How a public, land-grant, research university in South-Eastern United States* is using Pope Tech to make major headways into resolving web accessibility issues across their portfolio of thousands of websites.
This is one of the major Southern United States universities with more than 35,000 students. It offers bachelor’s degrees in over 100 fields of study and also offers over 100 master’s and over 50 doctoral degrees.
One of the focuses of the Accessibility Coordinator at the university is to ensure that the whole school’s digital environment is accessible.
The university, as an educational institution, is required by law to provide access to materials and resources to all students, faculty, staff, and public – including those with disabilities.
Of particular concern for this Accessibility Coordinator was the whole portfolio of websites owned and maintained by the university.
These websites needed to be evaluated for accessibility, issues identified, fixes and updates verified, and a strategy for monitoring issues over time needed to be implemented. This was a daunting challenge for a school with thousands of websites and millions of pages.
The Accessibility Coordinator had used and was familiar with many different enterprise solutions for web accessibility. But none seemed to satisfy all the requirements they had.
Many of the enterprise solutions developed to help monitor websites for accessibility that can handle the huge volume required for a university are often very expensive. As one can imagine, budgets for products like this can be challenging for a public school, even in the best of economic times.
The Accessibility Coordinator also knew that she needed a resource that could be put in the hands of the teams of developers and content providers across campus. She knew unless she could activate these teams with accessibility training and resources, it would be impossible to achieve her accessibility goals for the university’s websites.
Unfortunately, many of these enterprise accessibility monitoring solutions are complicated to use and configure, making the adoption and usage of these as solutions difficult, if not impossible, for a campus-wide solution.
On the other-hand, there were already easy-to-use, free accessibility tools out there. Many of the school’s developers and content providers were using the free WAVE tool.
WAVE is a leading, professional-grade suite of accessibility evaluation tools. The problem with the free WAVE tool was it could only scan one page at a time and the results had to be manually recorded and aggregated for site-wide data. The time and resources to do this for one website, let alone the portfolio of thousands of websites that university had, would have been time prohibitive.
The Accessibility Coordinator knew she needed one solution that met all of their needs:
- An institution-wide platform that was easy to implement
- Site-wide reporting to keep on top of each these websites
- Easy to use by teams of developers, content providers, their supervisors, and university admin.
The solution also needed to have a suite of professional-grade accessibility tools like WAVE has.
Meet Pope Tech
That’s when we (Pope Tech) came into the picture.
When the Accessibility Coordinator and their accessibility team started digging into different solutions, they learned that WebAIM, the developers and owners of the WAVE tool, had partnered with us.
We have an enterprise solution that uses the WAVE engine to provide institution-wide accessibility scanning and reporting. It is WAVE – but designed for institution wide scanning and reporting.
With a tight educational budget, the university’s accessibility team needed to have a solution that would not be cost prohibitive. Knowing that market competition is a great way to find quality products at often less than the shelf-listed prices, the school announced a Request for Proposal (RFP) and invited us to submit a proposal.
Their RFP received multiple offers – but for the various reasons (ease of use for everyday users, responsiveness of support, missing features, price, etc.) most of the proposals fell short of what the university was looking for.
We wanted to make their goals happen for them.
We put together a proposal that met all of their key requirements and submitted it.
We accommodated some customizations that would best fit their needs when our existing services didn’t match what they required.
In the final negotiation of terms, they told us their budget, and we worked with them to create a plan that satisfied their goals.
It was a beautiful partnership – Pope Tech has many features that are designed specifically for higher education, like our ability to mass import websites into assigned groups, SSO-SAML logins for managing users, and the capacity to handle both simple and complex group structures.
The university was pleased to learn our pricing was straight forward (based 100% on unique page count) and covers unlimited users, rescans of the same pages at no extra cost, comprehensive training on how to use the platform, and white-glove onboarding services.
(Note: since their start date, we also added at no extra cost our accessibility help desk. This help desk is there to answer key users’ accessibility questions about any of the tests in our platform.)
The fact that all of these were included in our posted pricing – without hidden charges – made the deal even better.
We met with the Accessibility Coordinator and the core accessibility team to discuss deployment strategies.
We accommodated their need to train multiple teams by holding online training sessions for the key users. These sessions were recorded and shared with members of the faculty and staff for internal, ongoing training.
The Pope Tech Support Team was there for continued guidance, providing timely responses to inquiries, assistance, and documentation as requested.
Today, the Pope Tech platform continues to work as it should for them – handling high volume crawls, scans, and reports and making it look easy.
If there ever is an issue, our proactive support team often contacts the user before they can contact us. Our Support Team is highly responsive and has the capacity to respond to most tickets and inquiries the same day. We also love user feedback on improvements we can add to the platform that would benefit all of our users.
For example, the Accessibility Coordinator at this university asked if we could add a way to generate a report of all the PDFs across all their public-facing websites. We thought this was a great suggestion and added it to our prioritization list for the next major update on reporting. The university and other organizations now have this ability in our platform.
Even now, we continue to add additional features and services that cater to the university and our other users’ real-world needs.
Update: Year 1 Results
In their first year using Pope Tech, we helped the university identify and fix 563,864 errors, correct 200,671 contrast errors, and resolve 135,122 alerts. We’re monitoring over 235,000 pages across 465 websites.
The university currently has over 100 users that are participating on the platform to improve web accessibility for their audiences.
Seventy-four of their websites now have 0 WAVE Errors.
Our client is rapidly becoming a leader in Website Accessibility in Higher Education. They have tools in place for ongoing improvement. The Accessibility Coordinator and the school’s other accessibility leaders feel confident knowing that they are on track to ensuring their institution is taking the necessary steps for an accessible education environment. The best part of all of this is that students, staff, and the public using the university’s websites are increasingly encountering fewer and fewer accessibility barriers.
Pope Tech is proud to partner with a school that is dedicated to serving people, and we’re glad to have helped them make improvements that will enhance the thousands of lives they touch daily.
A snapshot of one of the milestones the university achieved:
From mid-January 2020 to April 30, 2020 Error counts went from a high of 758,383 errors down to 408,718 (across 108,209 pages).
That is a decline of ~350K errors in 3 months – that’s what we like to see.
“As the University IT Accessibility Coordinator for [School name omitted]*, I oversee campus digital accessibility including website accessibility. In the past we had a hard time getting campus website owners to make their websites accessible. Most folks wanted to but our old automated web accessibility scanner was not user friendly and did not get utilized.
We adopted Pope Tech as our automated web accessibility scanner about a year ago. We have had an absolutely outstanding experience with Pope Tech.
The Pope Tech product is so easy to use for all of my campus content owners and it is very simple for me to add users, create and manage groups, delegate access and produce helpful and meaningful website reports. I have had great buy-in on campus using this product and we have centered some fun accessibility events like our Web Accessibility Challenge around it.
Also, the Pope Tech crew has been very attentive and timely with any of our feature requests or questions. We could not be happier with this product and the excellent customer service we have received.”– Accessibility Coordinator
*The name of the institution has been withheld in accordance with the university’s name use policy.
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