Technology & Disability
Resources for Faculty and Staff
Disability Resources aims to provide students with equal access to all of SOU's classes and programs. Increasingly, technology provides both increased opportunities for independence in equal access and barriers to equal access. This page was created to help faculty and staff learn more about how to promote new opportunities and how they can help remove barriers.
Because technologies, and our resources to assist you with them, are constantly evolving and changing, check back here often for updates. Links will open a new browser window, allowing you easy return access to this page.
More information and personal consultations are available through our Assistive Technology Specialist, Shawn Foster. She is located in the Academic Support Programs office and can be reached by email or by calling 552-8449.
Contents of this page:
Web accessibility - why you should care about the accessibility of Web information to people with disabilities and how you can help ensure equal access to the Web
Assistive technology - how people with disabilties benefit from technology and what is available on campus to ensure independent, equal access
Academia increasingly relies on the use of the Web for research, study, and interaction. For some students with disabilities, this provides unprecedented access to information, tools, and people. For some students with disabilties, however, the Web and its quickly-broadening range of associated applications can create barriers to that information.
The Basics: What is Web Accessibility and Why Should You Care?
Essentially, Web accessibility means the ability of people with a variety of disabilities to perceive, understand, and use the Web and its related information and technologies. Looking at some examples: how will a student who is blind be able to perceive a diagram illustrating a chemical process posted on a Blackboard site? How will a student who is Deaf perceive an audio-only podcast? How will a student with a visual-processing learning disability understand a two page narrative process of steps? How will a student with a mobility impairment use a live chat room when typing with a headstick?
Currently, SOU's student population includes nearly 300 students that have registered with Disability Resources as having one or more disabilities. This translates to around 5.7% of the student population, making the students with disabilities subgroup larger than any student ethnic subgroup (2000 Fact Book, OUS). By comparison, 18.1% of the general population in the United States has a disability (2002 SIPP, U.S. Census Bureau).
There are some simple reasons to ensure equal access to Web information for these nearly 350 students:
- It's the right thing to do. Each student with a disability has paid tuition and works toward the same degree expectations as any other student of SOU. We, as faculty and staff, may need to make adjustments in how we deliver our programs, classes, and services, but these are students like any other students.
- It's the legal thing to do. As a public university, SOU must comply with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This states:
Subject to the provisions of this title, no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity. [SEC. 202. Discrimination, 42 USC 12132]
Confused about what web standards are and how to comply? Check out this quick tip list at the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
- Moodle is used across campus for both on-campus and distance education courses. Find out about Moodle's accessibility.
- Powerpoint has its huge advantages - and disadvantages - for accessibility. For one of the best discussions of how to create accessible Powerpoint presentations for use on the web, look at Terry Thompson's site from the University of Washington.
- One of the biggest issues for users with disabilities is PDF files. Adobe created a great tutorial in how to create accessible PDFs. (pdf file)
- Need to check whether your page is accessible or not? Use the WAVE evaluator! This handy tool can tell you a great deal about how usable your webpage is for users with disabilities.
- If you are using Firefox, there's an extension that has some terrific developer tools built into it, including an accessibility validator. Firefox Web Developer Extension. (Mac and Windows freeware downloads.)
- Want to know both the whys and the hows of accessible distance education and online classes? The GRADE Project from Georgia Tech has some fantastic resources. The e-learning tutorial is especially recommended.
- Podcasting...interested in how to use this new and exciting tool to reach more students than ever before? You might want to check out the Podcasting Legal Guide. This covers copyright law, accessibility, and much much more.
Wondering about what assistive technology is all about? Looking for more information about how the assistive technology we use here at SOU works? This is the place to look.
To find out what assistive technology is, check out this brief article from the University of Washington's National Center for Accessible Information Technology in Education.
Several assistive technology packages are available campus-wide, including JAWS, ZoomText, and Kurzweil. For more Information, contact the Assistive Technology Specialist.