COVID-19 and the Accessibility Spotlight


Presented at 9:15am in Gov Square 12 on Thursday, November 18, 2021.



  • Christa Miller, Associate Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, Virginia Tech
  • Korey Singleton, , George Mason University
  • Lori Kressin, , University of Virginia
  • Mark Nichols, , Virginia Tech

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Panel
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Once digital accessibility efforts were just a response to accommodations. As VA institutions adopted e-learning solutions, digital accessibility professionals began to collaboratively advance common goals. This initiated the Virginia Higher Education Accessibility Partners, a collaborative partnership of accessibility-focused professionals.


The pandemic’s impact to higher education and information technology is unknown, but some lessons are already having an effect. One is the importance of digital accessibility. Many institutions have awakened to the broad need for digital accessibility. Previous conversations focused on supporting disabilities. But, the pandemic ushered in a new understanding for the universal benefits of accessibility.

This panel will highlight how Virginia public institutions are keeping the spotlight on digital accessibility. Firstly, through a pre-pandemic effort on a collaborative captioning contract. Secondly, the creation of a state-wide organization called the Virginia Higher Education Accessibility Partners (VHEAP). Thirdly, how this broadened the reach during the pandemic’s rapid transition to remote teaching and learning. Also to be discussed: expanding support for captioning (post-production and live), improving document remediation, and increasing administrative and faculty buy-in.


  1. Identify key areas of accessibility growth across VA public institutions stemming from COVID-19.
  2. Examine common models of providing enterprise level captioning support across VA public institutions.
  3. Set a goal for keeping digital accessibility in the spotlight by connecting it to the institutional mission.

Disability Areas

All Areas, Cognitive/Learning, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Psychological, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Captioning/Transcription, Procurement, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Christa Miller

Christa Miller is currently the Associate Director for Services for Students with Disabilities at Virginia Tech (VT). She has a BS Electrical Engineering (2008) and MS Industrial Systems Engineering (2012) both from VT. She started working in VT's Assistive Technologies group in 2006 as a student employee teaching students how to use assistive and accessible technologies. From 2010 to 2015, she transcribed STEM materials into Braille, and then transitioned into teaching instructors to create accessible educational materials by design.

For the last several years, she's helped VT grow their digital accessibility footprint by helping to establish the centralized captioning fund, building up the campus' Accessibility Network, creating training on PDF accessibility, and leading cohorts of individuals preparing for the IAAP CPACC Certification.

Christa is an active member of regional and national disability and accessibility organizations (AHEAD in VA, AHEAD, ATHEN, and Accessing Higher Ground). When she has the opportunity, her research interests include accessibility in STEM courses and Universal Design for Learning.

Korey Singleton

Korey Singleton has over 23 years of experience advocating for information and communications technology (ICT) accessibility and the use of assistive technology by individuals with disabilities at home, in the workplace, and in the classroom. For the last 13 years, he has worked as the Assistive Technology Initiative (ATI) Manager for George Mason University (GMU). The ATI operates under Mason’s Compliance, Diversity, and Ethics Office and is tasked with developing, guiding, and implementing a university-wide strategy for addressing the ICT accessibility needs of students, staff, faculty, and visitors with disabilities.

Lori Kressin

Lori Kressin draws on several years of experience in higher education. Since 2014, she has served as Coordinator of Academic Accessibility for the University of Virginia’s Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. Prior to her current role, Ms. Kressin has held a range of University Information Technology and Communications positions that include user support services, project management, and information management analysis. As Coordinator of Academic Accessibility, Lori promotes accessibility initiatives through partnerships, educational training, and policy development. She has presented internationally on trends, practical experience, and relationship building in academic accessibility as it relates to the world of higher education. Drawing on her background in IT and broad experience at UVA, she works to help all University areas comply with federal accessibility laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and follow associated standards and best practices. She works to create an accessible environment and an empowered community to promote the University’s evolution as a place for social change and inspired learning for all. Understanding that no one entity or institution can do this on their own, Lori actively works in collaboration with peer institutions to find common solutions and opportunities to share resources.

Mark Nichols

Mark Nichols is the Senior Director for Universal Design and Accessible Technologies at Virginia Tech. He works in Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies unit of the Division of IT. Mark joined Virginia Tech in 2017 and previously spent 15 years within K-12 as the Supervisor for Assistive Technology and Division Level Administrator for Accessible Materials. Mark is an active member of the National AEM Advisory Committee, Chair-elect of the Virginia Higher Education Accessibility Partners, and Secretary/Treasurer of the UDL Higher Education Network with the UDL-IRN. Mark has a personal interest in the maker movement and connections to the field of Assistive Technology.