University of Phoenix observed this year’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which took place on May 19, by dedicating a full week to celebrating the achievements of its students and employees who have disabilities and promoting awareness of the importance of digital accessibility.
The purpose of GAAD is to drive awareness and educate people on a global scale on the importance of digital accessibility for people who have disabilities and impairments. These individuals include more than one billion people who are blind or visually impaired, hard of hearing or have motor and/or cognitive disabilities.
University of Phoenix’s Accessibility Services
Approximately 26 percent of adults in the U.S. (61 million adults) have a disability. University of Phoenix commits to providing digital access to students who have disabilities and, in the last 12 months alone, has provided accommodations to 11,017 students. These accommodations have proved pivotal in helping students who have disabilities and other learning impairments learn in the best ways for their needs.
The University has established a comprehensive accessibility services model to help its students fulfill their potential. By implementing universal standards created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the University works to meet accessibility commitments and provide information so individuals can perceive, operate and understand to the best of their abilities.
Kelly Hermann, vice president of accessibility, equity, and inclusion at the University, remarked that digital environments and content often resemble the built environment, explaining that both require planning and development as the infrastructure is built. Architects realized some time ago that baking accessibility into design does not only lead to better function; it is also more aesthetically pleasing. Hermann explained that the University has taken a similar approach to its digital assets, with its digital design approach emphasizing the usability of the digital environment by the most users possible.
Terry Magers, a recent graduate of the University, stated that without the accommodations provided by the University, he would not have completed his degree. He cited the extra time for accommodations as particularly helpful, and, without the support of his disability services advisor, he may not have been able to continue his studies.
The University curriculum has an accessibility-first design, and the University uses an accessibility tool in its learning management system to provide support and track compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The University also supports its faculty in the development of accessible content through mandatory training and evaluation of course content each year.
Hermann added that this implementation affords the opportunity to provide targeted support for the faculty to create and share accessible content with students. The University’s faculty uses the accessibility tool in the learning management system to review and amend content when they upload it into the classroom. They can also request support from the Accessibility and Usability team.
How University of Phoenix Trains Staff on Accessibility
To mark GAAD, University of Phoenix’s faculty participated in a “Fix Your Content Week” that included a review of course content and interaction with the Accessibility and Usability team. This enabled the faculty to enhance their understanding of, and open communication on, accessibility for students.
In 2021, the University launched an Accessibility SME (Subject Matter Expert) program to help IT and marketing staff develop and apply accessibility expertise to their work. The program offers professional development to employees who may not have received accessibility fundamentals in their formal preparation and training. Accessibility SME enables the University to scale accessibility into the design and development of digital assets and content so that staff can create accessible content that doesn’t require rework before publication. A total of 51 staff have completed the Accessibility SME program so far.
In addition, the University recently held its annual employee appreciation event, Phoenix Fun Fest, which saw the accessibility team host a lab that showcased additional accessibility technology materials. Provided by the Arizona Technology Access Program (AzTAP), these materials included a 40-cell refreshable Braille, a Victor Reader Stream, an Apple Watch (for executive functioning), a laptop with Fusion, and a Switch-adapted toy. The lab enabled employees and their families to interact with the assistive devices and engage in awareness building to observe and learn how people who have disabilities can interact with their environments.
Ensuring Equal Access for People Who Have Disabilities
University of Phoenix strives tp ensure equal access to information for all and nurtures a learning environment where individuals who have disabilities can acquire the same information, experience the same interactions and access the same services as those who do not have disabilities, and in an equally effective manner.
About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is dedicated to advancing the educational goals of adult and nontraditional learners and to helping students choose career options and degrees best suited to them. The University’s degree programs are aligned with many in-demand career paths including in cybersecurity, nursing and business, and allow for flexible start dates, online classes and numerous scholarship opportunities, enabling anyone to complete the degree they need to professionally develop.
In addition, University of Phoenix’s Career Services for Life® commitment to active students and graduates provides the resources needed to be competitive in the workforce for no additional charge. These services include career guidance, resume and interview support and education and networking opportunities. For more information about the University, visit www.phoenix.edu.