Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
From computer workstations to the world of the web, statutes and policies have afforded students with disabilities the right to participate in postsecondary education in a non-discriminatory manner. Automatic doors and adjustable tables are a commonplace on campuses and represent prime examples of accessible policy adherence, but what affect do accessible website design policies have on practice? The answer is monumental for the students with disabilities that rely on the integration of electronic curb cuts into institutional websites. In 2006, Illinois Board of Higher Education required public postsecondary institutions to develop and implement a website policy, report on the accessibility of their websites and continuously improve throughout the year. In response, multiple policies and practices were implemented throughout the state. As to how effective this requirement was and what variables influenced policy decision and implementation is the purpose of my study. Through a mixed method approach, I examined the relationship between web accessibility policy and practice. Quantitatively, descriptive statistics in conjunction with a paired t-Test were used to examine the amount of change in the accessibility pass and fail rates of all 12 Illinois postsecondary institutional homepages. In addition, quantitative data were used as a means to identify trends such as spikes and drops. Qualitatively, autoethnographic practices and document analysis were implemented to bring focus as to why these changes and trends might have occurred. By implementing this mixed methodological approach, I was able to identify a statistically significant change in the overall statewide pass rate. In addition, three prominent trends were discovered. The first was a spike trend where accessibility pass rates spiked just before deadlines. The second was a high standard, high accessibility rate where institutions that incorporated a high standard ended up being the most accessible of all the state institutions. The third was a low standard, high accessible illusion trend. Here, institutions incorporated a low standard then stopped accessibility development when the standard was met. This afforded institutions the opportunity to report a high pass rate when assessed with their low standard rather than a low pass rate against a more stringent standard. The implications of this study are many. Of paramount importance is that policy is not always incorporated into practice as it was intended. This is evident with the low standard, high accessible illusion trend. The intent of the policy in this study was for continuous improvement. However, when institutions reported 100% compliance to a low standard, they were also able to report that there was no need for improvement. Consequently, if a policy is to succeed, such behavior needs to be taken into consideration and appropriately addressed.
This dissertation is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.