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Team Working to Improve Accessibility of Materials and Technology

A team of faculty, staff, and students is working to improve the accessibility of UT Knoxville’s instructional materials and technology.

Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek formed the group of faculty and staff in March to work closely with faculty, staff, and students in establishing and achieving accessibility goals. The Accessibility Implementation Team is charged with developing a campus policy on accessibility of instructional materials and technology. These include the main university web presence, library services, and course management and course registration systems. The team will also identify high-traffic campus websites and establish a timeline for improving them. It will also establish training on accessible materials and technology, and develop a plan for monitoring compliance. Heather Hartman, summer sessions coordinator, is chairing the team.

Last year, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission charged the UT System and the Tennessee Board of Regents to develop and implement policies for accessible information materials, technology, and digital curricula used in the college and university setting. The term accessible means a person with a disability is afforded the same opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use.

A UT System study group produced a set of recommendations for action, recognizing that each campus should tailor its plans to meet specific needs. The campus team will seek input from stakeholders on a variety of accessibility-related issues over the coming year. Subcommittees have been established to address specific areas of focus:

  • Training, Textbook, and Learning Materials—Jean Derco, an executive director in the Office of Information Technology, is chair.
  • Websites—Leigh Shoemaker, assistant director of creative communications in the Office of Communications and Marketing, is chair.
  • Policy, Procedures, and Monitoring—Hartman also is chair of this subcommittee.
  • Communication and Awareness—Joel Reeves, assistant vice chancellor and chief information officer, is chair.

Several other initiatives are underway outside the scope of the team’s work. These include working on the bidding and purchasing procedures to purchase or recommend only accessible information materials and technologies where feasible. System and campus finance and administration officers are working together to examine the feasibility of a joint RFP for statewide vendors for these products and services.

If you have questions about the Accessibility Implementation Team, contact Heather Hartman at or 865-974-0622.

This article originally appeared in Tennessee Today.