Reach Accessibility Goals for Higher Education

A new article in Inside Higher Ed magazine Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals details the importance of  institutions of higher education having “coherent policies around accessibility” and cites “…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 notes that time constraints make be a factor. Quoting our colleague 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, which is exactly what the quality indicators are designed for,” 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 staff person is John Brandt who serves training and operations coordinator. Brandt’s own 25-year experience in web development and accessibility suggest that the perceived economic factor is probably the largest factor in equation. “Most organizations look at accessibility as a ‘high-cost’ item because they are approaching from a mitigation perspective as opposed to looking forward and seeking continuous improvement. They think, ‘we’ve got 5,000 PDFs that are not accessible, it is going to cost us lots of money to fix all of them,'” Brandt explains. “I often suggest that they take a good long look at those 5,000 PDF and do some ‘spring cleaning.’ This often results in a recognition that much of what they are keeping can be easily tossed.”

While most web accessibility experts will talk about “adding accessibility in at the beginning” of a web design process, but colleges and universities are often not able to do this since they are among the first organizations that had websites in the 1990s.

The Inside Higher Education article promotes a new set of quality indicators for accessible educational materials developed by NC-AEM and 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 “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies” 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 notes that “institutions 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]

 

 

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.

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.

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!

Maine DOE Announces Award for Management of Assistive Technology

From the Maine DOE…

Maine CITE Coordinating Center logoAUGUSTA July 17, 2018 – The Maine Department of Education is pleased to announce that Maine CITE Coordinating Center has been awarded a grant to provide management of assistive technology (AT) services under the federal Assistive Technology Act of 2004 (ATA).

The Maine CITE Coordinating Center has served as the ATA Grant Manager since the federal law was enacted in 1989. Maine CITE oversees a statewide effort to get assistive technology (AT) to people of all ages with disabilities who need it through device demonstrations, device loans and AT reuse. Maine CITE also provides public awareness, information and referral, and training and technical assistance on AT.

Kathy Adams OTL, ATP the Director of the Maine CITE Coordinating Center said, “we are very pleased to be awarded this grant. AT can be essential in education, employment, community living and telecommunications. We renew our commitment to assisting Maine citizens with disabilities to learn about and get the AT they need and want to lead productive independent lives.”

Under this grant, Maine CITE will continue to support the needs of Maine students with print disabilities through the Maine Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) Program as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004. The statewide Maine AEM Program works to improve students’ access to AEM and to facilitate the use of AT.

Jan Breton, Director of Special Services Birth – 20 said, “we are very pleased to continue working with Maine CITE which has demonstrated over many years its commitment to expanding and supporting the use of technology to assist people with disabilities.”

For details about Assistive Technology (AT) and the Maine Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) Program visit mainecite.org or maine-aem.org.

For information on AT demonstrations and loans visit at4maine.org.

Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology in Post-Secondary Education

Accessibility pictogramFrom the Great Lakes ADA Center…

The Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology in Post-Secondary Education (QIAT-PS) project created a set of indicators to describe the characteristics of high quality AT services provided to students in Post-Secondary educational environments.

The indicators are divided into five general areas:

  1. Awareness and Eligibility -The Awareness and Eligibility area describes the steps programs take to make sure that students with disabilities are aware of AT services on the campus and know how to get access to them.
  2. Planning and Implementation -The Planning and Implementation area describes the things that programs do to make sure that students are able to use their AT devices as accommodations in classrooms and other campus settings.
  3. Evaluation of Effectiveness – Evaluation of effectiveness addresses activities that programs engage in to help ensure that their AT services are effective and as efficient as possible.
  4. Administrative Support -The administrative supports that are necessary in order to ensure continuity of program improvement efforts are described in this area. The indicators address the development of policies, procedures and other supports needed in order to maintain and improve AT programs at the Post-Secondary level.
  5. Professional Development and Training – Professional development and training describes critical features of AT training efforts for all staff and other key players in the AT program.

One of the primary interactive tools developed by QIAT-PS project is the Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix. The Matrix is a descriptive rating scale for each quality indicator. It is intended to be used for internal program evaluation and goal setting to improve AT services and supports. An individual or team using the tool chooses the indicator variation from 1 to 5 which most closely matches their program, 1 being a novice and 5 being expert or advanced. There is a notes section to add details about the matrix the score. With QIAT-PS, you can create a free institutional account that will allow you to keep multiple versions of your Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix results, create comparison reports, and generate an action plans to set goals and receive goal activity reminders.

Emily Hinton, Access Center for Disability Resources Manager at Waubonsee Community College in Illinois shared how her school has used the Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix:

“In the world of social service professionals, many of us are not numbers people, myself included. Much of our data is subjective and comes in the form of anecdotes and perceived trends. So, when I first became aware of QIAT-PS in December, 2015, I was intrigued by the possibility of a tool that could provide quantitative data. The tool also happened to coincide nicely with a newly developed team on campus that I was charged with leading, the Digital/Technology Accessibility Team of the the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC). The AAC is a cross-functional committee that includes employees from a variety of areas on campus including Business, Operations, Student Development and Instruction.

“The committee first met December, 2013 and primarily focused on physical accessibility needs for our institution’s four campuses. In Fall 2015, the AAC identified that there were additional areas requiring accessibility review and the Digital/Technology Accessibility Team was formed as well a Policy, Procedures and Guidelines Team and Physical Accessibility.

“The development of teams allowed for participation from even more departments. The Digital/Technology Team includes representation from Information Technology, Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (training), Library, Bookstore, Educational Television and Marketing and Communications. This team worked to develop a three-year plan to address digital and technology needs for the institution and provided a framework of projects and tasks to be completed to improve accessibility. It is to this team that I proposed completing the QIAT-PS Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix. The team completed the matrix in Spring 2016, creating baseline data that showed what areas were the most lacking in assistive technology and accessibility and what areas we could easily move the needle. We were able to develop an Action Plan and incorporate it into our three-year plan.

“Fast forward two years to Spring 2018 and we completed the QIAT-PS Campus Self Evaluation Matrix for the second time. We were easily able to compare the matrices in our QIAT-PS account and identify that we had improved in 10 out of 25 indicators (40%)! Our goal is to continue using Action Plans created through the Campus Self-Evaluation Matrix to inform our ongoing three-year plan. It is an excellent way to keep momentum moving in accessibility improvements and ultimately result in a better student experience.”

To sign up for a free account and use the Campus Self-Evaluation matrix, visit QIAT-PS. Please contact Janet Peters at jpete@uic.edu or call 312-413-5931 to request an onsite training for the QIAT-PS tools.