Open Q&A Session on the Revised 508 Standards

From the U.S. Access Board…

US Access Board logoThe next webinar in the Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series will take place April 30 from 1:00 to 2:30 (ET) and provide an opportunity for attendees to pose questions to the Access Board on the revised Section 508 Standards. The 508 Standards apply to information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector such as computers, telecommunications equipment, printers, software, websites, information kiosks and transaction machines, and electronic documents. Questions are welcome on all sections of the standards, including application and scoping, functional performance criteria, hardware and software requirements, support documentation and services, and referenced standards. Access Board ICT Specialists will also address questions about companion guidelines for telecommunications equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act and any other topics related to the Board’s activities on accessible ICT.

Participants are encouraged to submit their questions in advance of the session through the registration portal. They can also pose questions during the live webinar. This session will be helpful to anyone involved in complying with the 508 Standards or interested in ICT accessibility. Join us for a lively and informative discussion.

Use this link for more details or to register for this free webinar

The Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series provides helpful information and best practices for federal agencies in meeting their obligations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which ensures access to information and communication technology in the federal sector. This webinar series is made available by the Accessibility Community of Practice of the CIO Council in partnership with the U.S. Access Board.

Free Accessible Educational Videos Available

Closed Captioning symbolThe Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) provides access to over 8,000 accessible educational videos on DVD and online streaming. Families, educators, and other professionals who have at least one qualifying student qualify for membership.

Registration is easy, and it takes only a few minutes to fill out the form and verify email. Please use this form to sign up…

There are no costs associated with any of our services.

New law promises to make federal websites more accessible

From the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT):

The Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA)

US Capitol DomeThe year 2018 closed with the passage of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (21C-IDEA) in December, which promises to make federal websites more accessible, user friendly, and secure.

This new law requires federal agencies to modernize the websites and digital services they offer, according to eight specific criteria, including accessibility for people with disabilities. All federal agencies in the Executive Branch must already meet the accessibility standards of Rehabilitation Act Section 508, as codified in the Section 508 Rule published by the U.S. Access Board.  However, 21C-IDEA is noteworthy for several reasons, including its emphasis on increasing agencies’ compliance with Section 508.

Within 180 days of the law’s passage, all new and redesigned federal websites must comply with the new criteria, and agencies must submit plans to Congress for how they will accelerate the use of electronic signatures.

21C-IDEA also requires federal chief information officers (CIOs) to coordinate with other executives and ensure that departments plan adequate funding and resources to execute these requirements.

The provisions include several significant requirements to make federal websites more user friendly, usable, and robust for all users, including a requirement that digital formats of all paper-based forms be available within two years. Under the requirements of 21C-IDEA, federal websites must:

  • provide a customized digital experience to individual users
  • maintain a consistent appearance
  • be fully functional and usable on common mobile devices
  • use an industry-standard secure connection
  • contain a search function that allows users to easily search content intended for public use

These user-friendly requirements overlap substantially with principles of Universal Design, and their use by federal agencies should help make federal websites easier to use for everyone, including people with disabilities.

 

Webinars – March 2019

Maine AEM webinars in March February

computer keyboardOn March 27, 2019 at 3:15 pm ET, John Brandt and Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles will present Assistive Technology and AEM: What School Psychologists Need to Know.

School psychologists play and important role in the IEP Team process, helping to identify students’ strengths and challenges based upon their clinical observations and psychoeducational assessment tools. In this presentation, designed for school psychologists, participants learn about the common forms of Assistive Technology (AT) used in schools and well as the how Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) is important to students with disabilities. Use this link for more information and to register for the March 27th webinar

Other February Webinars

The following list comes from the Accessible Technology Coalition. Use this link to sign up for their mailing list.

AT Basics from JAN
March 12, 2019 at 4:00 pm ET

AEM in the IEP: Where Do Accessible Materials and Technologies Fit?  from AEM Center
March 12, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET.

AAC 101 for Paraeducators: Implementing AAC in the Classroom from SETC
March 12, 2019 at 6:30 pm ET.

Autism and Visual Supports: Powerful Strategies for School, Home, and the Community from EdWeb
Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET.

AT Chatter: Vision Supports and Tech Tools from SETC
March 18, 2019 at 2:30 pm ET.

Section 508 Best Practices Webinar: Accessible Content Shared Through Social Media from the US Access Board
March 26, 2019 at 1:00 pm ET.

