Date of Award
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Karen A Card
Digital accessibility practices are becoming standardized in higher education as institutions seek to meet compliance with federal and state equal access laws. Students with disabilities have equal rights to access university programs and services in digital format. The widespread use of assistive technology, artificial intelligence, and content available in digital format brings forth ethical and legal concerns about equal access for individuals with disabilities. While broad approaches to digital accessibility in higher education are in the literature, there is a growing need for more studies to examine comprehensive approaches to digital accessibility across multiple units, disciplines, and the organization's hierarchy. This case study examined individual participant interviews from 14 practitioners in different units and publicly available data to analyze how digital accessibility is addressed at three medium-sized public institutions of higher. During the inductive coding process, five main themes emerged related to implementing digital accessibility across the institutions, how it relates to people, practices, policies, and planning, and the larger body of literature on digital accessibility. The findings show there is no one-size-fits-all approach to digital accessibility. Institutions in higher education are motivated by risk management and compliance. A centralized and coordinated approach led to more organized efforts. Initiatives were largely led from the middle-level hierarchy. The availability of resources and funding affected the effectiveness of implementation efforts. The consistency of communication and uniformity of training affected the adoption of practices. Technology toolkits influenced the adoption of practices. Institutional policies and standards guided practices. Recommendations include prioritizing digital accessibility and student needs by designating a head of accessibility, coordinating efforts across units, centralizing processes, avoiding technology-only solutions, adopting the Higher Education Community Vendor Assessment Tool (HECVAT), and enacting an official policy that drives practices, expanding training for faculty, and providing consistent assistive technology support for students. An overall institutional coordinated plan for digital accessibility could lead to consistent and regular communication about policies and procedures and provide for a system of metrics and benchmarks.
Adult and Continuing Education
approaches to digital accessibility, digital accessibility, Jackson 4P framework, Universal design
Number of Pages
University of South Dakota
Jackson, Angela Kae, "Closing the Digital Divide: Understanding Organizational Approaches to Digital Accessibility in Higher Education" (2023). Dissertations and Theses. 118.