Digital Accessibility Keynote by Cyndi Rowland - November 2022

Report by Academic Technology Services
Posted November 2022

 About the Event | 5 Key Takeaways | Event Video and Slides | Event Feedback  

About the Event

For the third time since the fall 2017, Amherst College organized a Digital Accessibility Keynote Talk on the important topic of digital accessibility for an inclusive campus. On November 2, 2022, Cyndi Rowland, Ph.D., founder and Executive Director of Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM) gave a talk titled “Digital Accessibility - What Can I Do to Contribute to an Inclusive Campus?”. Dr. Rowland is also the Associate Director at the Institute for Disability Research, Policy, and Practice, and is extensively involved in the National Center for Disability and Access to Education, where she is the chair of the Technology Institute.

The Keynote Talk was offered as one component of a yearlong set of events and workshops at Amherst College in support of continuous improvement in our college awareness and practices for digital accessibility. 

5 Key Takeaways from the Keynote Talk

  • Create accessible content: We all have a role to play in making the digital content we create accessible and keeping accessibility in mind in everything we do. For the type of digital content we create in our work as faculty, staff, and students, we should learn what we need to do to ensure accessibility and make it part of our workflow. 
  • Continue to build accessibility into processes and systems: Equally important to our individual contributions to digital accessibility is a system-wide approach to developing guidelines, processes, and policies. 
  • Procurement plays an important role: We all need to continue to educate vendors we work with and make sure accessibility is part of the contracts that we negotiate with them. Also, it is important for us all to make sure to review contracts and agreements for accessibility whenever renewing or adding components or modules. 
  • UDL (Universal Design for Learning): UDL is a framework for “baking in” accessibility from the beginning, rather than trying to add it post-hoc as an afterthought or accommodation.  
  • Role-based training: To be successful, we need to support faculty, staff, and students with role-based digital accessibility training, combined with continuing awareness-building efforts and programs. Also, where possible, find ways to offer incentives for engaging with digital accessibility work.

Event Video and Slides

Event Video Link (note requires Amherst College login) 

Dr. Cyndi Rowland standing at lectern speaking to Amherst College audience on November 2, 202
  • For captions, click the video player cc icon then select English
  • Keynote talk transcript


Presentation Slides

  • Keynote presentation slides

Event Feedback

We solicited event feedback via an online evaluation form shared with event attendees and from a discussion session with IT division staff. 

Common themes in response to "After attending the keynote talk, what is one strategy you would apply in support of digital accessibility for an inclusive campus?" 

  • Begin conversations about a more intentional approach to ensuring digital accessibility.
  • Make sure the digital content I create is accessible.
  • Now that I know more, I can do more and do my best for digital accessibility going forward.
  • Ask faculty positioned to do so to aid policy development that better supports accessibility.
  • Do accessibility checking and work first using Microsoft Office tools, then save as Google Docs, Sheets, Slideshows, and PDFs which will retain the accessible content such as alternate text for images and figures.
  • Follow WCAG standards when generating content for the Web.
  • Learn about and use the accessibility features of the applications specific to your own work, for example if you use Tableau for sharing report data or MailChimp for creating email newsletters. Many applications have specific accessibility features available to use.
  • Add links to accessibility resources as part of your email signature such as “Do you want to make your materials more accessible - see our tips here”.
  • Find opportunities where accessibility practices can be improved, such as learning about system features, incorporating alternate text, adding links to accessibility resources when creating instructions or documentation, and building accessibility into workflows and processes to nudge people towards an accessibility mindset. 

Common themes in response to "What can motivate people to engage with digital accessibility work?" 

  • Have more presentations to continue to educate students, faculty, and staff.
  • Provide the needed continuing education and training and the time needed to learn and put it into practice.
  • Incentives and rewards - for example, paying faculty over the summer to update their courses and then bring their knowledge to their colleagues and departments.
  • Importance of diversity and inclusion, contact is everything. The more people study, teach, and work with people with disabilities, the more they understand and appreciate the importance of digital accessibility. 
  • Similar to policy - incorporate into performance management evaluations as a professional development skill building/competency around inclusivity/accessibility.