Accessing Higher Ground is an annual week long conference held every year in Denver, Colorado. The focus is accessibility in Higher Education. The first two days are hands-on intensives.
Three people on Swarthmore’s accessibility team attended this year and we take a divide and conquer approach in an attempt to get broad coverage and practical how-tos. This year we attended Getting to Grips with ePub, Wagging the Dog: Secret Macro/Replace Tips and Tricks in Alternate Format Production, Managing Accessibility Testing, Inside ePub, Understanding ARIA Authoring Practices and Screen Readers.
In addition to workshops there were several informal round table discussions. Topics included developing policy, evaluating campus technology for accessibility, designing accessible math and science, accessible e-books, adding creating accessible content to curriculum.
Workshops which seemed most impactful are those where we heard from students, staff and faculty members who have disabilities. We learned about how website code affects usability for those with disabilities and how impossible and difficult it is to interact with non-accessible PDFs both in courses and in day to day work.
Perhaps the most interesting theme I experienced was the shift away from focusing on accommodation and towards approaching accessibility as a matter of inclusion, diversity and civil rights.
In addition, there were several workshops discussing the positive affects of adopting UDL in all areas of Higher Ed for those with and without disabilities from improving comprehension and retention in classrooms to improved communication practices.
This conference is held once a year the week before Thanksgiving. We are happy to host any faculty or staff member who might like to join us next year. Just get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.