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Accessibility Training for College and University Media and Information Technology Staff

Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In this article, we outline the Postsecondary Committee’s recommended accessibility training for college and university media and information technology staff.

The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on publicly-funded colleges and universities. However, students and educators with disabilities also face barriers in other education settings, including:

  • Privately-funded colleges and universities
  • Transitional job training programs

Therefore, all these settings should comply with the forthcoming postsecondary education standards.

Accessibility Training for College and University Media and information technology Staff

In addition to accessibility training recommended for all college and university employees, the Committee recommends specific training for staff who work with media, creative arts, communications, or information technology (IT). These media and information technology staff should know about requirements under the Information and Communications Standards to make media accessible. Staff should be prepared to assess and develop media that people with all disabilities can access. For example, staff may learn about how TV and movies become accessible to viewers with sensory disabilities. Furthermore, training should also instruct staff on use of inclusive language.

Training for Media, Creative Arts, and Communications Staff

Moreover, media, creative arts, and communications staff should know how to critically assess media portrayals of people with disabilities, including on social media. Critical assessment of these portrayals will help staff recognize and avoid media depictions of people with disabilities that use stereotypes and stigma.

Training for Information Technology Staff

On the other hand, information technology staff should know how to ensure the accessibility of digital learning, including use of technology to develop and interact with:

  • Curriculum
  • Instruction
  • Assessment

Technology that should be accessible for all students, faculty, and staff includes:

  • Integrated learning platforms or learning management systems (LMSs)
  • Other learning software programs
  • Any digital equipment students use
  • Technology that a college or university:
    • Buys
    • Borrows
    • Accesses through open-source platforms or databases
    • Downloads
    • Develops

In short, information technology staff should know that all technology at their colleges or universities should be fully accessible. In other words, all technology should be compatible with the assistive-technology hardware and software programs students with disabilities use. Moreover, these staff should know that one valuable method for verifying the accessibility of technology is usability testing. In this method, people who use assistive technology verify its compatibility with the forms of technology they are testing. Information technology staff implementing usability testing should compensate testers for the feedback they provide through their expert knowledge.

Finally, this training must be anti-oppressive and intersectional. For example, training should alert media and information technology staff that many people with disabilities also have other intersecting identities protected from discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Media and information technology staff must renew this training every three (3) years.