In the video, IT Accessibility: What Campus Leaders Have to Say, university presidents, chief information officers, and other information technology (IT) leaders speak to the worth of accessibility. Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate in education and ensuring campus technology is accessible to everyone who needs it before it is adopted are key takeaways.
A transcript of the video Accessibility: What Campus Leaders Have to Say is available. It was produced by the AccessComputing project, run by the department of computer science and engineering and
the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology Center
at the University of Washington, the video with funds from the
National Science Foundation.
When buying hardware or software for university use, it is good practice to ask vendors
specific questions regarding accessibility and to utilize the University
of Minnesota sample vendor contract language when appropriate.
As the article Access Denied illuminates, accessibility leaders point to key elements
that allow institutions to take a more proactive approach
to Information Technology (IT) accessibility on campus. The first key element is: "Building accessibility considerations into the IT
Ask Vendors Questions
When buying Information Technology products ask vendors specific questions regarding
accessibility. Some samples:
Do you have a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)? A VPAT is a starting point that may help determine what kind of accessibility
problems can be expected.
Can you demonstrate how to operate your product effectively without a
Does the product prompt authors to include accessibility, and provide relevant help?
To ensure that the requirements are satisfied, it is
recommended that each contract signed with a software vendor
contain the provision set forth below or substantially similar
Vendor hereby warrants that the products or services to be
provided under this agreement comply with the University of
Minnesota accessibility requirements. Vendor agrees to promptly
respond to and resolve any complaint regarding accessibility of
its products or services which is brought to its attention.
Vendor further agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the
University of Minnesota or any university entity using the
vendor's products or services from any claim arising out of its
failure to comply with the aforesaid requirements. Failure to
comply with these requirements shall constitute a breach and be
grounds for termination of this agreement.
In addition consider adding language regarding upgrades to
address the scenario for if/when a product "upgrade" actually makes a
product inaccessible. If a new version of a product is inaccessible
then the vendor breaks the contract.
In the video, Aleeha's Accessibility Story, a
zoology major at Miami University who is blind and is studying to
be a veterinarian speaks to how new accessible technology has
enabled her life and gives some uplifting advice.
Software and hardware have very recently been made accessible.
The minute it got into my hands I was just extremely excited
because, as soon as I started to work with it, as soon as we
started using it in practical applications, it was a huge change.
Because suddenly I didn't have to rely totally on a lab partner
or an assistant...
With the proper technology and the proper attitude by the
people, a blind person can go into this field...
There are many things that I could say to a young woman who
is going into science. The main thing I would say is "You can
do it". I don't care what you go through. I don't care how many
tests you get back that indicate that maybe you're not doing so
well in the class. I don't care how many bad days you have
because it's all worth it in the end. To get an accessible
experience in labs and in lectures. To learn about all these
interesting things that sighted people are doing that maybe
we're not included in, and it's about time that we're included
in them. So just keep pushing because we're gonna do it, and I
have a feeling it's going to be soon.
Chrome Extension May Help Improve Google Docs Accessibility
Read&Write extension for Google's Chrome browser may be
useful to some people with
print disabilities, especially those with learning
disabilities (cognitive) disorders. It may also be a tool for people who need a
little extra help with their writing. This article documents its
features, limitations, where to download it, and how to use
The Read&Write extension provides some
of the basic features of desktop Read&Write
software created by TextHelp. It allows a
user to have anything typed in a Google document read to them.
Sometimes everyone can benefit from hearing what a piece of
writing sounds like when read aloud. Features that are available
The extension is only functional within Google Docs while
using a Chrome browser. The ongoing battle in the accessibility community is Chrome-only solutions vs. other assistive technologies. Google's ecosystem is designing functionality for Chrome. It will not function with mainstream assistive technology (AT)
used by the larger screen reader community i.e., JAWS, WindowEyes, or
combination with Internet Explorer and Firefox. In preliminary testing this extension has not been found to be keyboard accessible. Users with disabilities may be unable to use a mouse or other pointing device and require keyboard shortcuts. It does not remove all Google
Mobile accessibility generally refers to making Web sites and
applications accessible to people with disabilities when they are
using mobile devices. Traditional
Web accessibility and its best practices are influencing
mobile design and can result in
Accessibility's Impact on Mobile
Traditional Web accessibility solutions are contributing to
solving the types of problems that mobile experiences. Things
such as on-screen keyboards and magnification have been staples
in accessibility since the eighties. As Matt May, an
accessibility evangelist, said in a video interview:
...what we've learned over decades of dealing with these
issues in the field of accessibility is that the things that were
needs for people with disabilities are now
wants for lots of other people.
Many fundamental accessibility best practices apply to mobile
interfaces and content. For instance, text and images need to
meet relevant requirements for sufficient color contrast, screens
need to be laid out in a way that permits intuitive navigation,
and controls need to respond to multiple modalities of input.
Users of mobile devices and people with disabilities
experience similar barriers when interacting with Web content.
