Rick Jackson: I am...Transformative.

Rick Jackson: I am...Transformative.
How did you get involved in Social Work’s web accessibility initiative?

As a relatively new staff person at LSU, I noticed a significant and reoccurring theme in messages, emails, newsletters, etc. of ADA compliance. At a School of Social Work faculty meeting last spring Dr. Wesley Church, our director, let us know of the importance of getting this initiative completed. A faculty member initiated a quick survey to calculate the time it would take us, as a school, to bring our courses, communication, and practices into compliance, and it was clear this work would be a major undertaking.

What do you do for SW faculty/staff regarding web accessibility?

Since we knew that the scope of the project was rather large, I wanted to understand how to get the tasks done. I began by bringing all resources into a condensed source, reached out and requested a Moodle shell to help fully understand that side of the project, and crated a work-plan with our director to help the faculty and staff to meet our goals.

What is the single most impactful step a faculty member can take to make their course accessible?

The most impactful step is to become a student again and simply start the process. Faculty put together some significantly impactful lessons for LSU students. It will be a process but you are only working with a few classes at a time. Many of the documents can be brought up to ADA compliance quickly or when they update the material for the next semester or course.

What are some creative techniques and processes that you have come up with to save time and resources for this initiative?

We created a Moodle course with resources and “how to” documents and links in one place. Faculty, staff, and student workers are all enrolled.  New faculty or adjunct can be enrolled as well.   We are utilizing the LSU BOX cloud based system to share files. This allows us to share documents, PowerPoint's, CV's, etc. to have student workers help meet the needs for faculty and staff. Building efficiencies and saving time is a big issue when there are many items to be reviewed. If others know of or find a better and more efficient way to do something we can share or add it to our Moodle resource course to benefit the whole group. Most importantly, if you can not figure something out, mark it, send it to a point person and let them research the fix.  Move on to the next document/PowerPoint, etc., come back later after you have gotten help with the fix. This month we are doing a Lunch and Learn; the faculty/staff can come with laptops and documents and we can work on skills. 

Have you received any feedback from faculty, staff, or even users with disabilities on Social Work’s progress with web accessibility so far?

Faculty and staff are supportive and grateful to have any help. Early this year, I was providing a training to an agency in New Orleans and I noticed that one participant was blind.  I found myself thinking about the pictures in my PowerPoint and began describing them differently and more thoroughly to deepen the understanding for him.  He has no idea, but in past trainings, I never went into quite that level of detail and description. When concluding the session, I informed the group my PowerPoint would be available for them to review. As I was leaving, I stopped by the blind gentlemen and let him know that the PowerPoint will work with any technology he has.  He said, “Really?” I said, “Yes really.”  He simply said thank you.  It only takes one person to make our work worthwhile.  I am grateful that I experienced this interaction, and I know that providing accessible materials will impact countless others whom I will never know and may never meet.

How do you feel about LSU’s university-wide web accessibility initiative, and how do you think it enhances the learning environment on- and off- campus?

LSU’s accessibility initiative has not been an easy one. They have been able to bring a diverse group of people together from all across campus, they have had forums to listen to concerns and look at areas that need support. In the School of Social Work, we advance social justice, inclusion, and well-being for all. Similarly, as a land-, sea-, space-grant university, accessibility is important work and the right thing to do. 

Our collective work will be an ongoing process and will get easier as we move forward. The benefits may never be “seen” to everyone, but as LSU continues to push beyond the state boundaries, we will be exposed to more and more people. We can affect the students in a classroom on campus or online in another state and every one of them has the right to an equal opportunity to learn.