AEM Quality Indicators for K-12, Part 4: Collecting and Using Data to Monitor and Evaluate System Effectiveness from AEM Center
March 26, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET.

An Introduction to Non-Invasive Brain-Computer Interface Techniques for AAC  from USSAAC
March 27, 2019 at 7:00 pm ET.

AEM Quality Indicators for K-12, Part 5: Allocating Resources from AEM Center
Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at 3:00 PM ET.

Webinar: Accessible Content Shared Through Social Media

The following comes from the U.S. Access Board

Section 508 Best Practices Webinar: Accessible Content Shared Through Social Media

US Access Board logoMarch 26, 2019, 1:00- 2:30 (ET)

Presenters:

  • Jennifer Dorsey, Social Media Coordinator, NIH National Cancer Institute
  • Gary Morin, Program Analyst, NIH Office of the Chief Information Officer

The use of social media by federal agencies has become widespread across the federal government. Agencies use social media to promote their mission and to engage members of the public. The next webinar in the Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series will take place March 26 from 1:00 to 2:30 (ET) and cover how federal agencies can implement social media in an accessible manner. Representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will share their experiences in ensuring access to various social media sites and platforms. NIH maintains over 60 Facebook pages, 40 YouTube channels, 13 Flickr pages, and numerous Twitter accounts.

The presenters will provide an overview of social media techniques, address common questions, review access issues and solutions, and offer best practices and techniques for making content accessible on various social media platforms, including Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Twitter, and YouTube. They will also cover internal guidance that NIH has developed and other resources on the subject that are available. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session or can be posed during the live webinar.

For more details or to register, visit accessibilityonline.org

The Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series provides helpful information and best practices for federal agencies in meeting their obligations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which ensures access to information and communication technology in the federal sector. This webinar series is made available by the Accessibility Community of Practice of the CIO Council in partnership with the U.S. Access Board.

Note: Registration closes 24 hours before the start of the session. Instructions for accessing the webinar on the day of the session will be sent via email to registered individuals in advance of the session. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) and Video Sign Language Interpreters are available for each session and will be broadcast via the webinar platform. A telephone option (not toll-free) for receiving audio is also available.

New Xbox Adaptive Controller – Try it out!

Owen and friend play with XboxIf you are a New England Patriots fan you watched a wonderful Super Bowl win a few weeks ago and, no doubt, enjoyed the many special Super Bowl ads which have become almost as popular as the game itself. So, you probably saw the special advertisement featuring a group of children extolling the virtues of the newly released Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller (if you missed the ad, we’ve provided a link below). As they say, the video “went viral” but not just because of the product, but the impact of the product on the lives of children with disabilities.

“What I like about the Adaptive Controller is that now everyone can play…”

About the new device

Microsoft Xbox Adaptive ControllerAs reported in the AT3 Center’s Blog, the Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller was released last September and is the first of its kind video game controller designed specifically for people with disabilities.

Ben Jacobs, Accommodations Specialist at GA Tools for Life, and a gamer since childhood, doesn’t mince words about the significance of this release, “For a first-party company to acknowledge there’s a demographic they were missing and create a controller is amazing. Also, I can’t think of how to make this controller any better than it is.” In a recent article in the AT3 Center’s Monthly Blog, Jacobs goes on to explain: “The Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) falls into the category of gorgeous AT. While its branding fits with other Xbox controllers, it is distinguished by two large responsive black buttons set in an elegant bone console. Jacobs stresses, however, that the central achievement of the XAC is how it works as a hub to allow for all kinds of customization.”

And, according to the touching video ad which shows a half dozen children using the Xbox Adaptive Controller, apparently it is a hit with kids. As one boy in the video says, “I love video games, my friends, my family and again video games…” The boy’s father, moved to tears, is later seen in the ad saying, “It’s his way if interacting with his friends when he can’t physically otherwise do it…”

For the AT techs and gamers, Jacobs notes the Controller houses 19 3.5 mm input jacks and two USB ports for switch accessibility to every function, a testament to Microsoft’s commitment to building a device that works within the existing AT ecosystem. He adds, “for gamers with motor disabilities, this is profound. The Xbox Adaptive Controller’s built-in buttons will work for some users (and the console is ready for mounting with three threaded holes), but the unit’s interoperability with third-party switches means individuals with an existing method of gaming on a PC can get quickly comfortable on the Xbox.”

