Accessibility: It's A Work in Progress

A conversation about putting our commitments into action

Research Findings | November 7, 2023



We wanted to know:

"If we provide high-quality, free, and convenient accessibility training for staff, could we improve attitudes about accessibility and the accessibility of our products?"




In September 2021, we began auditing CDCI documents and webpages produced for accessibility. And we noticed there was a lot of room for improvement.

Anecdotally, we also began noticing a lot of  comments like:

  • "No one's asked for accessibility features. We don't need it."
  • "I know we have room to improve, but it's really not something we have time for right now."
  • "Come on! No one really uses [alt-text]."


In May 2022, we asked CDCI staff if they had done any professional development in accessibility over the previous year.

Only 16% said yes.


Next, we designed a series of monthly workshops. 

Over the summer of 2022, we organized eight workshops for the year:

  1. Plain Language
  2. Event Accessibility
  3. Accessible Design and Readability
  4. Accessible Web Design
  5. Introduction to Universal Design
  6. Accessible Word Documents
  7. Accessible PowerPoint Documents
  8. Accessible Multimedia

Each workshop was:

  • Held on Zoom, with captioning and ASL interpretation available.
  • 45 minutes long, and geared to move at a slow pace, on an introductory level.
  • Offered twice on two different days of the week and at two different times of day.
  • Made available as a separate (captioned and transcribed) recording, along with the slides.
  • Designed to offer how-to accessibility skills plus information on disability equity.

And every workshop ended with the same advice:

  1. Resist the freakout: accessibility is hard, and it's a process. Choose one thing at a time to work on for the next 30 days.
  2. You are encouraged to ask questions.
  3. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.
  4. Get feedback on your work from people with disabilities.


Our resources:

  • $1,000 budget for hiring two outside agencies to teach the first two workshops.
  • Survey software, Zoom rooms, captioning, and ASL interpretation service provided by UVM.
  • Our Communications Director is a certified accessibility specialist, and they taught four workshops.
  • Our Community Services Director coordinated the administrative end, scheduling Zoom rooms, designing and sending out surveys and reminders, tracking attendance, and examining the data.
  • One CDCI staff member with expertise in Universal Design, who taught one workshop.
  • CDCI Executive Director who approved the program and taught one workshop.


QUANTITATIVE RESULTS: Attendance, Attitudes, and Actions


By the end of the year, 94% of CDCI staff had attended at least one accessibility workshop.



We surveyed staff before the workshops, and after the workshops, and asked them whether they agreed with two statements on attitudes to accessibility:

"I believe accessibility is relevant to my work."

  • Before the workshops, 67% agreed, and 33% strongly agreed.
  • After the workshops, 5% agreed, but 95% strongly agreed with this statement.

"I believe accessibility is feasible in my work."

  • Before the workshops, 19% disagreed with this statement. 52% agreed with it, and 29% strongly agreed.
  • After the workshops, 0% disagreed with the statement, 14% agreed, and 86% strongly agreed.


We surveyed staff before the workshops, and after the workshops, and asked them whether they agreed with this statement on actions around accessibility:

"I use accessible design in my work."

  • Before the training, 24% strongly disagreed, 29% disagreed, 38% agreed, and 10% strongly agreed.
  • After the training, 0% strongly disagreed, 5% disagree, 29% agreed, and 67% strongly agreed.


QUALITATIVE RESULTS: Motivations & Challenges

We surveyed staff after the workshops to get an idea of their motivations around accessibility, as well as remaining challenges.. 


Staff told us they were motivated to use accessibility in their work for the following reasons:

  • "To make sure all families understand our materials!"
  • "It's at the heart of Disability Studies and social justice"
  • "To be the best ally-in-progress I can be"
  • "I think it's important that we model the behavior we'd like to see in the field."


Staff told us the challenges they faced in using accessibility in their work were as follows:

  • "There are a LOT of things to consider!"
  • "Not enough time"
  • "It feels like accessibility strategies detract from the pizzazz of the materials"
  • "Not enough time"

The lack of time keeps showing up in our conversations with staff.

"There are a lot of moving parts... the accessibility part is not always my priority." --CDCI staff member, October 2023



For 2024, we're offering a new round of accessibility workshops:

  • Plain Language (yes, again)
  • Inclusive Language, Inclusive Communities
  • Accessible Events
  • Accessible Newsletters

We're also looking for ways to offer our existing and emerging accessibility workshops to other campus groups at the University of Vermont.


Why is this research important?

Accessibility is a pathway to inclusion.

Research shows us that building in accessibility from the beginning of any digital publication saves time and money.

But more than that, in order for people with disabilities to fully take part in the communities of their choice, those communities must be accessible. That includes meetings, events, videos, podcasts, and documents related to those communities.

And thinking through how to make communities more accessible is also a great way to kick off conversations about how welcoming and inclusive those communities are -- and could be.


Icon of a clipboard and pencil. Text: CDCI Research


  • Adrienne Miao, Audrey Homan, and Jesse Suter. Center on Disability & Community Inclusion, University of Vermont


Suggested Citation:

Miao, A. F., Homan, A.C., & Suter, J. (2023, November). Accessibility: It’s a work in progress! A conversation about putting our commitments into action. Panel presentation at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities 2023 Conference “Emerging Leaders: Shaping the Future,” Washington, DC, USA.

Download this study as a .pdf

Thumbnail of a conference presentation slide: Accessibility: it's a work in progress!

This .pdf is a copy of the slides for this AUCD presentation. 


Download this study in plain language

Thumbnail of a .pdf on plain language accessibility

This .pdf has the study in plain language.