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”

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.

 

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.

 

ARIA – What should we know?

ARIA W3C logoAccording to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “…ARIA, the Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite, defines a way to make Web content and Web applications more accessible to people with disabilities. It especially helps with dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with Ajax, HTML, JavaScript, and related technologies. Currently certain functionality used in Web sites is not available to some users with disabilities, especially people who rely on screen readers and people who cannot use a mouse. ARIA addresses these accessibility challenges, for example, by defining new ways for functionality to be provided to assistive technology. With ARIA, developers can make advanced Web applications accessible and usable to people with disabilities.”

But some critics have said that ARIA has “tried to be too many things to too many people” and has resulted in more problems that solutions. This recent blog article by WebAIM summarizes the controversies and gets into some of the nitty-gritty on ARIA. Be aware that this is rather technical stuff; something directed mostly to web developers.