size pieces, in accessible chunks. avoid. Don't get into too much depth too quickly. That was one of the things that we learned at the beginning. One of the first trainings that I did within my section, I realized that I did a really good job of totally overwhelming the people in my training. I was really excited about it because I had learned a whole bunch of information, and within the training time frame that I had, which I think was about an hour, I conveyed everything that I had learned in several weeks condensed into that hour, which wasn't very wise. And then I had to go back up and do some damage control in helping people to not feel overwhelmed
And so that was one of the key lessons, was not to provide too much depth too quickly, but to make sure that you can start with So it's like scaffolding a lesson plan. Start with basic information and build from there. Other items we learned were to clear the path for success. So show your staff, show your employees, how they can actually accomplish these things. So show them that is doable and that it becomes less overwhelming as they become more familiar with it. And really show them the way to be successful and that it can be done and that it just needs to happen a little bit at a time. So make that into a positive experience by showing them how it works. Looking at the ongoing coaching to build capacity, the ongoing part became really important. Doing a one time sit and get training, we know from just professional development research thattransfer into practice. So that ongoing coaching became really important. That's where people could ask questions. They could try it. They could see that once they got to a certain point, then they would get stuck, and so they needed help in a particular area, and we could start to identify where those areas were where people would get stuck. And we could create tools, materials, things that they needed to be able to help them. One thing that we learned going along with that idea is that you have to go slow to go fast.
Even though we felt like, "Okay, we're gonna get this done. "We're gonna create all these materials. "We wanna have this website ready to go by our deadline. "There's all of these things that we need to get done," we realized that if we wanted to get it done correctly, we needed to go slow to go fast. And so that's where that proper training really became essentialimportant. Locating the experts. We talked about that a little bit earlier. So the experts at the CTD, experts at Adobe, WebAIM, looking within your local areas, people that you can find who work with accessibility, those were people who could answer questions.
For example, one of the questions that came up at one time was, if you had a light blue background and you had white text, but the white text had a black shadow around it, which thing do you use to consider for color contrast? Do you consider the black shadow around the white text, or do you consider the white text? So which one do you compare with the light blue background? And that wasn't information that I could find anywhere, and so it took having somebody that I could ask to really clarify that point, since technically there was black and blue, so which one were you looking at, the white text or the black background with the light blue? But having somebody to be able to ask questions like that or tagging tree questions was really helpful. The public workspace, so things where people can post tools that they create or find. So for example, the checklist that Kellie mentioned earlier from somebody in another section who said, "Did you use styles? "Have you checked your fonts? "Have you checked your font size?" All of those items. But those are tools that people, when they created them, they can put them into a single area, like a repository for all the accessibility information, and those things are available for everybody to be able to use.
Looking at the next one, working on the website and document accessibility simultaneously. Sohave the website ready to go, all of the documents that go on the website also need to be modified, documents, PowerPoints, whatever was going to be on there. And so working on those two things at the same time I think has helped the process to be able to be not only more efficient, but it's also helped us to be able to figure out what helped the whole project as a whole be united and to be really a collaborative effort. Looking at creating collaborative teams that cross the agency. This one has got a number of benefits. One is that it helps to identify what is needed in different areas. If you're in a large agency, it's really easy for people to be siloed, and creating a cross-departmental or a cross-agency team helps to break those things down. Another thing that it does is it helps to facilitate communication So, what is the project? How is it progressing? How are the different parts working together? What is their role within the project? How can people help? And what are the goals? And really keeping that common vision together. This also helps people to answer questions. Why are we doing this? And it avoids the gossip mill. If you have multiple people that are regularly communicating, you can make sure that the information that's being disseminated is unified and that it's correct.
The feedback loop that you can create with the frequent communication not only provide opportunities to give information about, "How do you do this? "Why are we doing this? "What are we doing?" but also get information back on what is working, what's not working. What ideas do people have? somewhere else that works well? And it really broadens that pool on how we can be successful. The other items that we realized was that you can't wait for perfection. So if you wait until you have everything absolutely created and all of the items are perfect and everybody has all of the capacity knowledge that they need to train everybody, then we may not ever begin. A lot of the capacity that we've developed we have developed as we have gone along. And we've learned a lot going through this process. For myself, this has been a huge learning process. I came into this process really not knowing a whole lot about accessibility beyond my experience in a wheelchair and the necessity of the ethics involved in it. But the technicalrequirements for how to do these things on a computer was not in my skill set.
