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Subject:

Re: Fw: Colleges Focus on Making Web Sites Work for People WithDisabilities

From:

Kathryn Hawes <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 29 Jan 2001 15:23:35 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (363 lines)

Hope this web site helps you. It is a Memphis regional center.
http://www.people.memphis.edu/~coe_act/index.htm

Stephanie Marsh wrote:

> I need to have a computer station that is set up to meet the needs of
> hearing or sight impaired students.  Does anyone have suggestions about what
> to purchase???  Thanks in advance.
>
> The following is an article from the Chronicle that gets us thinking about
> how we can (and must!) better serve students with disabilities .....
>
> Subject: Fw: Colleges Focus on Making Web Sites Work for People With
> Disabilities
> > >   Friday, January 26, 2001
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >   Colleges Focus on Making Web Sites Work for People With
> > >   Disabilities
> > >
> > >   By ANDREA L. FOSTER
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >   When Margo L. Bailey, an assistant professor of public
> > >   administration at American University, posted on the World
> > >   Wide Web the syllabus and handouts for her course on personnel
> > >   administration, she gained a fan.
> > >
> > >   Thomas McKeithan II, a blind student in her class, realized
> > >   that he wouldn't have to depend on others to read aloud notes
> > >   and other written material. Software that recognizes online
> > >   text could do the job.
> > >
> > >   "I just walked up to her and said, 'Did you know I was coming
> > >   to the class? You just made my life a hell of a lot easier,'"
> > >   says Mr. McKeithan, an undergraduate in his sixth year. Ms.
> > >   Bailey was nonplused. "I told her, 'You just don't understand.
> > >   I don't have to carry around a lot of paper. I can read this
> > >   on my own.'"
> > >
> > >   For disabled college students, professors' increased use of
> > >   the Web for instruction can create obstacles rather than clear
> > >   them away. Many disabled students find that new technology
> > >   cuts them off from the learning process.
> > >
> > >   To prevent that, colleges are -- among other things --
> > >   designing Web sites and buying computer workstations that meet
> > >   the needs of disabled students.
> > >
> > >   Fueling the activity is the government's enforcement of the
> > >   Americans With Disabilities Act at California community
> > >   colleges following complaints by students there. In addition,
> > >   a new rule requires federal agencies and state institutions to
> > >   make their Web sites accessible to disabled people.
> > >
> > >   In January 1998, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for
> > >   Civil Rights cited the A.D.A. in ordering California's
> > >   community colleges to take specific steps to make print and
> > >   electronic information available to visually impaired
> > >   students.
> > >
> > >   Meanwhile, the new federal regulation clarifies Section 508 of
> > >   the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. State-controlled colleges must
> > >   make their Web sites accessible, and make sure that when they
> > >   purchase new computer hardware and software, the machines and
> > >   programs can be adapted for use by disabled people.
> > >
> > >   Although the rule was written primarily to aid federal
> > >   employees and those who use federal Web sites, state
> > >   institutions, too, are required to comply with Section 508,
> > >   because all states receive money under the Assistive
> > >   Technology Act. "Section 508 is the A.D.A. of cyberspace,"
> > >   says Cynthia Waddell, an expert on disability law and
> > >   information technology.
> > >
> > >   Many state universities are only now beginning to learn that
> > >   the new rule will apply to them. And while private
> > >   institutions are not covered, advocates for the disabled say
> > >   the rule is likely to spur the creation of products to promote
> > >   Web use by disabled people, and that those products will also
> > >   benefit students at private colleges.
> > >
> > >   The regulation is scheduled to go into effect June 21. But the
> > >   new Bush administration says published regulations that have
> > >   not yet taken effect will have their enforcement date delayed
> > >   for 60 days, while they are reviewed.
> > >
> > >   None of the college administrators interviewed for this
> > >   article oppose the regulation. But that doesn't mean it's
> > >   pain-free.
> > >
> > >   "I don't think there's anybody that would take a public
> > >   posture that this is not an appropriate next step," says
> > >   Sheldon E. Steinbach, vice president of the American Council
> > >   on Education. "But at the same time, one should acknowledge
> > >   that this is another additional cost that ultimately has to be
> > >   paid in some manner, which usually means an increase in
> > >   tuition and fees."
> > >
> > >   Disabled students say the regulation is necessary. Lured by
> > >   Web-design products, professors often create colorful,
> > >   stylish, and audible Internet sites for their classes. But
> > >   students with limited vision struggle to comprehend electronic
> > >   pictures and graphs, audio material is meaningless to the
> > >   deaf, and those with impaired mobility can struggle just to
> > >   send an e-mail message.
> > >
> > >   Among other things, the rule clarification means that
> > >   state-university Web pages must provide text alternatives to
> > >   images and make color-coded information available without
> > >   color.
> > >
> > >   Video and multimedia productions understood through visual
> > >   data must be made audible as well.
> > >
> > >   Colleges have much work to do. Last year, Axel Schmetzke, an
> > >   assistant professor of library services on the University of
> > >   Wisconsin's Stevens Point campus, surveyed the home pages of
> > >   24 colleges, along with a connecting link from each page. He
