New SPG offers more inclusive and accessible technologies on U-M campuses

Multiple tech devices (laptop, desktop, tablet, phone, keyboard) and a lamp
(Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash)

The University of Michigan has adopted a new Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standard Practice Guide, which will help to ensure technologies on all three U-M campuses and Michigan Medicine are inclusive and accessible to the entire U-M community.

The initial phase of SPG 601.20 took effect June 20 and will provide direction for technology and digital content capabilities that may be accessed and used by people with long- and short-term disabilities. 

“Good accessible design practices have been shown to benefit everyone,” said Provost Laurie McCauley. Additional information and resources are available on the IT Accessibility at the University of Michigan website.

As the policy takes shape, units will be given time to familiarize themselves with the updated expectations, consider implementation, and determine long-term plans. Also, key U-M community members and stakeholders will have an opportunity to contribute to the development of the digital accessibility program, which will come together over the course of the 2022 calendar year. 

Feedback over the past several years, from several stakeholders—including the Academic Program Group, Ethics, Integrity and Compliance Committee, Information and Technology Services, Office of the General Counsel, Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, Strategic Technology Advisory Committee, and Web Accessibility Working Group—that was used to draft the EIT Accessibility SPG. 

The Office of Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX, in conjunction with the Office of the Provost, and the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer collaborated to develop the implementable policy that aligns with campus grassroots efforts that have been underway at U-M for many years.

Over time, ECRT and ITS will provide formalized guidance through online resources that explain how schools, colleges, and units can prioritize accessibility issues based on user impact and other factors. Units will gain insight into how they can incorporate and leverage processes for users of technologies, services, and activities, and resolve accessibility issues quickly. And teams within units will learn the most effective ways to test technology using automated and functional testing.

Ravi Pendse, vice president for information technology and chief information officer, said the EIT Accessibility SPG has three goals: 

  • To promote a common set of guidelines around EIT accessibility on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint campuses and in Michigan Medicine. 
  • To mitigate the institution’s risk by establishing common processes, protocols, and guidance used by university leaders, technology and communication staff, and the community as a whole.
  • To establish U-M as a leader in complying with federal and state regulations, implementing digital accessibility best practices, and meeting diversity, equity, and inclusion values.

“The university community can think of the EIT Accessibility policy as a journey, rather than a destination,” said Pendse. “As such, units can expect a period during which they can familiarize themselves with the policy, consider how best to implement the first focus points, as recommended by ECRT and ITS, and determine long-term plans.”

Many units, including Business & Finance, Center for Academic Innovation, College of Engineering, LSA, School of Social Work, University Development, and University Libraries, have already started working on accessibility in an organized fashion. 

The guidelines will make it more clear to units how to develop and procure technology. Faculty and staff will also find straightforward information on how to create online documents and web content. Most of the information can be found on the website.

ECRT and ITS have also created a variety of processes over time to assist in purchasing, obtaining, developing, and maintaining accessible technology, and will continue working with U-M Procurement Services on approaches and plans.

“As the new policy is being implemented, it is an opportunity for more units to provide feedback, ask questions, and access institutional resources supporting the effort,“ said Tamiko Strickman, Special Advisor to the President and Executive Director for the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office. “It is also an opportunity to gain an expanded understanding of Americans with Disabilities Act regulations and laws that have existed for decades and that the university is obligated to observe.”