1. Tackling Today's Web-Based Learning Technologies

Presenters of this session were Stephanie Robbins and Kara Zirkle of the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) at George Mason University.

Session 1: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items

From inaccessible content, to inaccessible applications, to inaccessible textbooks, to inaccessible library databases, to inaccessible online and face-2-face courses, the types of challenges that George Mason University has faced are common throughout higher education. Their savvy solutions to specific challenges involved good communication and planning. For instance, vendors who wish to do business with Mason must provide information about their product's conformance to applicable accessibility standards. In selecting a new email system they decided upon Microsoft over Google as it was more accessible.

The AT team previously discussed the notion of UMD having an accessibility plan to proactively address issues such as George Mason University presented. A future agenda item for an AT meeting could be to brainstorm ideas to help start making the idea of a plan a reality.

Specific Challenges and Corresponding Solutions

Challenge 1: Inaccessible Class Materials

Student who was blind took a hybrid class that used a combination of Blackboard, videos, inaccessible powerpoints, lecture, and videos shown in class.

Solution: All parties met to determine problems and solutions. Faculty created Word documents using the PowerPoint outline and ensured all meaning of all content was conveyed. Videos were saved to a CD allowing student to play them in a more accessible player. Any videos needing audio description were completed. Student met with the Office of Equity and Diversity for more training on software. Faculty ensured additional description was used during lecture that helped with videos.

Challenge 2: Inaccessible PowerPoints Owned by a Publisher

Student who was blind was taking a face-2-face accounting course where the professor used a publisher's PowerPoint slides within the university's LMS. Since the slides were owned by a Publisher, changes could not be made by the faculty member. These PowerPoint the slides were heavily image based and were inaccessible.

Solution: The Office of Equity and Diversity contacted the publisher. OED had to work with the publisher to determine an appropriate level of accessibility of slides. Publisher provided accessible versions of the PPTs with alt text. Contacts for Pearson and McGraw Hill Accessibility.

Challenge 3: Inaccessible Library Databases and and PDFs

Two students who were blind were taking classes requiring them to access Library Databases. Both students experienced similar problems where PDF documents were imaged. Structure of the page was not user friendly requiring the students to tab the entire page to find the document. Plus the PDFs that were uploaded into the databases were not accessible.


Challenge 4: Lab Computers Unable to Run Accessible Combination of Software

OED was made aware by a student of the use of SPSS a week into class. Troubleshooting found that the lab computers were running 64 bit and could not be imaged for 32 bit which was needed for JAWS and SPSS to work.

Solution: OED talked with IT. IT provided a laptop with necessary specs to be checked out by the student.

Challenge 5: Choosing an Accessible Email System (Microsoft over Google)

The University put together an RFP Review Committee for a new email system. The Office of Equity and Diversity was on that committee for accessibility. This allowed accessibility language to be included and required in the RFP responses.

Solution: University weighed heavily between the two competitors Microsoft vs Google. University considered Google, but accessibility was better in Microsoft. Prior to the selection being made, the accessibility results were sent to Provost, President, Legal, and CIO of IT for approval. Due to buy-in from top down, a selection was made for the most accessible solution (Microsoft).

Challenge 6: Inaccessible Career Services Video App

The Office of Equity and Diversity was notified that a student who was blind needed to use an Interview Video Application through Career Services for a homework project. Upon review of the application OED found it to be very inaccessible.

Solution: The Office of Equity and Diversity worked with Career Services to determine purchase and contract language used. Due to the software already purchased and accessibility language was not included. The university and vendor could not come to a mutual agreement for inclusion of accessibility within the 1 year contract. Career Services provided a work around by creating a "mock" interview that the student could participate in either in person for via Blackboard Collaborate. At the 1 year contract renewal the university will be able to include accessibility language or decide not to renew the contract.



Faculty have the responsibility to keep Learning Management System accessible as they add content.



