Grackle Suite CSU San Bernardino Case Study

Customer: California State University San Bernardino
Location: San Bernardino, CA USA
Grackle Champion: Leon McNaught, M.S., Accessible Technology Initiative Coordinator

The Grackle flew down virtually to San Bernardino to meet Leon McNaught. We chatted about Leon’s experience choosing and deploying Grackle Suite at CSUSB. We really appreciate his take on university accessibility challenges and Grackle’s role in meeting them.

Cartoon depiction of three people in a meeting

Curating a Culture of Accessibility

The Short Strokes

  • Executive Order 1111 mandates a proactive response to Accessibility implementation across the entire California State University system of 23 universities, under the guidance of the Accessible Technology Initiative
  • CSUSB’s campus ATI proactively sought out a solution faculty and staff could quickly and easily use to make output from G Suite (Docs, Sheets and Slides) accessible
  • Grackle Suite™ was selected and implemented across CSUSB because it provides guided remediation and Export to PDF in one package and its interface steps users simply through the process. Faculty and staff love how easy it makes the challenge of “remediating at the point of creation”, as well as after the fact
  • The culture around Accessibility now has a higher profile on campus, and in two different ways:
    1. If you are in the Google ecosystem then you have Grackle Suite
    2. If you want the easiest available method to create an accessible PDF, then you have Grackle Suite

Our Chat with Leon

The System-wide CSU Accessibility Challenge

  • The Grackle: On your accessibility site you reference Executive Order 1111. Was that the primary business driver behind your search for and adoption of Grackle?

    Leon McNaught: Yes it was. EO 1111 is the California State University Board of Trustees Policy on Disability Support and Accommodations. From this EO, we have a coded memorandum AA-2015-22 which guides the implementation of the Accessible Technology Initiative across the CSU system. We have 23 campuses statewide.

    The ATI has three main goals in accessibility: Web, Instructional Materials, and procurement of ICT.

    Grackle helps our campus meet some of the Success Indicators on the Web and Instructional Material priorities. It gives our campus members the tools they need to meet accessibility requirements. We recommend Grackle to students, faculty, and staff because of its ease of use.

    Each campus has to submit an Annual Accessibility Technology Initiative Report with 158 success indicators. Each is a measurable goal operationalized with the Capability Maturity Model and each is graded on a scale.

    The goal is to get to “Established” against the 3 priority areas above. This is what’s driving our progress to make sure we have the resources, tools and knowledge to make content and systems accessible.

    Grackle helps us achieve progress on a number of these success indicators, specifically in the Instructional Materials priority and in providing tools and awareness to campus constituents.

Leon Mcnaught talking at a conference

“Grackle Docs is the only tool I’ve used that makes the creation of accessible PDFs a pleasurable experience.”

—Leon McNaught
Accessible Technology Initiative Coordinator, CSUSB

Kevin Cleppe, Accessibility Specialist, Academic Technologies & Innovation, CSUSB
Kevin Cleppe, Accessibility Specialist, Academic Technologies & Innovation, CSUSB

“An important component of our inclusive culture at CSUSB is to ensure that accessibility is integrated into our business processes. Grackle Suite is an important tool in the pursuit of that goal.”
—Leon McNaught

Meeting CSUSB’s Accessibility Goals

  • Does Grackle help faculty in the G Suite ecosystem at CSUSB?

    Yes. Grackle makes people really go through accessibility step by step. Faculty don’t have a lot of bandwidth—they’re already overburdened with what they have to do. And while in support of accessibility, their energy going to accessibility currently is reactive instead of proactive.

    When you’re in a time crunch you can ignore something until you can’t anymore. In other words, it’s all good until Disability Services calls and says there’s a student with an accommodation letter—leaving faculty scrambling to make their instructional materials accessible.

    Grackle is an important part of our toolkit to assist them, as well as staff, divisions, departments etc.

    But we’re trying to make the solution to this a forethought rather than an afterthought. Faculty and staff are key because there is a project to revise all instructional materials by 2020 in order to move from 4 quarters to 3 semesters.

    And this is a good opportunity to get accessibility built into the materials. And we’ll possibly do something with students later.

    Can you elaborate on how Grackle helps meet your Accessibility goals?