> > >   chose the 24 colleges because they are known for having
> > >   first-rate library schools. But he found that, on average,
> > >   only half of the pages were accessible to people with
> > >   disabilities.
> > >
> > >   The new rule also applies to purchases of computers, printers,
> > >   fax machines, and video and multimedia equipment. Such
> > >   equipment must meet certain height and reach requirements,
> > >   either by being adjustable or through installation. Software
> > >   to interpret images and hyperlinks on a Web page must be made
> > >   available to visually impaired students.
> > >
> > >   The regulation will have the biggest impact on distance
> > >   education, according to a lawyer with experience in
> > >   disabilities issues. "Some faculty, to keep students
> > >   interested, use Internet technology and Web-design techniques
> > >   that may not easily translate to an accessible medium for
> > >   disabled persons," says Thornton Wilson, an assistant attorney
> > >   general in Washington State, who gives legal advice to the
> > >   University of Washington.
> > >
> > >   "Streaming audio is of no use to the deaf. Or an e-mail chat
> > >   room that allows many students to discuss a topic
> > >   simultaneously can be difficult for a blind person to follow,
> > >   even with screen-reading software. Faculty will need to
> > >   reconsider how they use the Internet in their courses," he
> > >   says.
> > >
> > >   Norman Coombs, director of an organization called Equal Access
> > >   to Software Information, or EASI, predicts that the new rule
> > >   will make adaptive technology more widely available to all
> > >   colleges, at competitive prices. The Rochester, N.Y.-based
> > >   group, affiliated with the American Association for Higher
> > >   Education, advises schools and colleges on making computer
> > >   technology more accessible.
> > >
> > >   "A lot of software and hardware producers have treated the
> > >   disability market as too small to put much effort into," he
> > >   says. "But the government market is a big one, and vendors and
> > >   producers will now pay attention to the market as they never
> > >   did before."
> > >
> > >   SSB Technologies, a software company in San Francisco,
> > >   released two software products in May that are designed to
> > >   make Web sites more accessible. InSight scans the sites and
> > >   flags areas that could cause problems for disabled users,
> > >   while InFocus fixes the flagged areas, says the company's
> > >   president, Marco Sorani. California's community colleges are
> > >   using the products, he adds.
> > >
> > >   Some institutions use software called Bobby, which functions
> > >   like a spelling checker, to diagnose accessibility problems.
> > >   The program was created by the Center for Applied Special
> > >   Technology, a non-profit group, based in Peabody, Mass.
> > >
> > >   Even before the clarification of Section 508 was proposed,
> > >   both public and private universities had been showing greater
> > >   interest in making technology more available to disabled
> > >   users. The Department of Education's use of the A.D.A. to
> > >   force California community colleges to respond to student
> > >   grievances has not been lost on other colleges. Disabled
> > >   students are becoming increasingly assertive, colleges are
> > >   fearful of disability-related litigation, and the percentage
> > >   of college students who are disabled is growing.
> > >
> > >   According to a survey by the American Council on Education,
> > >   the proportion of freshmen reporting disabilities increased
> > >   from about 3 percent in 1978 to 9 percent in 1998. (The
> > >   disability most commonly cited in 1998 was learning
> > >   disability.)
> > >
> > >   In September, the presidents of 25 research universities said
> > >   in a letter to President Clinton that they are committed to
> > >   making information and communications technologies accessible
> > >   to people with disabilities. Also last year, Connecticut's
> > >   information-technology office announced a policy requiring
> > >   state agencies, including colleges, to make Web pages
> > >   accessible to the disabled.
> > >
> > >   Now college officials are asking Mr. Coombs, of EASI, about
> > >   making campus technology available to the disabled.
> > >   Participation in the group's online workshops has been brisk,
> > >   he says, and conference sessions on the needs of disabled
> > >   students are attracting larger audiences.
> > >
> > >   How much it will cost universities to meet the new
> > >   requirements is anybody's guess. The Department of Education
> > >   has not provided an estimate. California's community colleges
> > >   are receiving $11-million from the state to put the federal
> > >   requirements into effect.
> > >
> > >   But the real stumbling block to making adaptive technology
> > >   more widely available is not cost, say advocates for the
> > >   disabled. It is a university's attitude and organization.
> > >
> > >   On some campuses, Mr. Coombs says, departments get mired in
> > >   squabbles over which of them will pick up the tab. If top
> > >   administrators are committed to the needs of disabled
> > >   students, he observes, the cost can be spread out across
> > >   several departments or the whole university budget.
> > >
> > >   Some advocates say having a collegewide policy on adaptive
> > >   technology is the key. Because of a lack of coordination among
> > >   campus Web designers, though, it is common to see only a
> > >   smattering of accessible Web sites within a university, says
> > >   Jane Jarrow, president of Disability Access Information and
> > >   Support, a consulting company in Columbus, Ohio, that focuses
> > >   on accessibility issues.
> > >
> > >   California decided to hire a person on each of its 108
> > >   community-college campuses to respond to the recommendations
> > >   of the Department of Education. The civil-rights office had
