News

Reaching Accessibility Goals for Higher Education

Accessible Information TechnologyA new article in Inside Higher Ed magazine Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals details the fact that many institutions of higher education fail to have “coherent policies around accessibility. ” And, they note that there has been “…a recent uptick in high-profile lawsuits alleging failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act…”

While the reasons for this situation are many, the article suggests “time constraints” make be a factor. Quoting Cynthia Curry from the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM)“Part of the problem is that people don’t have the time to do something systemic around accessibility within their institutions…” Curry said. “Most institutions, of course, aren’t looking proactively at accessibility. They’re looking at it more as a retrofit, or they’re being reactive if something litigious comes up.”

Maine CITE’s own resident digital accessibility resource person is John Brandt. Brandt’s own 25-year experience in web development and accessibility suggest that the perceived high cost to make web content accessible is probably the largest single factor in the equation. “Most organizations look at accessibility as expensive because they are approaching it from a mitigation perspective. They often fail to look at the costs associated with NOT having accessible content – lost student admissions, lack of student retention, etc.”

While most web accessibility experts will talk about the importance of “adding accessibility in at the beginning” of a web design process, colleges and universities are often not able to do this since they were among the first organizations to have websites in the 1990s – they have accumulated lots of content.

But even if an institution is committed to improving accessibility, they often don’t know where to start. To that end, the Inside Higher Education article promotes a new set of quality indicators for accessible educational materials developed by NC-AEM designed to “help institutions ensure, at scale, that all students have the same learning opportunities in face-to-face classrooms and digital learning environments.” The article focuses on the NC-AEM’s recently published  “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies” which promote seven quality indicators (QI), each containing specific criteria needed to achieve each QI.

For colleges and universities just starting out with the process, these quality indicators can provide a blueprint and structure of the thinking process that need to be considered. Tom Tobin, one of the people interviewed in the article, encourages “institutions (to) focus accessibility efforts on the potential impact on student access and learning outcomes, rather than merely on ‘legal-compliance arguments.’”

“While the description of the quality indicators alludes to the broad access benefits for all learners when accessible materials, tools and interface are adopted, the actual indicators and critical components are focused squarely on meeting the needs of learners with disabilities — only a part of the access conversation,” Tobin states in the article.

Read “Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals”

Read/view the NC-AEM – “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies”

New Free Module for Teacher Prep Programs

high school studentsThe following announcement comes from the Center on Technology and Disability (CTD)

CTD has created an Assistive Technology Module for Personnel Preparation Programs in participating colleges and universities and is now making it available to all educators and trainers interested in a “ resource package”. The resources can be downloaded and copied or distributed electronically at this unique link.

According to the announcement, the materials in this module will help students in teacher preparation programs:

  • Understand the basic concepts underlying the use of assistive technology.
  • Become familiar with the words and terms associated with AT.
  • Understand your role as a teacher in helping to identify and integrate the use of appropriate AT
    in your classroom.
  • Learn about the laws governing AT in public schools.
  • Participate as a knowledgeable professional in the IEP teams to which you will be assigned.
  • Become a role model, peer mentor, and school leader in the use of AT.
  • Change the lives of students with physical, sensory, cognitive, and emotional/behavioral disabilities.

In the same announcement, CTD offered another printed (PDF) resource entitled, Assistive Technology in the Classroom: Examples Designed to Help Teachers and Other School Personnel. This resource provides several case studies and offers discussion group questions for students in teacher preparation programs to use to help identify appropriate assistive technology devices and services.

Please use this link for more information and to access the resources…

 

Promoting the Integration of Universal Design into University Curricula

Information TechnologyThe following appeal comes from Howard Kramer of the University of Colorado Boulder (hkramer@colorado.edu) and is addressed to university faculty and staff in the areas of computer science, digital media, environmental design or other technical or design-related programs…


Dear Colleague:

We are contacting you because of your interest in web accessibility and Universal Design or because of your interest in teaching about these topics. As part of a grant project for Promoting the Integration of Universal Design into University Curricula (UDUC), we are conducting a survey to gauge the benefits to students of taking college level courses that include accessibility and Universal Design topics.

Our goal is to have the survey sent out to current or recently graduated students by departments or colleges that have a focus on Computer Science, Digital Media, Environmental Design, or other technical or design-related programs. If possible, please ask your department or school to send out the student survey invite (see below) to current students and recent graduates (up to 3 years since graduation) from the program.

If this is not possible, please consider sending out the student invite to students who have taken and completed your courses; and passing along this email to fellow faculty (this can be any faculty within our outside of your university) who teach courses in the areas described above.

More information on the study can be found in the student invite below. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at hkramer@colorado.edu or 303-492-8672.

Sincerely,

Howard Kramer, PI, UDUC

[Student survey invite:]

Dear Student:

The URL below points to a survey for students who have taken Computer Science, Digital Media, Environmental Design, or other technical or design-related courses.