Vendors who wish to do business with Mason must provide information about their product's conformance to applicable accessibility standards.

2. Usability and Accessibility CSS Gotchas

Presenter of this session on Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) Gotchas was Dennis Lembree from PayPal.

Session 2: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items

It is well known in the accessibility community that the items Dennis presented are "Gotchas" and the techniques presented help to improve usability and accessibility.

I was sure to take notes on this session to share with the ITSS Web Team. Some of the more general tips may be good to include in a newsletter article.

A "Gotcha" is a poor technique. "Usability" is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object. "Accessibility" is the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is obtainable and functional to people with disabilities.

Gotcha: a{outline:none;}

Don't use the CSS rule a{outline:none;} This is obviously crucial for sighted keyboard users if the outline is removed. Link outline visually indicates a focused element, most often a link. If you're clicking a link and that's not displayed, then it's extremely difficult.

Gotcha: display:none

Don't use the CSS declaration display:none to hide content as it will hide content for all users. [But do use if that's the intent.] Methods to use:

 position: absolute; 
 left: -9999em;
position: absolute; 
clip: rect(1px, 1px, 1px, 1px);

Gotcha: CSS3 Transitions

A transition allows you to change a property of the CSS element. And it's used usually a lot of times for animation or hopefully subtle effects. And if you're hiding content using a transition with this height 0, so you're transitioning to height from some specified height to zero, that's a CSS gotcha. Screen readers will still detect that even when the height is zero. So you don't want to transition the height to zero. You can. But the trick is you add visibility hidden to it. So if you're using the CSS transitions or animations which hide content, height of zero alone doesn't hide content to screen reader users as intended. The solution: visibility: hidden;

Example Transition

#foo {
height: 50px; 
transition: 1s all;
#foo.hidden {	
height: 0;
visibility: hidden;
transition: 1s all;

PS: Don't forget the ARIA Goodness:

<a id="baz" class="bar" href="#foo" 

<div id="foo" aria-labelledby="baz">
 Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

Example Animation

"animationend webkitAnimationEnd 
 oAnimationEnd MSAnimationEnd", 

Gotcha: Generated Content

Be cautious when creating content with the CSS :before and :after pseudo elements.

Poor Use:

h1:before {
content: "Chapter: ";
p:after {
content: " is missing.";

Good Use: quotes

q {
quotes: "“" "”" "‘" "'";
q:before {
content: open-quote;

Good Use: Complex shapes

#pentagon {
position: relative;
width: 54px;
border-width: 50px 18px 0;
border-style: solid;
border-color: red transparent;
#pentagon:before {
content: "";
position: absolute;
height: 0;
width: 0;
top: -85px;
left: -18px;
border-width: 0 45px 35px;
border-style: solid;
border-color: transparent transparent red;

Gotcha: Font Icons:

Since some screen readers may read the pseudo content, you must:

Example CSS

.icon-gear:before {
font-family: 'my-custom-font-name';
content: "\29";

Poor Markup:

<a href="#foo" 
  <span class="hide">options

Good Markup:

<a href="#foo" title="options">
 <span aria-hidden="true" 
 <span class="hide">options

Gotcha: Text Size/Readability

Readability Tips

Content Tips

Gotcha: Text Links

3. Challenges with VPATs

The presenter for this session was Kathy Wahlbin of Interactive Accessibility. A VPAT stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template.

Session 3: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items

Asking for Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) from vendors prior to purchasing would help to determine what kind of accessibility problems might be expected with products.

Format For a VPAT Includes

  1. Summary Table
  2. Series of Section 1194 tables list the detailed requirements and the level of conformance to each provision

Summary Table

The Summary Table includes 508 guideline, if it is applicable, and compliance level.

Detail Requirements

508 is changing to W3C WCAG 2.0.

WCAG 2.0 Statement Options

  1. Accessibility statement describing level of compliance with WCAG 2.0 success criteria
  2. Conformance claim

General Issues with VPATs

How VPATs Can Help

Verifying a VPAT

Is a VPAT binding? Depends on your contact language.