> > >   noted, among other things, that many of the colleges did not
> > >   have effective procedures for providing students with
> > >   documents in Braille or large print.
> > >
> > >   "There is some cost associated with modification of software,"
> > >   says Ralph Black, general counsel to the chancellor's office
> > >   of the community-college system. "But most of this is simply
> > >   design work -- having a person who knows how to deal with
> > >   modifying a Web site, is able to follow guidelines developed
> > >   by other entities, and can go through and label text with
> > >   images."
> > >
> > >   Ms. Jarrow tells colleges to design Web sites that are
> > >   accessible from the start. Since one university can have
> > >   hundreds of thousands of Web pages, making changes after the
> > >   fact can be inordinately time-consuming -- as many colleges
> > >   are now discovering, she says.
> > >
> > >   "It's going to be nearly impossible to retrofit Web sites of
> > >   that size to make sure they're accessible. What colleges ought
> > >   to be doing is making some hard decisions and saying, 'Nothing
> > >   will get posted unless these rules are followed.' Instead of
> > >   clearing up, the problem is getting worse, because more stuff
> > >   is getting posted."
> > >
> > >   Kirk Snedeker, the Web manager at Southern Connecticut State
> > >   University, concluded that it would be easier to construct an
> > >   alternative site for disabled users than to revamp the
> > >   university's current site, which comprises 1,000 pages. He
> > >   hopes to have the alternative site up and running in June.
> > >
> > >   Visitors would reach it by following a link on the home page.
> > >   A decision on revising other university-affiliated Web sites,
> > >   like those operated by the student center and the health
> > >   center, has yet to be reached, he says.
> > >
> > >   Jan Hecht, coordinator of adaptive-technology services at
> > >   Southern Connecticut, is spreading the word to faculty members
> > >   about making their Web sites accessible. The university relies
> > >   on Web-design software from WebCT, which doesn't prompt users
> > >   to attach textual descriptions to graphics, she says, so she
> > >   reminds professors to do it by hand.
> > >
> > >   WebCT plans to release software that contains such prompts in
> > >   December, says Glen Low, director of educational technology
> > >   and development.
> > >
> > >   College-affiliated research-and-training centers are working
> > >   to help other colleges develop procedures for making their
> > >   sites accessible. The World Wide Web Consortium's Web
> > >   Accessibility Initiative, at the Massachusetts Institute of
> > >   Technology, has established standards for Web developers that
> > >   many colleges have adopted.
> > >
> > >   The federal government used the standards last year as a model
> > >   for the new regulation (http://www.w3.org/WAI). Universities
> > >   can also get help from the Center for Rehabilitation
> > >   Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
> > >
> > >   In addition, the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media is
> > >   collaborating with M.I.T.'s Center for Advanced Educational
> > >   Services to make an interactive, online physics course
> > >   available to students with visual and hearing impairments. The
> > >   project is based on a popular introductory-physics course
> > >   taught at M.I.T. by Walter Lewin.
> > >
> > >   But before colleges seek out technical support, they might
> > >   want to listen to the disabled students themselves. At
> > >   American University, Mr. McKeithan recalls a meeting with
> > >   administrators a little over a year ago at which adaptive
> > >   technology was discussed.
> > >
> > >   "I said, 'Look, every student pays the requisite cost to come
> > >   to this institution. It's an unacceptable practice that we
> > >   don't have this or we don't have that to get the job done.
> > >   Don't come to me saying we don't have the money to make it
> > >   accessible. Your priorities are in the wrong place.'"
> > >
> > >   On the other hand, Shelley Reeves, director of
> > >   disability-support services at American, says she has
> > >   "received nothing but support from the university."
> > >
> > >   "We're constantly evaluating where we need to go and how we
> > >   need to get there."
> > >
> > >   During the 2000 fiscal year, American University spent $21,918
> > >   on adaptive-technology equipment, including $1,050 for
> > >   Braille-translation software; $3,825 for a Braille printer
> > >   with speech capability; $1,515 for screen magnifiers; and
> > >   $3,000 for four height-adjustable workstations.
> > >
> > >   Mr. McKeithan says officials have, in fact, generally been
> > >   responsive to demands to make technology more accessible to
> > >   disabled students. Nonetheless, he insists that the university
> > >   -- like others -- can do more.
> > >
> > >
> > > _________________________________________________________________
> > >
> > > Chronicle subscribers can read this article on the Web at this address:
> > > http://chronicle.com/free/2001/01/2001012601t.htm
> > >
> > > If you would like to have complete access to The Chronicle's Web
> > > site, a special subscription offer can be found at:
> > >
> > >    http://chronicle.com/4free
> > >
> > > Use the code D00CM when ordering.
> > >
> > > _________________________________________________________________
> > >
> > > You may visit The Chronicle as follows:
> > >
> > >    * via the World-Wide Web, at http://chronicle.com
> > >    * via telnet at chronicle.com
> > >
> > > _________________________________________________________________
> > > Copyright 2001 by The Chronicle of Higher Education
> > >
> >

--
**********************************************
Dr. Kathryn Hawes
Administration Building #203
Campus Box 526621
The University of Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee 38152
Phone (901)678-5110
Fax (901)678-2163

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