In 2019, LSU enforced accessibility standards compliant with federal laws for the disabled. It was certainly a lot of work. LSU must feel good about it. But I am someone it was supposed to help, and it didn’t. And while our classes are now legally compliant, LSU failed to get its own house in order.
About three years ago, I sustained a stroke that caused significant loss of vision. I am far from blind but seeing is much harder. These mandates were supposed to help me. They didn’t. And LSU never looked inward to see its own accessibility failures. It was too busy strong-arming everyone else. And my experience as a partially disabled person has left me feeling that at the levels higher than my college, LSU is, however unintended, bureaucratic and devoid of compassion.
Are you surprised? Probably not.
Consider Workday. There’s a joke about why they call it Workday. If you need to use it for a small task, it consumes your entire workday. Workday’s extremely bright background and small, light lettering were hard enough to use even before my eyes went bad. Now it’s hopeless.
And Moodle? The most important piece of software on this campus is extremely hard to use by visually impaired people, while simple improvements like a dark mode would be easy.
MyLSU? See Moodle.
And for the ultimate irony, shortly after the mandate came down, Disability Services came to my department to demonstrate how to make our material accessible. Except that it never occurred to them that someone in the audience might be disabled. As such, I was unable to see their material. This could have been addressed by sending the material in advance, whereupon I could have loaded it onto my laptop and expanded it or used dark mode. Even the disabled experts don’t think of the disabled.
And many faculty members feel that we should not have to make our material accessible if no one in the class needs it. But the faculty are not allowed to make that assumption.
Yet LSU itself seems to make that same assumption with the materials it forces us to deal with.
I was recently requested to fill out an accommodation form, despite not requesting it. I was emailed a PDF, which can be created such that the user can enter responses directly onto the file and digitally sign it. But the form was not accommodating – instead, I would have to print it, read the small print and sign. If I could do that, I wouldn’t be requesting any accommodations in the first place. Once again, the accommodation folks do not know what it means to accommodate.
The form in question was sent because my department forgot to request that the class I teach be on Zoom. In trying to correct it, the bureaucrats caught it and accelerated it to the highest level of the university, whereupon I was requested to release personal medical information. Did they think I was lying about my eyes? We canceled the class, and I substituted a course in the online MBA program. LSU claimed that for me to teach undergraduates via Zoom, I had to fill out an accommodation request, but we have other classes in my department that were scheduled to be delivered via Zoom and were not questioned.
Each year LSU requires everyone to take three one-hour courses covering ethics, sexual harassment and accessibility. The course videos and materials, even for the accessibility module, were extremely hard to use as someone with visual disabilities. Is that not the ultimate in irony?
There are some simple changes that could fix these problems. For one, the screens are not expandable to full screen mode. Also, the letters and backgrounds are hard to see, but the colors could be easily fixed.
But again, LSU doesn’t look at itself. And when you don’t get your own house in order first, you look as hypocritical as you really are.
And finally, I served six years on the university promotion and tenure committee, chairing it for three. After the eye problem, I had to step down. You see, LSU’s promotion and tenure material is not accessible to the visually impaired. They just scan pages, instead of creating real PDF documents that can use electronic readers or dark mode. So, LSU’s PT process is non-compliant.
But kudos to the E.J. Ourso College of Business and its finance department, which have been extremely supportive and never asked me to prove my condition. But there is only so much they can do before bureaucrats above them step in.
Jesus said it best (didn’t He always?), “Physician, heal thyself.”
Don Chance is a finance professor for LSU and holds the James C. Flores Endowed Chair of MBA Studies.