Kalena Pelekai-Wai hired as the new ICT Accessibility Manager
The new ICT Accessibility Manager talks about his new position and what he aspires to do to help the University become an industry leader in digital accessibility.
In May of this year, I was pleased to learn of the commitment to hire a Manager of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Accessibility whose primary responsibility would be to ensure the University follows accessibility standards, which guarantee people with disabilities are able to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions and enjoy the same benefits and services as their nondisabled peers.
As a web developer by trade, current University employee, alumnus of the University and accessibility advocate, I knew that I could bring more to this position than just my technical skills and expertise. I knew I would bring a personal passion for the work I do, a strong desire to organize and improve processes, a commitment to being both a distinguished leader and a collaborative team member and my proven record of accomplishments in my current and previous positions. So I applied for the position and began the months-long search process.
At the beginning of October of this year, I was honored to be offered and gladly accepted the position of ICT Accessibility Manager, knowing full well what was being asked and expected out of this role. Some wondered why I would jump from the frying pan of a multi-thousand page website rebuild into the fire and apply for a position that would be asked to take on the very important, yet no less colossal, task of ensuring that the University’s web presence, electronic media and digital services are accessible to all. The answer to that question is simple: I wanted to be the person that would lead the University toward not only accessibility compliance but also toward a better overall user experience for all of our users, and I knew that could only be done in this specific role.
It is my belief that the universities who will be considered industry leaders in digital accessibility will be those who are able to streamline accessibility compliance, build partnerships both across and outside of campus and elevate accessibility to the same level of importance as security and privacy. As the senior web developer for the Office of Marketing & Communications, I incorporated these very concepts into all the work that I did. When our team was contemplating how to address the myriad of accessibility issues on the University’s website, I streamlined our automated monitoring of accessibility compliance by re-organizing the Siteimprove Intelligence Platform so accessibility issues could be detected sooner and addressed earlier.
When we entered the user-testing phase of the University website redesign project, I worked with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and Jeanine Mooers to test our website using assistive technologies, which not only provided us with immediate fixes we could implement but also opened the door to a partnership with Jeanine and the DRC. When asked to present at the first annual accessibility open forum, I answered the call because I knew that it was my duty to communicate the importance of accessibility to our campus community.
In this role as the ICT Accessibility Manager, I will champion an environment that streamlines accessibility compliance, builds partnerships and elevates and fulfills the University’s mission of inclusion, diversity and accessibility. With our corrective action plan deadline right around the corner, I look forward to working with all of you to uphold the University’s commitment to ensuring people with disabilities are able to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions and enjoy the same benefits and services as their nondisabled peers.
Kalena has worked for the University of Nevada, Reno since 2008 in various roles including as a programmer, web specialist, web systems coordinator, and most recently for the Office of Marketing and Communications as the Senior Web Developer. He has a passion for web development and accessibility and strives to make the University an industry leader in digital accessibility.