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”

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.

 

Mobile Accessibility Testing Guide for Android and iOS

Android TabletsA new accessibility resource has been made available from the Paciello Group:

“The TPG Mobile Accessibility Testing for Android and iOS (PDF, 2.6MB) is a free accessible PDF outlining how to test native apps and the web for accessibility on Android and iOS. It provides an overview of accessibility settings, how to use them and common testing tools.

“Instructions on how to test content are provided for Android Talkback, iOS VoiceOver, zoom and switch settings. Also included are some testing tips, differences between testing mobile web and native apps, as well as an explanation of gestures and how to use them.

“This is a great document to use if you are testing, developing or designing apps and need to understand how accessible your content is and how usable it is for people of different abilities.”

More information on the Paciello Group website…


Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by WikiMedia Commons

Digital Accessibility Toolkit for State and District Education Leaders

StudentsAccessibility of websites and other digital technologies have seen increased attention this year from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights when it comes to state departments of education and school districts.

eSchool News published a recent article about a Digital Accessibility Toolkit for state and district education leaders.  The toolkit provides an overview of digital accessibility in four areas:

  • Why accessibility is important;
  • Procurement of accessible technology by states and districts;
  • Benefits of accessible technology; and
  • The last section is a discussion of the legal requirements for digital accessibility.

Resources

And also check out the new Accessibility in Schools resource here on the Maine CITE website.

 

Robot assists student in need

Double Robotics - DoubleAs reported in the Portland Press Herald and News Center – WCSH-6 – Portland, the Vassalboro Community School in AOS92 has recently purchased a Double Robotics telepresence device to assist on of their students with a chronic illness who is not able to attend school.

The device, called “Double” is a remote student-controlled robotic device that is able to navigate through the school and allow the student to attend classes and interact with students and teachers from home. The device was created by a company called Double Robotics a California-based technology company.  As noted in the Press Herald article:

“Double is an iPad mounted on wheels that Abby (the student) is able to remotely control over Wi-Fi. Think Skype on a Segway.

“‘It acts as your double,’ says Sara Broyles, communications manager Double Robotics Inc., the company that created the ‘telepresence’ robot that Abby uses. ‘It gives you a physical presence where you can’t be in person.'”

The use of robots as assistive technology is growing across the country. We have posted more information about this device and others here on our website. 

Funding for this particular technology was provided by the Perloff Family Fund of the Maine Community Foundation.

Another source of funding is the Grahamtastic Foundation who currently has a fleet of nine robots working to support students in Maine schools.

More information