5.8 Access to Technology Resources

Background

Access is a core value to a university and a user-based concept. Access to technology resources, broadly defined, encompasses not only their role as tools (e.g., access to working computers), but also as access points (to the networks, systems, and databases, etc.) that link users to other resources, such as articles or audio files. Access to technology resources can be limited through a variety of barriers.

Physical barriers arise when users have technology but are unable to use it efficiently or effectively for various reasons, including ergonomics and failure of equipment to accommodate disabilities. For instance, the university provides special software and hardware to lessen physical barriers for those with disabilities. Examples of physical barriers are

  • lack of hardware or software serving patrons with disabilities
  • poor ergonomics that limit or discourage work or damage employee health
  • lack of adequate Internet bandwidth capacity, without which virtually all resources become inaccessible
  • poor Web site design that does not allow some types of physical access
  • non-functional/unreliable computers

Some physical barriers are discussed more extensively in other sections of this Technology Master Plan: bandwidth (see section 5.19), Web (5.20.3), telephone (5.20.2), etc.

Intellectual barriers arise when users have insufficient knowledge and/or skills to use technology. One resolution to this barrier is instructing users in efficient and effective technology use. For example, bare access to an array of databases, without instruction in how to use them, provides physical but not intellectual access. Examples of intellectual barriers are

  • lack of instruction in the use of specialized access equipment (e.g., JAWS)
  • lack of instruction in the use of complex resources
  • overly complex system design
  • poor Web page design
  • lack of online help

Status barriers arise when campus users have inadequate access to the technologies they need for their work, learning, research, and instructional goals. Examples of status barriers are

  • lack of office space
  • lack of access to the types of classrooms required for disciplinary or pedagogical needs (see 5.4.2 and 5.4.3)
  • lack of knowledge of technology availability and application to user needs
  • inequitable allocation of funds
  • an assumption that some jobs don’t require technology

Thus, some departments and individuals on campus have difficulties acquiring the hardware and software they need to do their jobs or to provide appropriate learning environments. The most direct resolution to these barriers is analysis and acquisition of appropriate hardware, software, and other appropriate technologies. (See 5.9.1 and 5.9.2.)

Goals

In the next five years, SCSU should

  • identify and assign to the appropriate entities the task of monitoring and improving access to technology resources.
  • put in place computers, software, Web pages, etc., to address access needs of those with disabilities. These should be fully functional, reasonably up-to-date, and meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications.
  • instruct faculty, staff, and student users with disabilities in the use of equipment designed to accommodate disabilities.
  • ensure that Web pages are accessible.
  • instruct faculty, staff and student users in the proper way to use technology to reduce ergonomic concerns. Technology and associated furniture and peripherals should be selected and designed to place the least possible strain on users.
  • develop proactive policies and procedures regarding ergonomics.
  • determine a process for ensuring access to classroom and discipline-specific resources.
  • review employee and student technology access needs in light of possible status barriers.

Specific Actions and Timeline

A committee will be established to address technology access issues. Committee membership should include, but not be limited to, representatives from Human Resources, Student Disability Services, Health Services, Infomedia Services, and the Web Council. The committee will follow the standard timeline (see 5.0) for carrying out and reporting on specific actions.

Resources

Handling equipment replacement cycles appropriate for people’s work and learning environments, ergonomic concerns, disability access, and associated training needs will take ongoing investment of funds.

Evaluation

  • Have the tasks of monitoring and improving access to technology resources been identified and assigned to the appropriate entities?
  • Do computers, software, Web pages, etc., meet the access needs of those with disabilities?
  • Are faculty, staff and students with disabilities instructed in the use of equipment designed to accommodate disabilities?
  • Are SCSU’s Web pages accessible?
  • Are faculty, staff and student users instructed to use technology to reduce ergonomic concerns? Are technology, furniture, and peripherals selected and designed to place the least possible strain on users?
  • Has the university developed proactive policies and procedures regarding ergonomics?
  • Has the university determined a process for ensuring faculty/departmental access to classroom and discipline-specific resources?
  • Have employee and student technology access needs been reviewed and addressed in light of possible status barriers?
  • Has the committee completed a final report in 2007/2008, including recommendations for the next technology planning cycle?

Revised: May 2003