And originally, when I looked at the project, I thought, "Well, it can't be that hard. "It couldn't be that complicated." And as we dived into it, I realized, actually, this is pretty complicated. Once I discovered there was a thing called a tagging tree, I actually kinda wanted to run away a little bit. However, we conquered the tagging tree. But it was things like that that we learned and we continued but we couldn't wait for perfection. We needed to just begin, and we needed to have that support of having that collaborative team so that when we came across things like the tagging tree we had people to work with and we had a team that we could really build together so that we could get through those challenges. You wanna go ahead and click to the next slide for me? So these last two slides are talking about what we would do if we were going to approach this a little bit differently knowing what we know now. And we would start using some of the principles from implementation science. We kind of hit these things, but we hit them a little bit sideways.
- [Anita] And more on accident than on purpose.
- [Rebecca] Yeah. So knowing what we know now, if we were going to start this again, we would use some of the questions that are based in implementation science. This quotation that is up here on the slide is actually one from my dad. And he was really fond of reminding us that it was always less expensive to do it right the first time. And there's two websites that have some great information about implementation science. One is the SISEP site, so S-I-S-E-P. The other is NIRN. And they have implementation science information that is specific to implementing practices in educational settings. But the science that they talk about are the key practices related to successfully implementing innovations in organizations. So Devin, do you wanna click on the next slide for me? So the items on this last slide are talking about the basic components that need to be considered when you're looking at implementing an innovation. And these are the questions to consider as you're planning your innovation.
And these are things that we considered, but some of them we considered as we were building our airplane while we were flying it. Our recommendation would be to consider all of these questions as you are looking at beginning this project. Or, if you were take a moment to consider these questions as you're flying and see what you can do address these items. So, for example, really identify, what are your needs? How does what you're planning to do meet your needs? And make sure that those things align. How does your plan fit with existing innovations and priorities? This is one item that works really well for us, because as we were looking at revising the website, the board wanted to combine the governing board website with the State Board of Education, which is like the Office of Education's website, all at the same time as the OCR complaint. So those things, that fit, worked together for us. Looking at, do we have adequate resources? Do we have the things that we need to actually carry out This fourth one is kind of a challenge. You're looking at, what have other people done that has worked?
And actually, this webinar kind of ties into this particular item, looking in implementation science. But you're looking at, what have other people done, and what research is there out there about what works? And finding a way to model what works in your agency and in your own setting, because you want to focus your efforts on things that work. Looking at readiness and capacity, these are two areas where we feel that we hit things sideways I think We built these things when we were flying. And looking at, what are the things that we needed to create? We didn't really know what we didn't know until we began. In some ways, that was unavoidable what we know now, we would recommend investigating anything that you can to really answer these questions clearly as you begin this process. And looking at capacity, that's where having those experts who can help you in the initial process to answer the questions about, what if you have a light blue background? Does this meet the requirement? Or if you're looking at tagging tree errors, what does that mean? So making sure that you have people who can help you with those skills and the knowledge as you're beginning. Okay. Do you wanna go ahead and click on the last slide on here? So the resources that we have available are the items on our group site. And Anita mentioned that once the website is up, the revised one that's fully functional, for anybody who would like to access those. In the meantime, though, you're welcome to email either Kellie, she's the master of all things accessibility and the documents. Or you can email me, and I will probably email Kellie. You're welcome to reach out to us, and we will be happy to share whatever we have created with you. We have shared some resources with you through this webinar.
- [Kellie] And she says they're available on the handout section.
- [Rebecca] Okay, they're available in the handout section. So items that we have shared. One is a presentation that Kellie put together that is the overview presentation, the one that we provided to all staff, regardless of what their role is within the agency. There's a checklist that is one that we found on a Microsoft site about There is a ... Let's see.
- [Kellie] Was it a video?
- [Rebecca] Oh, the video. So there's a video that Kellie created about how to use the accessibility checker. And there's a newsletter that's a copy of an article just as an example of something that is sent out to LEAs. And then there is an example of one of the weekly accessibility advice little email newsletters that's on there, as well. So those are items that, feel free to use. And if you'd like any other ones, let us know. Our store of materials, just so you know, has been in creation since about October-ish. So it's not--
- [Kellie] September.
