Championing 3X3X3 Digital Accessibility

Championing ‘3X3X3 Digital Accessibility’: SMU Academic Tech Leaders’ EDUCAUSE Focus

Jennifer Culver and Jason Warner presenting at EDUCAUSE.In higher education, where all of us benefit from a dizzying array of always new and changing technologies, two leaders from Southern Methodist University (SMU) are working to encourage all of us to, at the very least, use tools we already have available to advance the cause of digital accessibility. At this year’s international EDUCAUSE conference, held in Chicago, Associate CIO for Academic Technology Jason Warner and Senior Academic Technology Services Director and Online Education Manager Jennifer Culver took the stage to call our community to action on this pivotal issue in their session: “3x3x3 for Digital Technology Accessibility.”

The annual conference, a confluence of professionals and academics devoted to the advancement of technology and data in higher education, was the ideal backdrop for Warner and Culver’s unique presentation. They emphasized the potential for positive institutional change without requiring any type of daunting price tag often assumed necessary. The duo demonstrated that enhancing accessibility doesn’t have to require expansive budgets or new staffing; instead, they pointed out that many technologies currently in use for teaching, research, and regular everyday work already possess untapped accessibility features.

Their presentation culminated in a call to action: doing something, anything, even if seemingly small, is better than inaction. “Often, we have useful tools at our disposal which can help advance accessibility — and it is our duty to promote and to utilize these tools to bring digital accessibility for all students because it is the right thing to do,” Warner stated.

Despite being scheduled on the last day of the conference, the session proved successful, drawing attention from numerous institutions, their technology specialists, and accessibility advocates. The SMU-led talk turned into an open discussion of additional ideas and shared experiences, with SMU’s initiatives sparking a candid exchange on challenges and lessons learned at other campuses.

Jennifer Culver and Jason Warner presenting in front of an audience at EDUCAUSE
Jennifer Culver and Jason Warner presenting in front of an audience at EDUCAUSE.

The message from Culver and Warner should resonate well beyond their presentation: we all possess access to everyday tools that can help make progress toward comprehensive digital accessibility. The challenge they posed was straightforward yet profound — and institutions were encouraged to identify three simple things within one’s sphere to improve accessibility in teaching, three to advance it in research, and three to honor the responsibility institutions bear for all students.

As the conference concluded, attendees left with a renewed sense of purpose, contemplating very easy, practical steps they might take to chip away at digital barriers to accessibility on their campuses. Warner and Culver’s “3x3x3” was more than an ordinary conference presentation — it served as a simple, gentle nudge, encouraging others to take the first steps, with technology tools already available, to create a more inclusive future in higher education.

Jennifer Culver and Jason Warner leading an audience discussion during their EDUCAUSE presentation.
Jennifer Culver and Jason Warner led an audience discussion during their EDUCAUSE presentation.

Photography by Jennifer Mayes and David Nguyen.

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Jason Warner and Laurene Klassen

Associate CIO, Academic Technology Services