Increasing Accessibility Throughout Big Ten Universities

Oct 10, 2018
The Big Ten Academic Alliance universities are committed to supporting the full range of human capability by ensuring that students, faculty, staff, and visitors can engage with digital and other technology resources.

Making content and technology more accessible to individuals with disabilities is a focal point for staff across multiple functional areas in member institutions. From Chief Information Officers to Librarians to Procurement Directors, collaborative efforts are underway to share best practices, develop vendor guidelines, modify procurement practices, enhance compliance oversight, and foster a cultural change of accessibility. Highlighted below are two accessibility initiatives underway at the Big Ten Academic Alliance.

Information Technology Accessibility Group (ITAG)/Procurement Partnership

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Chief Information Officers (CIOs) charged ITAG with recommending and implementing measures to maximize the accessibility of technology resources. This group has been active in raising awareness and effectuating change within their universities, across the consortium, and nationally. Notably, ITAG has created and/or enhanced open source tools that increase the accessibility of educational materials. One example is the Functional Accessibility Evaluator (FAE), which evaluates websites based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Another example is ITAG’s work to integrate additional support into open source mathematics display platforms for individuals with vision impairments. ITAG is also working to help vendors provide accessible products to our universities through the creation of the Vendor Guide to Accessibility Cookbook. This guide aims to provide clear guidance on accessibility requirements to firms that provide cloud-based or web-based services.

In addition, ITAG has been collaborating with Big Ten Academic Alliance Procurement Directors on strategies to broadly inform the vendor community of accessibility requirements, standardize solicitation language to highlight such requirements, develop guidance for procurement professionals and those involved in the procurement process, develop common approaches to evaluate vendor responses to solicitations and share information acquired during accessibility reviews among member institutions.

Library E-Resource Accessibility

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Libraries are committed to equitable service and access and are concerned about the limited functionality of many library electronic resources. Accessibility design among the library vendor community is still under-developed considering the primacy of digital materials in teaching and learning environments.

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Library E-Resource Accessibility Group was formed at the request and investment of the consortium’s Library Directors in 2015 to address concerns about library e-resource accessibility. The group engages with library vendors in initiatives to improve usability for all users.

The Big Ten libraries have funded a pilot to conduct third-party accessibility evaluations for vendor and publisher online platforms. Evaluations, along with any responses provided by vendors, are posted on the E-Resources Testing page. This program provides vendors with the information and opportunity to improve the accessibility of their products and gives members of the library community information about the accessibility of these works.


The Big Ten Academic Alliance has also adopted model accessibility license language that can be found on the Standardized Accessibility License Language page. During negotiations with vendors, the BTAA and its member libraries can advocate for this language to be included in license agreements.   



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