    Our goal in Accessibility Services is to help students, faculty, and staff by providing accessibility awareness, support, best practises, training, and tools.

    Grackle is one of the tools we have found helpful in meeting those objectives. As faculty re-tool their curriculum for the semester conversion, we are using this opportunity to raise awareness around accessibility in the instructional material space.

    What was the main value or guiding principle behind this initiative?

    Equal access to information. Very clearly so, per EO 1111.

    What was your main aspiration in adopting Grackle?

    We wanted to have a tool that we could feel comfortable recommending to people that aren’t accessibility experts. We wanted to have a real way for them to make change on their own.

The Problem

PROACTIVE VS REACTIVE: Changing the Culture Around Accessibility

  • What was the main pain point facing you?

    We needed to change the campus culture with respect to accessibility, because it was always seen as a sort of negative “we’ve got you” compliance sort of thing—the reactive model. We need to change it to a more proactive model with Universal Design/Access.

    When we talk with faculty, we always talk about UD—it’s about changing the narrative—a change in the culture. Once you get the awareness, you never get it out of your mind…and then we move from there.

    What were your main obstacles?

    initially it was the price, which is always a conversation. Grackle’s new price is what really allowed us to make a lot of headway. Now there really aren’t any obstacles. The use case is there.

    Were there some other key issues you faced?

    For sure! The vast amount of material that requires a second look for remediation, e.g our 16,000 web pages—a huge potential of inaccessible material when it comes to digital content. We archive some of it and then remediate it and that’s where Grackle comes in.

Christine Fundell, Digital Content Accessibility Specialist, CSUSB
(Right) Christine Fundell, Digital Content Accessibility Specialist, CSUSB
Amy & Jasmine, working with JAWS screen reader in the ATAC Lab, CSUSB.
Amy & Jasmine, working with JAWS screen reader in the ATAC Lab, CSUSB.

The Solution Grackle Suite™

  • Grackle Suite is comprised of the only Google Add-Ons that check and remediate output from Google G Suite™ to make it accessible. Grackle Docs™, Grackle Sheets™ and Grackle Slides™ enable “remediation at the point of creation”… with ease.

    • Grackle Docs has 22 checks against established WCAG 2.0 and PDF/UA standards.
    • Grackle Sheets has 13 checks against accessibility standards, and includes output to accessible HTML. Guided, visual, step-by-step correction.
    • Grackle Slides has 7 checks against accessibility standards = accessible presentations.

    What other solutions did you try or consider?

    For Google Docs we didn’t try anything. There wasn’t anything specific. We went for PDF remediation after the fact.

    How did you find out about Grackle?

    Either at CSUN or web research on accessibility, likely searching for “document accessibility” or “Google Docs accessibility”. Grackle was in the top rankings

    Why Grackle Suite? Which Add-Ons do you use?

    Ease-of-use is the #1 factor. All three: Grackle Docs, Sheets and Slides

    Can you tell us about your decision process?

    It was pretty easy. We were looking for tools. I had been recently hired as ATI Coordinator and CSUSB was looking to me for solutions. I presented to Samuel Sudhakar, CIO and VP of Info Technology Services, the ATI Co-Executive Sponsor. We ran a pilot.

    What was your buying process like?

    I downloaded and ran the free 30-day trial. I worked closely with Grackle who gave me terrific support as an early adopter customer. The purchase process was straightforward. And I shared some advice with Grackle about getting a VPAT, which they did. Grackle kept it simple.

    How was our support?

    Very responsive. I actually didn’t need much, just a few things. You guys have quick, effective real support. Not outsourced. Absolutely frictionless. There’s a lot to be said having a contact you can just email, rather than a ticketing process.

The Outcome

A Higher Awareness for G Suite Document Accessibility

  • How have we solved your main problems?

    Grackle has brought awareness and an easy solution for G Suite document accessibility to the forefront. Grackle was first on the scene with the “walkthrough, click on and literally highlight document elements remediation approach”. Other tools have now followed suit copying Grackle with guided remediation.

    Who and how many are using Grackle?

    I don’t actually know since anyone can use Grackle. The focus is faculty (instructional materials) and staff (institutional reports and documents). Our numbers might not be big, but what’s seen is the impact. One use case: a staff member put institutional reports online and had been trying to make them accessible for years. She adopted Grackle. And it was easy.

