Harvard's Kyle Shachmut on Advancing Digital Accessibility

min read

Kyle Shachmut, assistant director for Digital Accessibility Services at Harvard University, shares advice on advancing digital accessibility and getting involved in the communities making those advances.

To hear the full conversation, listen to the podcast "Advancing Digital Accessibility"

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Kyle Shachmut
Assistant Director for Digital Accessibility Services
Harvard University

John O'Brien
President & CEO

John O'Brien: Welcome everyone to a community conversation today that I've been looking forward to for some time. I have with me, Kyle Shachmut, the Assistant Director of Digital Accessibility at Harvard University, and a Rising Star Award winner to boot. So welcome Kyle.

Kyle Shachmut: Thanks for having me, John.

John O'Brien: So what can sort of IT leaders, or IT organizations, or CIOs for that matter. What can they do to advance digital accessibility on their campus, even without a Kyle?

Kyle Shachmut: Digital accessibility is a really great opportunity for CIOs, or IT in general, to be able to be a leader on campus. I should probably back up and mention, digital accessibility is making sure that all of the technology that we build and create, and we buy, is usable to people with disabilities. And we want that usability to be at the same time, and with the same ease of use, right. Having a disability, shouldn't be a barrier to participation in the programs, services, and activities that our universities provide. So for IT leaders and CIOs, digital accessibility is an area where we have the opportunity to lead our campus conversation, to be a really trusted partner, and a leader on our campuses, promoting inclusion for people with disabilities, through the technology products that we buy, that we build, and how we train everyone to create websites, documents, digital resources, disseminating research, all of those areas are opportunities for us to lead, and just like all the other kinds of technologies that we work with, it's a great opportunity to be partners. So we might lead as the technology experts, but we get to partner with our diversity, equity inclusion and belonging offices, or our communications offices, or human resources. Our faculty, our provost and precedence for governance. Right? It's a great opportunity where IT can be a knowledgeable expert leader in that digital inclusion space.

John O'Brien: So Educause has tried to prioritize digital accessibility and accessibility of all kinds. What has Educause gotten right when it comes to digital accessibility? And if you had that magic wand that you could change one thing that we could do better, what would that be?

Kyle Shachmut: So Educause has done some really good things in recent years for digital accessibility, and the higher education community generally. I especially think one of the biggest ways we serve as a resource to the community through Educause, is the IT accessibility community group. It's just a really great resource for people who do this work on our many, many member campuses. We have hundreds of people that join us every month to meet up. We have thousands of people, many of whom actively participate in our community forums, and whether people are veterans to the field, and they've been around a long time, or they're brand new in their first digital accessibility role, that space and that community of people wanting to make higher education more accessible, is just an invaluable resource for professionals working in this niche of the field. We all have room to grow in what we do. And I think a great space where Educause can lead and continue to lead into the future, is helping be a bridge, and a conduit between technology companies and organizations, and member institutions. And the roles that it plays in helping set standards, or expectations, or guide people to resources in formalized ways, or programmatic ways. I think about programs that Educause runs in other areas, like privacy or security, research in all sorts of different areas. And IT accessibility is one of those where there's certainly immense opportunity to do so. And especially among our vendor partners that we work with. So often as educational institutions.

John O'Brien: I've really enjoyed the conversation Kyle. Thank you so much for being with us today to talk about digital accessibility.

Kyle Shachmut: Always a pleasure. Thanks for having me, John.