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Sharing the Load: The New Accessibility App Vetting Rubric
The need to respond to the sudden extreme reliance on digital resources in the delivery of learning has put a strain on academic and administrative systems as they try to keep up with the influx of new tools and technologies in the digital ecosystem. In some cases, this response has simply heightened and highlighted what was already a significant challenge on many campuses. The accessibility of tools and content falls squarely in the latter category. With many institutions barely able to keep up with ensuring that applications used in the classroom (online or in-person) meet the requirements of students of all needs, the increase in that demand has further strained that ability.
Just as with privacy and security issues, institutions have an obligation to vet and approve tools used in the campus ecosystem. Many of the questions that institutions ask and capabilities they assess are common from institution to institution and from vendor to vendor. To alleviate some of the burdens of vetting applications, the IMS Accessibility ILN took up an effort this year to define an Accessibility Rubric for use in assessing the viability of applications for use at an institution. Like the earlier privacy app vetting initiative that has evolved into the TrustEd Apps program, the Accessibility Rubric doesn’t define new accessibility standards or test how well an application implements existing standards. Those standards exist, and there are whole fields of practice that test those implementations.
Instead, the rubric is designed to provide a “first step” assessment of what an application’s policy and claims are, scored against industry expectations and requirements. Does the solution claim to be standards (WCAG, etc.) compliant? Does the company have an accessibility team or point of contact? Does the company have a published statement on accessibility and a documented roadmap for implementing accessibility features? Suppose your institution’s policies require that a solution have a published VPAT and a defined policy to address accessibility issues identified, but a particular solution doesn’t provide those. In that case, you’ll know that that application likely can’t be considered for usage at your campus.
Just as with TrustEd Apps, the Accessibility rubric vetting results will be included in the IMS Product Directory to help your institution make informed decisions. And as the work goes forward, the goal will be to provide institutions the opportunity to directly provide assessment on solutions so that a catalog of feedback is available for you to draw on and contribute.
The draft Accessibility Rubric has recently moved to a new Accessibility Task Force. We’re gathering additional input from the community, including edtech suppliers, so that the final product will reflect a strong consensus on the most valuable way to collect and present this critical information to ensure that you are serving all of your students and faculty.
Interested in Learning More?
View the recording of a session presented at the recent IMS November Quarterly Meeting.
With all of the new tools on campus and existing tools being used in new ways, how do you ensure that they’re meeting the needs of students of all abilities? To alleviate some of that burden, the IMS Accessibility Innovation Leadership Network has been working on a rubric that will help you assess and vet tools. Review the draft rubric, add your questions, and share your experiences!
- Cary Brown, Director, Higher Education Programs, IMS Global
- Kelly Hermann, Vice President, Accessibility, Equity & Inclusion, University of Phoenix
- Kate Miffitt, Director for Innovation, California State University Office of the Chancellor
- Philip Voorhees, IT Manager – Accessibility, Pennsylvania State University
And if you’re interested in participating and contributing to the Accessibility Task Force, you can contact Cary Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.