- [Rebecca] Yeah, September, I guess. So it's not as vast creation, but it is fairly comprehensive. We have items that cover most topics. questions that you might have.
- [Alise] And I guess that concludes the presentation, so if you have any questions, we'd be happy to hear them.
- [Devin] Great. This is Devin. Can you hear me?
- [Rebecca] Yes.
- [Devin] Great. We did have a couple questions come through that we would love for you guys to answer, and first of all, let me just thank you so much on behalf of CTD and the AIR team for doing this presentation. We think this information is really valuable and we really appreciate you guys doing this. So in terms of questions, we do have a couple that came through. And to any of our attendees, if you have questions at this time, please feel free to submit them, as well. One of the questions we had was if you have any thoughts on how to maintain this accessibility effort. The participant who asked this question is from Maine, and said that in Maine, they tackled accessibility many years ago, and they have an active state government accessibility committee that meets monthly It becomes a challenge to train new staff. So if you guys had any insight or thoughts on maintaining that effort with rates turnover and new staff in that kind of state.
- [Kellie] That's one of the reasons we started those group resource pages, and the videos, so that they're there and available for any new hires that come in. Also, as we're setting this up for our new website, we have different people in each section who are in charge of their website, and they're in charge of making sure that the documents are accessible before they post them. And if they're not accessible, then they kick them back to the creator of the document to get them accessible before they go forward to the website. So I think putting that requirement that the documents have to be accessible before they're posted and making certain people responsible for that, checking to make sure that they're accessible helps keep the accessibility moving forward.
- [Anita] What we plan on doing is, we currently have a web developer who maintains the full website, but once we get the redesigned site up, we actually are turning over a lot of the control to each of our sections or departments within USBE, and we will basically become the monitors of the site rather than the developers. And so we're turning that control back over. And like Kellie said, as we audit each of the sites, each of the departments actually has two levels of control. One is the initial recommendations for content and document updating on the site, and then they have a control person in place that's to actually review the changes before they submit to the site to be changed. And what we in essence will be doing is just auditing of the site to ensure that they maintain their compliance in each of the sections. We have recommended that the sections appoint someone, much like Rebecca is doing in her section, to ensure that training continues to be done. We've also recommended to our administrative staff that, for those that are administrative secretaries and such, that they implement something in their performance plan of ensuring that the documents are ADA compliant. So again, it goes back to having the buy in of your administrative staff and ensuring that they understand the importance of it and buy into This is complete and total. We need to ensure, like Rebecca said, that these documents and everything else that we produce are in compliance and accessible. I hope that answered that.
- [Rebecca] Maybe one more item to think about is just making sure that you create frequent touch points for people to keep it in mind. Because I think one of those items that could be easily out of sight, out of mind. And kind of along with any other initiative or item, if you want people to think about it, it needs to be in the forefront. It needs to be brought up frequently. And it could be something as simple as putting out a monthly calendar note or just something to keep it in people's minds. It could even be automated for that matter. But If somebody doesn't have the responsibility for that, then it will go away. So somebody needs to own that responsibility, and it needs to be defined what it looks like. What does fidelity of implementation look like, and how are we gonna know once we're doing it?
- [Devin] Great. I think that's a really great point about the continuous engagement of the people in your state, or in your LEA, is a really great point. So thank you for that response. One logistical question we had was I wanted to address real quickly is that for some people it seems that the handouts don't seem to be working for them. We will be posting all of this information, including the handouts, on the website. And what we'll do after this is over, you should get an email about filling out a survey link, and that will also lead you to the website. And so we'll be following up with all of you. And Marcelino can actually go ahead and put the survey link in the We'll follow up with the survey and the resources, including the webinar, the Utah State Spotlight that we referred to at the beginning, and Utah's resources, and so that's gonna be made available soon. And okay, one other question that we had that is not related to logistics is, if you have introduced your staff to, I think you guys addressed this, but just explicitly, if you have introduced your staff to the built in accessibility checker in the Microsoft tools and what that looks like.
