Resolution: EA R4: Cornell Commitment to Web Accessibility

ActionRejected by the President

 EA R4: Cornell Commitment to Web Accessibility

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Dear Ulysses,

Thank you for submitting Employee Assembly Resolution 4: “Cornell Commitment to Web Accessibility.” I appreciate the Assembly’s thoughtful consideration of this important issue and its efforts to support all members of our community as they access information located on websites owned and operated by the University.

Cornell is committed to fostering an inclusive environment, and Cornell compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act is a critical component of that effort. Web accessibility has been an ongoing priority for the University for many years and accessible information technology, including web accessibility, is one of the two focus areas of the 2016-2019 Strategic Access Plan led by the ADA Coordinator Team. To further reinforce Cornell’s commitment to web accessibility, I will encourage President-elect Pollack to draft a statement to the University’s senior leadership and department heads reaffirming our shared goals and available resources.

Many of the recommendations in the resolution require further consideration in order to determine the best path forward for the University. To that end, I have consulted with the corresponding vice presidents and am charging a working group to research and address web accessibility issues. This working group will report periodically to the ADA Coordinator Team and the Vice President for University Relations and will be expected to report on findings and potential resolutions to senior leadership before submitting a final report to the Office of the President on or before March 1, 2018. The working group will be co-chaired by Shannon Osburn, Assistant Director of Custom Development, Cornell Information Technologies and Angela Winfield, Director of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity. I invite the Employee Assembly to nominate a member to join this group as well.

The working group will consider a number of the recommendations made by the Employee Assembly, but with some important limitations: Specifically:

Item 5: I do not agree that annual surveys are the best method for identifying accessibility issues. I will charge the working group with identifying a practice that will assess site accessibility that does not unduly draw on the time of staff and faculty in the colleges and units.

Item 6: I defer setting a goal for domain-wide conformance until the working group has assessed its current status.

Item 7: I therefore also defer developing a remediation plan for nonconforming sites until the working group has completed it work.

Item 8: The working group should first identify a one-year plan to address websites they agree are in scope and should be addressed. They should then assess the remaining challenges before recommending a multi-year approach to domain-wide changes. Once these efforts to assess current accessibility and the extent of remaining issues are underway, goals related to conformance and a timeline can be outlined in a practical approach, including time and cost estimates.

Importantly, some of the resolution’s requests are already being addressed as a matter of course by Cornell Information Technologies and University Relations:

Item 1: Revise the Brand Book to include accessible templates for items including but not limited to presentations, videos, posters, and digital media.

University Relations will be re-launching the Brand Book website later this month. The new version of the site includes accessible Power Point templates. I have requested that they add other accessible materials as applicable.

University Relations worked with Custom Web Development inside of Cornell Information Technologies in 2015 to develop a set of branded web templates for the campus WordPress-based hosting environment. These templates are 80 percent section 508 compliant as delivered. A WCAG 2.0 compliant update to this theme is expected to be delivered in the summer of 2017.

As a matter of internal policy, University Relations captions all videos that appear on the website, and is working through the process of captioning the CornellCast collection as time and budget allow. Users may request specific videos be captioned via a link present on all players within CornellCast. There is no current way to develop a template for accessible video, as it must be addressed on an individual basis.

Item 2: Provide and make readily available information on making digital information accessible and using automated tools to check the accessibility of content.

At present, University Relations is working with the Student Disabilities Office, the ADA Coordinator team, and Custom Web Development to revise and relaunch the current website as, currently scheduled for launch in the spring of 2017. This new site will contain a set of guidelines and best practices around web accessibility for the campus community. A section listing links to free online tools for evaluation and other resources will be present. Additionally, there are plans to include examples of how the team approaches and solves accessibility related issues on the flagship site.

Item 3: Provide guidance, incentive, and encouragement to all University academic, administrative, and business units, aiming for the highest level of conformance in all possible cases.

Per the answer above, this is already in process.

Item 4: Provide tools to all University academic, administrative, and business units to perform standardized self-evaluations of conformance.

In addition to the list of free online tools to be published on when it launches, Cornell Information Technologies has identified an enterprise-level tool (Site Improve) as a recommended standard-evaluation method for the Cornell web community. Because it is a vendor product, there are costs to be considered. I have charged the above-mentioned working group to propose a solution that makes this tool available to our campus without causing undue financial burden on any given unit.

In conclusion, I do not support the recommendation to charge Cornell Information Technologies, Human Resources and University Relations with publishing an Accessibility Policy at this time. However, I suggest that these divisions consider creation and implications of a policy pending the results of the working group recommendations due to the Office of the President in March 2018.

Again, I appreciate your commitment to ensuring that all members of our community have the web accessibility tools and options that they need, and I look forward to the work of the ad hoc web accessibility committee.

Yours sincerely,

Hunter Rawlings

Hunter Rawlings
Interim President, Cornell University
300 Day Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Tel: 607-255-5201