For example, mobile phone users will have a hard time if a Web
site's navigation requires the use of a mouse...
They recommend addressing mobile and disability
accessibility at the same time:
Following these two guidelines makes your Web content more
accessible to everyone regardless of situation, environment, or
device. Designing to the guidelines together, instead of
separately, can make the process more efficient.
This all comes down to designing for the largest possible
audience regardless of disability or ability and is known as
universal design. It is an inclusive approach to design that
honors human diversity. Matt May's "Wanted:
Mobile Dev with 40 Years Experience" presentation slides
detail its seven principles:
Flexibility in Use
Simple and Intuitive Use
Tolerance for Error
Low Physical Effort
Size and Space for Approach and Use
Universality and the Curb Cut Effect
Taking the lessons learned from accessibility and bringing
them into the mobile space can contribute to
universality and result in an "Electronic Curb Cut Effect." A
multitude of benefits for other people can occur when developing
technology products and services with accessibility in mind just
as curb cuts for wheelchairs also help people with strollers,
shopping carts, and wheeled luggage.
Severity of Problems
However, curb cuts weren't put in for people with strollers,
shopping carts, and wheeled luggage. They were put in for people
with wheelchairs, because the of the severity of problems and
consequences. People with disabilities have a moral, legal, and
ethical right to access, which enables them as Matt May said in
the video "to live a life unfettered.":
...you can solve people's problems by making things a little
easier for them in their environment.
That carries over to everyone but it benefits people with
disabilities most because you're integrating that problem. You
realize if they can't do what they need to be doing they are
actually being blocked from something. So it is more than a
convenience. It is enabling someone to live a life
Chisholm, Wendy and May, Matt. Universal Design for
Web Applications: Web Applications That Reach Everyone,
O'Reilly Media, 2008.
What does "Web Accessibility" really mean? What all does that
term encompass? Why is it that some people are unable to use
certain web sites - and whose job is it to provide access? How can
you learn more about this topic?
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility means that web information/content is
obtainable and functional to people with disabilities. As a
universality, it refers to providing access for those who would
otherwise lose their opportunity to use the web. A correctly
designed web site or application is inclusive providing multi-modal
access. For instance it communicates effectively aurally as well as
visually. The strengths of the web, which makes it unique as a
medium of communication, is that it isn't limited to a single
output. That is the beauty.
The Why and Who of Web Accessibility
Numerous reasons exist for making the
web accessible. An underlying concept in the following video
"Personal Look at Accessibility in Higher Education", which
highlights the personal stories of several students and faculty
members and their experience with the lack of access to digital
content, is that:
Inaccessible Web content affects student experiences and
learning, faculty and staff productivity, and overall timeliness
and efficiency. Institutions of higher education have an
obligation to provide accessible web content...
In particular, Cherissa Alldredge a doctoral student with
visual/memory impairment explains how an accessible website enables
the path to academic success:
I can be equally as successful as any of my colleagues without
disabilities. The fact that I need an accessible website or other
accessibility tools doesn't diminish the value of my education or
my potential. It just means that my success has to occur in a
different way. And so I would encourage those watching this video
not to assume that I can't. But to assume that I can.
Touch Accessibility for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Due to advances in screen reader technology, voice controls,
gesture functionality, and add-on
applications some touch devices offer an inclusive experience for
the blind and visually impaired.
One such example is the iPhone. Its VoiceOver
screen reader adds reading functionality in combination with
accessible gesture commands. To identify an on-screen item a user
simply taps once and VoiceOver will
announce it. A subsequent double tap will activate that item.
Typing can be complicated so some people use Siri, a
voice-command feature. The iPhone has a number of third-party
applications designed for people with disabilities, such as a money
reader which identifies currency with the iPhone's camera and
speaks the denomination. It can also be connected to a refreshable
Braille display making it potentially usable to someone who is
deaf/blind and in need of a communication aid.
Some assistive technology users are unable to use the Google
Docs user interface. Often times it is more convenient for them
to download the Google Doc into its corresponding Microsoft
Office file format. It is possible to do this from within a
Google Doc by going to the application's "File" menu and choosing
"Download as". However, even this task can be difficult for some
assistive technology users because of the lack of support for
their assistive technology within Google Docs. This tool provides
a convenient way to download a Google Doc into its corresponding
Microsoft Office file format.
Multi-Sensory Approach to Learning With Assistive Technology
Kurzweil 3000 is an
assistive technology (AT) program designed to provide
a multi-sensory approach to learning via visual and
auditory feedback. Words are highlighted in context as they are
read aloud. It can help improve reading
speed and comprehension for students with disabilities.
Each individual possesses unique abilities, preferences, and
learning styles. Assistive technologies can help to accommodate
such unique characteristics and enable people who learn in different
ways. In the following video an Indiana State University student,
Tracy Brookshire, tells her story of how this particular AT has helped her achieve
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