    What Grackle features were most useful? Why?

    Guided remediation is #1. Also Export to PDF… and all in one package. I also really like the way it steps you through the process.

    Once individuals are aware of the accessibility requirements of PDFs, we then need to get them the support they need to do something about it. With PDF accessibility, it usually requires a pretty deep dive to make a dent in the accessibility.

    Our approach is to make the content creator aware of accessibility requirements, and then have them focus on the source document prior to conversion to PDF. Grackle makes this process easy.

    How are things different now?

    Accessibility now has a higher profile on our campus. We do it two different ways: 1) If you are in the Google ecosystem then you have Grackle Suite, and 2) If you want the easiest available method to create an accessible PDF, then you have Grackle Suite.

    That’s how I feel about it, and we do have other tools. Grackle is doing two birds (so to speak!) with one stone: the original source document and the accessible PDF in one package. Grackle filled a void. You guys are doing all the right things.

    And your users? What are they saying?

    They echo our sentiment that it’s relatively easy to use. Sometimes a little surprised it gives you an accessible PDF at the end. IT DOESN’T SUCK!!

    How cost-effective is Grackle Suite?

    Your pricing structure makes it very, very difficult to ignore Grackle if you are using G Suite.

Rick & Jenny, working with ZoomText and CCTV in the ATAC Lab, CSUSB
Rick & Jenny, working with ZoomText and CCTV in the ATAC Lab, CSUSB
Kevin Cleppe, Accessibility Specialist, CSUSB
Kevin Cleppe, Accessibility Specialist, CSUSB
(L to R) Christine Fundell, Accessibility Specialist and Leon McNaught, Accessible Technology Initiative Coordinator at OktoberTech – Tech Days, in “The Cave”, CSUSB
(L to R) Christine Fundell, Accessibility Specialist and Leon McNaught, Accessible Technology Initiative Coordinator at OktoberTech – Tech Days, in “The Cave”, CSUSB

Deployment, Awareness and Training

  • How did you implement Grackle? Individual install or G Suite Admin push to all?

    Push to all and whitelist.

    How did you do deployment and awareness?

    When we began in 2016, a lot of people on campus weren’t even aware of the challenges in creating accessible PDFs. We were just formulating our digital content response and thought that as a result they would soon have to pay attention. It takes time for adoption.

    So we did a pilot for 1 year. We put it on the domain for anyone who wanted to use it. We did some outreach and awareness. First we hung out a shingle and said do you want to learn about this? Then we took a targeted approach with a few offices to start.

    And now, looking back 2.5 years later?

    With scarce resources, we had to justify the need for software tools. Our initiative on this campus was just beginning a few years ago. With both our program maturity, and the new streamlined price of Grackle, we have no qualms that this tool is an important addition to our accessibility repertoire.

    We have both Office 365 and Google Docs. Microsoft has done much to make the accessibility functionality better in the latest version of Office, including an improved accessibility checker.

    For G Suite, we rely on Grackle to provide accessibility checking and guided remediation for those campus constituents who take the initiative to improve their materials on their own.

    How did you handle training?

    We provided monthly standing classes through the Staff Development Center. We put a quick video up online to show how to interact with the Grackle interface.we also created a Handout sheet on how to access Grackle for the first time

    Grackle is now part of a suite of tools. Whenever we’re out promoting Accessibility, we mention Grackle as one of the tools that can help.




    • ~20,000 students, over 2,000 faculty and staff
    • G Suite is available to all faculty, staff and students
    • 86% of students from San Bernardino and Riverside counties
    • 61% female. 39% male
    • Reflects the dynamic diversity of the region. 63% of students are Hispanic
    • Second highest African American and Hispanic enrollments of all public universities in California. 70% of graduates are the first in their families to do so
    • Among the best colleges and universities in the western U.S., according to The Princeton Review, Forbes and U.S. News and World Report
    • One of “America’s Coolest Schools”—The Sierra Club
Cartoon depiction of two people in a meeting

Grackle Suite

  • Who is GrackleDocs?

    GrackleDocs Inc. is a private Canadian company focused exclusively on creating innovative accessibility software for Google Workspace. And before we started Grackling, we acquired years of collective experience developing, marketing and selling industry-leading solutions for high-volume accessible electronic documents, globally.