Advancing physical, digital accessibility at Virginia Tech rooted in a collaborative approach
Ongoing efforts led by the Campus Accessibility Working Group (CAWG) are fostering more inclusive and accessible physical and digital environments at Virginia Tech.
Establishing and hiring a new 508 compliance and digital accessibility officer, implementing a pathway enhancement crew, and launching a central funding structure are among the accessibility enhancements included in the 2020-21 CAWG Annual Report.
The working group, established in 2018 by Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer Dwayne Pinkney, strives to identify opportunities and solutions that advance university accessibility in a collaborative and coordinated manner across multiple divisions and work streams.
To achieve this charge, the working group leverages a community of practice model. The group draws upon expertise, programming, and support from the Office for Equity and Accessibility, TLOS Accessible Technologies, IT Procurement and Licensing Solutions, Inclusion and Diversity, Human Resources, Student Affairs, Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities, University Relations, and more, along with frequent input from stakeholders including the Accessibility Network at Virginia Tech, the Disability Alliance, Disability Caucus, and employee and student governance groups to implement ADA compliance and accessibility-related projects.
“While ADA compliance is required by law, Virginia Tech strives to proactively provide a campus environment that is free of barriers — physical, digital, and more — and is inclusive to all students, employees, and visitors. While we know we have a lot more work to do, we are very hopeful our coordinated approach grounded in partnership and communication will continue to propel our efforts forward,” said Kelly Oaks, associate vice president for equity and accessibility.
2020 key accessibility accomplishments
Digital accessibility improvements
- Created the 508 compliance and digital accessibility officer position, to which Scott Chandler was appointed in September 2021, within ADA and Accessibility Services, working in close collaboration with TLOS Accessible Technologies. This role will provide a coordinated approach to ensuring equal access to all of Virginia Tech’s web-based, digital, and electronic communications.
- Implemented enhanced post-production and live captioning service models across the university.
- Ensured continued access to Ally for Canvas. Ally provides faculty with feedback for enhancing course accessibility and students with immediate access to accessible educational materials.
- Enacted a PDF remediation software pilot to ensure PDFs are accessible.
- Utilized G3ict's Digital Inclusion Maturity Model and Inclusive Smart University Assessment to help Virginia Tech assess and benchmark how digital deployments and transformation efforts are advancing information and communication technology accessibility.
Physical infrastructure enhancements
- Launched the pathway enhancement crew within the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities is an in-house crew dedicated to proactively managing ADA projects on campus to include ramps, curb cuts, maintaining and upgrading sidewalks, and addressing physical barriers.
- A new campus map is under development. The map will offer improved performance and routing capabilities.
- Launched and made significant progress on six major renovation projects, including a new ADA-compliant pathway from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Complex entrance to the "I" parking lot; a new ADA-compliant picnic area and surrounding pathways in the President’s Quad; a new ADA-compliant entrance to Whittemore Hall; improved ramps, power doors, and strike plates in Newman Library; and more.
- Installed new all-gender restrooms in four buildings across the Blacksburg campus, in collaboration with the All-Gender Restroom Special Task Force and the LGBTQ+ working group. Prioritization is well underway to incorporate new all-gender restrooms in additional buildings.
- Multiple physical improvement projects are also in progress. For example, a new pathway is being implemented between Alumni Mall and the Graduate Life Center, running between Squires Student Center and Newman Library, through Squires Plaza. The installation of a new accessible ramp from the Graduate Life Center to Squires Student Center and its food court is also underway.
New central accessibility support organization and funding structure; continued coordinated budget process
- The launch of a central accessibility support organization to house the accessibility projects fund, ADA projects fund, direct accommodations fund, and the live captioning fund reinforces institutional support for accessibility and allows better tracking of accessibility projects and expenditures. Subcommittees identified critical needs to improve the university's capacity to address important accessibility issues.
“Highlighted throughout Virginia Tech’s strategic priorities, bolstering accessibility for all university members is intrinsically tied to our Ut Prosim [That I May Serve] commitment and Beyond Boundaries ambitions. We will continue to build upon the dedicated efforts of the CAWG to lift up and act upon opportunities that will help make Virginia Tech a more inclusive place to study, work, and discover,” Pinkney said.
Accessibility resources at Virginia Tech
- Accessibility portal (resources for students, employees, administrators; accessible technologies resources; and more).
- Interactive Campus Map.
- Post-production and Live Captioning Service Models.
- Report a physical or digital barrier.