4. Keynote: Teaching Universal Design (UD) the Dundee Approach

David Sloan, PhD, Principal User Experience Engineer of The Paciello Group (TPG) gave the keynote presentation. He is an accessible user engineer with TPG. Before that he spent 14 years working at the school of computing at the University of Dundee in Scotland. A major focus of his Ph.D., was accessibility audit as a motivational and educational tool in inclusive web design.

Session 4: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items

A powerful message of this session included the importance of getting early and continual involvement of users. Don't let accessibility testing be delayed until just before launch of a website or product (or after it has launched). It doesn't work. Get as many representatives of your target audience involved early in the process so you can quickly validate ideas, throw them away if they don't work, modify them, adjust them. Involving real people helps to identify issues. We learnt this lesson with the 2013 redesign of the UMD home page.

Another powerful message:

"Universal design knowledge is valuable. It's something that we want our future generation of technology developers, providers, procurers and users to understand that it's something that's a critical component of digital literacy and it's something that is really worth teaching and teaching well. It helps build bridges to connect society together." - David Sloan

It may be worthwhile to listen to the Symposium on Accessible E-Learning on December 16, 2013 which is sponsored by the WC3 Research and Development Working Group.

The library may want to consider acquiring a copy of the book Design Meets Disability by Graham Pullin if they don't already own it.

David's Background

At 16 David had a passion for maps. He took a course at Glasgow University on topographic science and ended up taking a job in cartography. In the mid-'90s he changed careers as he wanted to learn about technology and computing. At that time he really didn't understand computers or enjoy them. He decided he needed training so he enrolled in Dundee's master's in applied computing. Problems of technology started to become apparent to him regarding human diversity and the mismatch between human needs and what technology offers. Professor Alan Nuell, former colleague and mentor convinced David that it wasn't his fault that he had trouble using technology. But rather:

Dundee's Research Focus

Using technology to solve problems of social inclusion is Dundee's focus. Areas include:

Augmentative Communication for Non-Speaking People

Predicting text input is the first area: any mobile phone that allows you to send text messages. That research stemmed from research to make it easy for someone who is non- speaking to communicate with someone else. It's also indirectly responsible for the collection of mistakes at damnyouautocorrect.com.

Intensive Care in Hospitals

People who have very little physical ability to communicate, but want to be able to have some communication with loved ones to let them know how they're doing. Dundee is applying the research to that particular problem and understanding the sort of social and technical constraints that had to be tackled there.

Aging as a Dynamic Process

They are looking at UD from the context of how to make technology easier to use as people age.

Forum Theater

Theater is used to dramatize scenarios that would provoke discussions in the early stages of the design process. If it was something that was slightly challenging or difficult to observe in practice, they recreated some form of dramatic representation of that and included a rough prototype of something they want to design and expose it to an audience of potential users for feedback.

Semi Automated Interfaces

Technology is used to automatically detect certain changes in capability and have the computer adjust accordingly in this research area i.e., detect that someone's eyesight is slightly worse today than it was yesterday or dexterity isn't as good as it was. Repercussions? "Oh my gosh, I should stop driving my car." They weren't sure if this would be perceived as an issue or not. So they worked with a theater group to script a scenario using a very rough paper prototype using a mix of card board boxes and PowerPoint slides and showed this to a group of older technology users and gauged their feedback. They would ask people in the audience, "what's your reaction to what you've just seen?". And they found it a powerful way to exploring concepts at an early stage in the design process.

Main Keystones

Accessibility and UD

Accessibility and UD concepts are pervasive throughout the curriculum. The concepts are thought about at all stages of the design process, web design and development, computer vision, the application of emerging technology to solving accessibility changes.