The purpose of this survey is to gauge the usefulness of accessibility and Universal Design topics in college curricula. (Note: these terms are explained below and within the survey). All responses are anonymous.

If you are a student who has taken a technology or design course, please consider taking the survey at this URL.

Note your responses from the survey will not be shared with your school or with any other institution.

This survey is part of a project for Promoting the Integration of Universal Design into University Curricula (UDUC). It is partly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

If you have any questions, please contact Howard Kramer at 303-492-8672 or hkramer@colorado.

[/Student survey invite:]

Definitions:

Accessibility

Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s Assistive Technology (for example, a wheelchair or computer screen readers). [Footnote 1]

Universal Design

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities. [Footnote 2]

 

 

UMF Educator Preparation Program receives national and state accreditation

Loraine Spenciner
The late Lorraine Spenciner for whom the AT Library is named, shown her holding a modified keyboard.

FARMINGTON, ME —The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) educator preparation program is proud to announce that it has received national accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). UMF is the first institution in the state of Maine to meet the new, rigorous national accreditation standards. UMF has also received full approval for state accreditation, including several commendations, from the Maine State Board of Education.

A longtime leader in Maine and one of the premier teacher education programs in New England, the UMF program has been noted for providing pre-service teachers with a unique educational experience that maximizes career preparation and post-graduation success.

The CAEP review recognized the UMF program for providing students with effective learning opportunities in and out of the classroom that help prepare them for a career in teaching. The UMF program passed the rigorous peer review on all five CAEP standards, which are based on the principles that its graduates are competent, caring educators and its faculty have the capacity to maintain and enhance the quality of the professional programs.

CAEP is the sole nationally recognized accrediting body for educator preparation. UMF’s accreditation runs from 2018 to 2025.

Notably, CAEP recognized UMF for its strong relationship with the community and how this mutual commitment enriches the student experience through activities, resources and support for educational improvement. In addition, the review applauded the UMF teacher preparation program for the quality of its candidates from recruitment through certification.

UMF’s teacher preparation program provides students with field experience, early and often, with student teaching, practicum and internships boasting an average of 329 students in formal placements in schools around the state annually.

These experiences prepare educators for the real classroom and create a statewide demand for UMF graduates while helping to support educational partnerships at more than 130 Maine schools annually, not including early childhood and infant centers.

According to UMF’s 2018 teacher education unit alumni survey, 84 percent of respondents indicate being employed as a teacher in the field and a majority being hired within one year of graduation. In addition, 98.9 percent of graduates responding to the survey said they were very satisfied or satisfied with the UMF program.

In its overall approval of the UMF program, the Maine State Board of Education also commended UMF for its commitment to staff its educator preparation program with full time faculty. It observed that UMF is unique in the fact that all field supervisors who mentor and oversee pre-service teachers in schools around the state are full time faculty that can model the best in professional practices.

The Maine review also commended UMF for its dedication to assistive technology within the Spenciner Curriculum Materials Center. The center, connected to the Maine Department of Education’s Maine CITE Program, houses an extensive collection of assistive technology devices such as adaptive gaming controllers and 3-D printers that are available to loan to students, educators and the general public.

These resources can help all children, including those with disabilities, succeed in the classroom. The report noted the facility is “a remarkable resource for the students, faculty, and the larger community encouraging inclusive practice with state of the art materials and equipment.”

More on University of Maine at Farmington

A nationally recognized public liberal arts college, UMF enjoys a 150-year tradition of providing a quality academic experience combined with the personal attention and close student / faculty collaboration that help prepare all students to be successful. Rooted in a tradition of teacher preparation, UMF offers top quality programs in the arts and sciences, teacher preparation, and business and pre-professional studies. UMF is located in the heart of Maine’s four-season outdoor recreational region and is a welcoming, close-knit academic community that prepares students for engaged citizenship, enriching professional careers and an enduring love of learning.

Group formed to test and document assistive technologies

ARIA W3C logoThe W3C – World Wide Web Consortia – has created a community group to systematically test and document  assistive technologies use of ARIA and HTML5 accessibility features in web applications. W3C membership is NOT needed to participate in the community group.

How WAI-ARIA is supported by assistive technologies, such as screen readers, is highly variable. This variation in WAI-ARIA rendering adds unnecessary complexity to the development of high-quality web experiences for users of assistive technologies and places significant limitations on the types of web widgets that can be made widely accessible.

This community group is dedicated to:

  1. Helping assistive technology developers converge on a set of clear norms for baseline support of WAI-ARIA.
  2. Helping web developers understand the current state of support for WAI-ARIA by assistive technologies.

WAI-ARIA is as important to assistive technology presentation as CSS is to visual presentation. Join us to help make WAI-ARIA as reliable as CSS.