“Whether it’s a head array or switches for use with a knee, however a gamer uses switches, they can use the Xbox controller,” Jacobs says.

Try Before You Buy

AT4Maine - Assistive Technology of All Maine PeopleWhile the Xbox Adaptive Controller is reasonably priced at around $100 it is always great when you can “try it before you buy it” just to make sure a product is right for you or your family member. Fortunately, Kevin Good, Special Education faculty at the University of Maine Farmington and coordinator of the Center for Assistive Technology’s Collection of Assistive Technology (AT) at UMF anticipated this need and added TWO of the Xbox Adaptive Controller to the university’s AT collection. Supported by Maine CITE, Maine’s Assistive Technology Act program, the Adaptive Controllers are part of a statewide collection of AT that is available to all citizens of Maine. Information about these devices, and over 1,200 other assistive technology devices that are available to borrow on a short-term loan, may be found at AT4Maine.org the online repository for the UMF collection, as well as three other AT equipment loan centers in Maine.

We’ve included the video of the Xbox Adaptive Controller ad below on the chance that you haven’t seen it. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it.

As Owen, the boy in the video says, “What I like about the Adaptive Controller is that now everyone can play…”

Special thanks to AT3 Center’s Eliza Anderson for the article See Xbox for All featuring the interview with Ben Jacobs.

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”

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]

 

 

Accessibility and Inclusion in K-12 Computer Science (CS) Education:

The following event is being sponsored by Great Lakes ADA Center:

Accessibility and Inclusion in K-12 Computer Science (CS) Education: Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities in the CS for All Movement

High School student working in laboratoryJoin us for the kick off webinar in the 2019 Accessible Technology Webinar Series.

The session is on Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 2:00 pm ET.

Computer science (CS) is increasingly becoming part of the mainstream K-12 instructional experience. As more students are exposed to CS instruction, it is imperative that school districts, curriculum developers, and instructional designers consider the needs of all students, including those with disabilities. In this webinar, we will share national initiatives focused on inclusion and accessibility, including:

  • The CS for All Accessibility Pledge
  • Research and development efforts focused on accessibility in K-12 CS tools and curricula
  • Pedagogical approaches that schools are taking toward ensuring that all students can engage in CS education that is accessible, and meaningfully engaging.

We will also share accessibility and inclusion challenges faced by the CS education community and necessary steps that we must take to continue moving in a positive direction towards more inclusive, accessible CS education experiences.

Our Speakers:

Maya Israel – Associate Professor of Educational Technology, University of Florida
Todd Lash – PhD Student, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Register at the Accessible Technology Series website. This webinar will be live captioned and archived.

Open Q&A Session on the Revised 508 Standards

From the US Access Board…

Description

US Access Board logoThe next webinar in the Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series will take place January 29 from 1:00 to 2:30 (ET) and provide an opportunity for attendees to pose questions to the Access Board on the revised Section 508 Standards. The 508 Standards apply to information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector such as computers, telecommunications equipment, printers, software, websites, information kiosks and transaction machines, and electronic documents. Questions are welcome on all sections of the standards, including application and scoping, functional performance criteria, hardware and software requirements, support documentation and services, and referenced standards. Access Board ICT Specialists will also address questions about companion guidelines for telecommunications equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act and any other topics related to the Board’s activities on accessible ICT.

Participants are encouraged to submit their questions in advance of the session through the registration portal. They can also pose questions during the live webinar. This session will be helpful to anyone involved in complying with the 508 Standards or interested in ICT accessibility.

The Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series provides helpful information and best practices for federal agencies in meeting their obligations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which ensures access to electronic and information technology in the federal sector. This webinar series is made available by the Accessibility Community of Practice of the CIO Council in partnership with the U.S. Access Board.

Presenters

  • Bruce Bailey, ICT Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board
  • Timothy Creagan, Senior ICT Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board
  • Katherine Eng, ICT Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board

Registration:

Use this link for more details or to register for this free webinar…

Note: Registration closes 24 hours before the start of the session. Instructions for accessing the webinar on the day of the session will be sent via email to registered individuals in advance of the session. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) and Video Sign Language Interpreters are available for each session and will be broadcast via the webinar platform. A telephone option (not toll-free) for receiving audio is also available.