Human Diversity

Students are told early on that they're special. They're computing science students. They're not normal (in a very positive way). It gets them thinking that they're unrepresentative. They get people thinking about diversity and the differences amongst humans, but also the similarities that ultimately regardless of disability that we'll all have similar needs and wants and likes and dislikes and we'll get annoyed by things and be pleased by things. We are all social beings at the end of the day.

Cross-Disciplinary Focus

There are all kinds of stakeholders with valuable points to make. In the curriculum there will be appearances from people from diverse backgrounds.

Professionalism and Responsible Behavior

Dundee has an ethics review panel akin to an IRB. Students are told about the importance of this as something that helps them design appropriate research activities as part of the design and development process. It teaches them to respect the participants that they're gathering information from. The participants, whether they may be visually impaired or older technology users: they're the experts, they're the consultants the students are gathering information from. The students are taught to treat them with the utmost respect.

Design Meets Disability

The book Design Meets Disability was written by Graham Pullin, a lecturer in Interactive Media Design at Dundee. It explores the relationship of designing products with disability in mind. And thinking about the move from assistive technology, whether it's a cane or a pair of glasses or a hearing aid, moving from a medical device to a desirable human product.

Innovation and Universal Design

A dichotomy seems to exist between something being accessible or innovative. Why can't we have both? Who says that both aren't the same thing? We have plenty of examples of where thinking about UD has led to innovation. Or an assistive technology has been appropriated for another purpose. And it's another example of where we can create great consumer products by taking technology that started off as something that solved an accessibility barrier.

"Designing for extraordinary users in ordinary environments is the same as designing for ordinary users in extraordinary environments" is an idea to get people to think about a principle of UD that helps somebody regardless of whether they have a visual or dexterity impairment or if they're using a smartphone, which is quite small and difficult to manipulate because of its constraints. That argument is easy to sell because of smartphone's where people are thinking about the constraints and dealing with them. The other thing about those devices is the sort of exposure of accessibility solutions as things you just use. We've got situations where some of the devices have what are effectively accessibility solutions so you can control pinch and zoom to zoom. Or pinch and zoom to zoom content that we all use. They're socially normalized assistive technologies. And then in other situations there are still assistive technologies that have a social stigma attached to them. And we want to reduce that level of stigma through creative and thoughtful design. Inspiring our students to do that is one way of achieving that goal.

Solving Communication Difficulties Using Technology

An example of research they are looking at supporting is helping non-speaking people to communicate. Not just essential communication, but telling jokes. The importance of being able to, the social capital gained by being able to make somebody laugh is something that is lost to non-speaking people unless we can make it easy for them. It allows people to be a human being.

Curriculum Design

Making sure that students value involvement of people who benefit from universal design throughout the design process. Getting it involved early on. Accessibility not rewarded with extra marks, rather marks are deducted for its absence. So it is treated as a basic requirement, not a negotiable extra.

Early and Continual Involvement of Users

Don't let accessibility be delayed until just before launch of a website or product. Presenting a group of people with a high-fidelity prototype on a monitor or even a screen shot of something already designed in a prototyping software application is bad as it looks like it's been developed already. So the feedback is going to be "Oh, yeah, that's great." It looks like the effort has already been made. Rather use things like a piece of paper with some post- it notes on it, scrolled over a magic marker because that is something that obviously looks like it's not finished and is ready for input and can easily be changed and edited on the fly. This is something to encourage the students to think about and get early and continual involvement. Involving real people makes it real and get the students to think about what you're presenting them in terms of helping people, rather than helping some abstract set of challenges. It's humanizing the issue and getting that connection as early on in the process.

WC3 Research and Development Working Group

The WC3 Research and Development Working Group (RDWG) works on web accessibility research challenges and try's to connect centers in higher education who are either teaching or researching accessibility It is having a Symposium on Accessible E-Learning December 16.

