According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011-12, 11% of college age individuals had a disability. Furthermore, combat veterans returning to college “often also bring new disabilities that need to be addressed by the learning environment” (Piper 2014). The growing diversity in needs given population growth trends must be addressed in higher education. As we set out to serve all students, Iowa State University, has proactively included consideration for the needs of all students in the creation of the educational and informational content we create and disseminate through digital channels.
The Student Disability Resources (SDR) office currently provides accommodations for approximately 6% of our student body. This represents a demand for accommodations that has seen a steady increase in the last few years and which will likely keep rising as more parents acknowledge the institution’s ability to provide effective services to students with disabilities paired with the increase in the population itself. SDR data shows that there were 1,793 students with documented disabilities in fall 2014. By fall 2015, that number had increased to 1,968 and, during the semester, there were at least 612 new student walk-ins requesting accommodations. The majority of the students who request accommodations have cognitive disabilities (i.e. reading, Attention Deficit Disorder).
Moreover, our student body consisted of over 36,000 as off Spring 2016. With a projection for increasing enrollment, we also have a growing diversity on campus. Iowa State has traditionally been the university of choice abroad for students from many different countries as well. The University Registrar (2016) reports that “more than one in five Iowa State students is either a minority or an international student. Total U.S. minority and international enrollment is 8,367 or 23.24 percent of the student body. U.S. minority enrollment is 4,326 (12 percent of total enrollment).”
When we make digital content accessible, we are ready to address the diversity of needs in our community.
The Office of Digital Access is conducting various efforts at gathering more data about the needs of our community. Please, contribute by reporting on the appropriate survey below:
The survey was distributed by SDR to the students they serve. Results indicate that:
- A total of 116 participants.
- The great majority (75%) reported using laptops (as compared to other devices like tablets or smartphones) to access university-related information.
- 53% used Windows and 30% Mac with other OSs making up the remaining platforms used.
- 68% use Chrome while 10% use Safari mirroring the OS platform of choice it would indicate that Windows users tend to use Chrome rather than IE.
- 64% use the homepage as their starting point in looking for university information. 29% argued other reasons but most of the reasons stated (i.e. accessing BB) indicated that they use the homepage as an entryway to university systems.
- Asked about their definition of accessible digital content, the majority seems to have a broad understanding of access as a function of technical capacity or as a broad construct related to the internet. However, many related the concept to compliance, ADA, Assistive technologies like screen readers, and disability (14). Some did not understand the question or indicated they did not know (6).
- However, when asked about the importance of accessible digital content, the majority indicated it was extremely important to them (63%) as shown in the graphic above.
- The majority (76%) indicated they did not use assistive technology.
- 10 were Kurzweil users, while there were 6 Dragon users, and anywhere from 1-4 users of other screen readers, magnifiers and others.
- Close to 40% indicated having challenges mostly with diverse technologies and websites. About a third stated they did not have any challenges (29%).
Website Inventory – The goal of the inventory is to have a database of all public facing websites at Iowa State University available to interested users. The goal is to gather contact information for technical contacts and content managers.
Usability and Accessibility Testing - A registration form to participate in digital accessibility testing. The participant pool will receive email invitations to testing sessions.