Innovation Pilot Projects

The President’s Administrative Innovation Fund (PAIF), was created to catalyze administrative innovation and collaboration across Harvard by investing in staff-generated, creative solutions that support our faculty, students and staff colleagues.

University Disability Resources has been involved in three PAIF projects to-date:

Building Accessible Spaces: Integrating Assistive Technology (2019)

Team: Dorian Havers, Greg Morrow, Victoria Shen, Luke Damrosch 

School/Unit Represented:  FAS, UDR 


According to the National Institutes of Health, 15% of American adults experience hearing loss. We know that individuals with this invisible disability often miss information and can feel excluded when they attend events, even when room amplification and microphones are in use.

In the spirit of inclusion and belonging, best practice is to host accessible events, including but not limited to providing effective communication services such as American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and live captioning (CART).

Unfortunately, the demand for live, in-person ASL interpreters and CART service providers far exceeds the supply, even when requested with significant notice. However, technology has evolved so that ASL and CART services can now be provided remotely, such as utilizing a service provider in another state for a live event here on campus.

This remote process involves connecting electronic devices such as iPads, laptops, etc. to the event space sound system and requires supporting audio/visual media technology staff to acquire the specialized knowledge to analyze and implement the appropriate assistive technology solutions.    

In addition, our physical spaces across campus have various sound systems that require specialized applications and troubleshooting skills as both room and individual needs are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

We have learned through our work with university partners that significant gaps exist in both the availability of technology and the skills of audio/visual media technology staff to implement these effective communication solutions.

To provide these services, we need to develop the skills of our audio/visual media technology staff and provide them with the necessary resources and tools to carry out this process.  This project would allow for the development of a training for audio/visual media technology staff which would be filmed, captioned and posted, along with the availability of portable technology solutions for effective communication.

Accessible Technology Procurement (2017)

Team: Kyle Shachmut, Michele Clopper, Bob Doyle, Chris Gambon, Joe Holewa

Schools and Units Represented: HarvardX, HUIT, University Disability Services/Resources, FAS, Strategic Procurement

Mission: All faculty, staff, and students have necessary tasks requiring interaction with vended products—whether software products like PeopleSoft and Canvas, or devices like copiers in offices and washers/dryers in dorms. Further, when smaller department purchases are made, even if accessibility is considered this information and effort is not currently captured or shared in a consistent way, which can lead to unnecessary duplication of effort and not leveraging best practices. Impact of addressing accessibility barriers during RFP & procurement instead of accessibility complaints—even for one single product--can be dramatic in terms of time, cost and perception, versus remediating issues ad hoc. Success will be measured by the existence of a sustainable and shareable system to track accessibility in the procurement process—something that does not exist at the institution today. As awareness about the need to consider accessibility during the RFP and procurement process grows, it will be important that interested purchasing agents have information available to guide and support their efforts to proactively engage with vendors asking for accessible technology products.

Building a Participant Pool for Internal Accessibility Testing (2016)

Leader: Amy Deschenes

Team: Vittorio Buchieri, Michele Clopper, Maura Ferrarini, Kris Markman, Kyle Shachmut, Janet Taylor

Project Overview: In order to successfully improve Harvard’s broader efforts toward digital accessibility, a greater number of staff members must be engaged in testing and improving technology systems, websites, and other electronic products. Given that some disabilities are low incidence, accessibility testing can be a challenge if the department does not have easy access to staff or students with disabilities. Our project will connect any Harvard affiliate to testers with disabilities in order to improve operational efficiency and increase capacity for testing by expert users.

Project Objectives: Our proposed solution will address the problem by increasing awareness for the need for accessibility testing and facilitating the testing process. Our project will create a process for recruiting people who use assistive technology to serve as potential accessibility testers for Harvard interfaces. We will build a database of potential testers, establish policies for its use, and pilot the testing process with 5 Harvard web projects. The primary outcome of the project will be a low-cost approach to performing consistent and regular accessibility testing at Harvard.

Achievements: Building a Participant Pool for Internal Accessibility Testing has been able to generate significant interest and aims to increase the size of the participant pool which currently stands at 40 participants. The participant pool will be managed through the User Research Center at Harvard Library. The team intends to improve the payments process with the University Finance departments which will allow for increased promotion across the University.