In order to join the group, you will need a W3C account. Please note, however, that W3C Membership is not required to join a Community Group. Complete details may be found at this link…

This is a community initiative. This group was originally proposed on 2018-11-30 by Matthew King. The following people supported its creation: Matthew King, Laura Fathauer, Shadi Abou-Zahra, David Sexton, Mark McCarthy, Aaron Leventhal. W3C’s hosting of this group does not imply endorsement of the activities.

 

Let’s participate – new resource for infants and pre-schoolers

Early childhoodThe Let’s Participate! project, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs, was designed to help infants, toddlers and preschoolers with disabilities participate more fully in everyday activities through the use of assistive technology (AT).

Let’s Participate’s newly revamped website is chock-full of information on using AT with young children.

Please check out letsparticipate.org to find:

  • Numerous ready-to-be-used powerpoints and trainings
  • One-pagers on finding the right AT
  • A simple child-specific AT Plan
  • Resources on how to increase infant, toddler & preschooler participation using AT
  • Guidance on how/why to set up an AT lending library
  • Lots of tip sheets, activities, examples and more!

Use this link to visit Let’s Participate…

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by Free Stock Photo

Maine DOE Launching a New Website

Maine DOE logoThe Maine Department of Education will be launching a new website on Friday, September 28, 2018. Over the course of the summer months, Department staff have been working on updating and re-writing website content for a new website that features an improved search function, a user-friendly interface, and a content management system which will allow Department staff to keep content updated and timely.

The new website will replace the current website found at maine.gov/doe. It will have a similar, yet new, look and feel.

It is important to note that those who have bookmarked links to the Department’s current website may need to re-save their bookmarks when the new website is released because there will be some pages that have a different website address.

To ensure that the field and the public can find information on the new website on Friday and going forward, please send all inquiries, comments, concerns, and questions related to the website to doe.webmaster@maine.gov.

For further questions about the launch of the new website, please contact Maine Department of Education Director of Communications, Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Resources to Support Adaption of Assistive and Instructional Technology

The Center on Technology and Disabilities (CTD) recently published a newsletter highlighting some of their publications related to education. Among those resources:

Implement Assistive Technology and Instructional Technology

EducationFuture Ready Assistive Technology: Fostering State Supports for Students with Disabilities – This report provides insights into the current state and future of assistive technology as well as resources to support your work.

AT and IT: Where are we headed? – This new infographic outlines the technology landscape, and what it means for state and district leaders, and teachers.

Technology Implementation Strategies that Work! – Watch this video series to learn more about the critical processes necessary to effectively support technology implementation in your district or school.

Understanding Assistive Technology: Policy and Implications for State Leaders – Assistive technology (AT) is an essential part of your overall technology plan. Watch this webinar to learn more about the legal requirements for AT, different types of AT supports, and the role of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Contact the CTD Technical Assistance Lead for SEA/LEA support, Kristin Ruedel – KRuedel@air.org.

For more information, visit CTD on the web!

GetATStuff website closing

Assistive Technology Exchange in New England & New York - Get AT StuffAfter ten years of service, the Maine CITE Coordinating Center along with the New York and New England Assistive Technology State programs have decided to close the Get AT Stuff Assistive Technology Exchange at the end of September 2018.

No new postings will be accepted after September 20th and the GetATStuff.com website will be closed on September 30, 2018. All postings to sell or give away AT equipment listed on GetATStuff.com will be removed on September 30 and all personal information deleted from the system.

Here are some options for donating or selling your used AT/equipment:

Additional resources and information are located on our Equipment Reuse page…

For further assistance please contact the Maine CITE Coordinating Center at 207-621-3195 V or Maine Relay 711.

 

Work & Benefits Navigator Training Available

From MaineHealth Educational Services and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services…

A person receiving Social Security disability benefits or SSI has likely been told they can’t work, or if they do work that they should limit their hours. They may believe they can’t work. They may have limited work experience or education. And likely they fear losing their financial and medical safety net if they try to work.

How can a service provider encourage work for a consumer who is living this experience? What is a social service provider to do in this “Employment First” state, especially without experience in employment services?

Join a session to learn what “Work and Benefits Navigation” means, and how you can be an employment champion for your clients and your agency.

As case managers, community integration workers, DSPs, residential staff, or others with a supporting role in the life of a person with a disability, you have a critical role in the employment success of the individuals you serve.  Work and Benefits Navigation training will equip you with information, skills, and resources you need to challenge myths about work and benefits and encourage employment.

Training will be provided by Community Work Incentives Coordinators (CWICs) from Maine Medical Center’s Department of Vocational Services.  They have many years of experience in assisting people with navigating Social Security’s return-to-work rules, and encouraging them – and those who play a supporting role in their lives – to think about earnings and work in a new way.

Use this link for more information and to register for the training programs…