- [Kellie] Absolutely. That's one of the first things we walk them through. Once you've verified that you've used all the pieces in basically your toolkit, have you looked at your fonts? Have you looked at your font sizes, styles, paragraphs, bullets, alt text, et cetera? Then here's how to use the accessibility checker in Microsoft Word, and understand that it doesn't have to be fully accessible in Microsoft Word reasonable warnings or errors that you can let slide that you can address and remediate once you do the PDF accessibility check on the document. And then there's the training piece there. What is considered a reasonable error or a reasonable warning that you can let slide?
- [Rebecca] So all of our documents have to be posted as PDFs. So we can't post any Word documents. And some of the errors are more easily addressed in PDF form. So part of that training is in there. So going through those accessibility checker tools has been helpful. Also helping people to know, what are the errors? So when it pulls up an error, what does that error mean? And that's part of what Kellie covers in the videos. As a matter of fact, I think the video that we share is about--
- [Kellie] The PDF checker.
- [Rebecca] Yeah. It's about using the accessibility checker. And so-- So looking at if it has an error about reading order or--
- [Anita] Repeated blank characters is my favorite one for Microsoft Word.
- [Rebecca] Yeah. So just helping people to know, "Well, what does that mean?" and also showing them that not only does it identify what the error is, but it tells you why to fix it and how to fix it on most of them, not all of them, but most of them. So those have been really helpful tools. Another favorite tool is WebAIM, too, and pointing people to the WebAIM resources.
- [Devin] Yeah. WebAIM provides really, really great resources and really thorough explanations, which is helpful. We actually had, one of our participants just recommended a tool that maybe you guys know about. I hadn't heard about it. It's called DAT, the Document Accessibility Toolbar. It's out of Australia, actually.
- [Rebecca] We actually researched it, but because of the way our firewalls and such are set up here, it wasn't to downloadon our servers. But it did look like a really awesome tool.
- [Devin] Yeah. And then one this is gonna be our final question for the day unless it's answered quickly is, there is a question about the nature of the OCR complaint that came through and how that corresponded with the work that you were already starting, if it was related to the work that you were already starting or if you had to rethink your approach once that complaint came through.
- [Anita] Actually, we got the complaint after we had put in a plan. And so what we did was we went ahead and sent the plan to OCR, and because we already had a detail and a timeline, they accepted the plan, which actually gave us a little more time than what they normally allow, because they saw that we were already making efforts in that direction. No, we didn't have to rethink, because we'd already done enough research that we covered all of the items that OCR required. So our plan was pretty thorough. If anyone needs some suggestions on a plan, go ahead and contact Kellie. I can talk with Brent to see if he'd be willing to share that, but I believe he probably would.
- [Kellie] I don't know if we were ever told the specific, specific nature of the complaint other than we were just not compliant.
- [Anita] Yeah. I don't know if you heard Kellie, but I don't know if we received the specifics of the complaint, just an overall that we were out of compliance.
- [Devin] Glenna, do you have any other information on that?
- [Glenna] I do. It was that somebody had used some sort of a screen reader to put the website through, and We were part of a group of states and LEAs that were picked out, part of this same issue. So it's people going in, just checking to make sure things are accessible. So my understanding is that if you have not already become accessible, then you could be receiving a similar complaint. It seems to be an advocacy group that's working on behalf of people with visual impairment.
- [Rebecca] Right. There was about, I think, to my understanding, about 11 groups, state or local, who received complaints around the same time. So I think that's a good point, is if you haven't received that notice, it could be coming, and so I think you guys' model of having a plan already in place is a really great one just in case that does come through. And if not, like we talked about, you wanna be compliant for the sake of being accessible to all your users.
- [Anita] Absolutely. Yeah, feel free to contact Kellie to Brent, and she can certainly get that to you or find out if we can send that out.
- [Devin] Great. Well, I think that's all the time we have today, but we really appreciate all of your expertise, your insight, and the resources you've shared. Like I said, we'll be sending out these resources to all the attendees afterwards, and thank you for making your information available for those who have questions, as well. We really appreciate it and know that this is gonna be a great resource for a lot of people.
- [Anita] Thank you.
- [Rebecca] Thank you, thank you for having us.
- [Glenna] Yeah.
- [Devin] All right.