Integrating UD into Curriculum While Preparing Students for Industry

One way to integrate UD into curriculum while preparing students for jobs is to get companies involved in learning activities. Example: Yahoo-sponsored hack day where students in the web programming course are given the opportunity to use their skills to tackle a real problem.

At TPG David is working with Sara Horton on figuring out how to advance and move on from just thinking about accessibility as a conformance activity to thinking about accessible user experience and helping as many people of a target audience regardless of any disability they may have in achieving goals.

Future for Dundee

5. Accessibility Through Responsive Design

Justin Stockton of Devis presented this session. It was an examination of designing a responsive website through a case study of the Access Jobs application. He discussed the tools, techniques, and challenges that he came across and how he was able to implement the universally accessible site.

Session 5: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items

Responsive web design (RWD) is a takeoff on liquid design, which has been a corner stone of ITSS web design and development for over a decade. Since completing a W3C Mobile Web and Applications Best Practice class a few years ago, I have been aware of the additional techniques presented in this session and used them in projects whenever possible. This session presented some good material. However, the presenter got some of his facts wrong on responsive images. Mat Marquis recently posted Standings.md which has more accurate information.

RWD avoids many of the pitfalls of other mobile approaches so that mobile and desktop websites do not exist in separate silos; instead a single website is developed to be used on all devices with no loss of content or functionality. This benefits users with disabilities, as they are free to use their preferred device or technology. And liquid layouts have always handle zooming/scaling very well.

With the University of Minnesota Drupal Initiative it is anticipated that more UMD sites will become responsive as the Drupal RFP included having RWD built into the theme.

Goals of the Project

The goals were that the site needed to be very focused and simple to use, accessible (508 and WCAG 2.0 compliant), and easy for employers to manage. They challenged themselves to achieve a more universal design.

Smartphone And Tablet Ownership

Some Approaches to Mobile Development

Traditional mobile approaches have problems. Features are usually left out for mobile users too often due to assumptions instead of user studies. The same content should be available everywhere. If redirects are not properly set up, sharing links can be problematic. Having multiple code bases presents maintenance issues. Native apps have a barrier to entry.

Responsive Web Design (RWD) Approach to Mobile Development

Responsive Design was first proposed by Ethan Marcotte on A List Apart article in May 2010. One website for all devices: optimized for different contexts (not devices) using: fluid grids, flexible media CSS, and media queries.

Responsive Images

Desire has arisen to serve different images based on media queries. Existing images look blurry on displays with high pixel density If images are going to be viewed at small sizes, no point in serving large resolution images. This is tricky because bandwidth does not equal screen size.

Several approaches exist for handling images (srcset, picture element) which are still in flux. The presenter got some of his facts wrong on this. Mat Marquis who I served with on the W3C HTML Working Group recently posted Standings.md which has more accurate information.

Responsive Web Design and Accessibility

Responsive design does not make a site accessible, so care must be taken to comply with existing accessibility guidelines. However, flexible layouts do handle zooming/scaling very well. In addition, responsive design lowers the barrier to entry for assistive technology as inexpensive mobile devices now come with built-in assistive technology.


Testing on every device is unrealistic. Examine web analytics to find appropriate devices to test on. Take advantage of devices owned by yourself and coworkers. Consider starting a local device lab. Simulators/emulators are available for iOS (Mac Only), Android Desktop browsers are typically multi-platform. If not, virtualization can be used for instance Browserstack and Modern ie. You don't need to manually retest on each device. Use Adobe Edge Inspect, Mixture Remote Web Inspector (iOS/Mac). Breakpoints can be tested manually by resizing browser or Responsivepx.

6. Quick Ways to Test for Accessibility

Angela Hooker, Senior Accessibility Consultant of Cascades Technologies presented this session.

Session 6: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items

The testing tools methods presented were ones that the ITSS web team utilizes. What UMD doesn't have is a practical plan to ensure that universal design is considered throughout project lifecycles.

As mentioned in Session 1: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items the AT Team previously discussed the notion of UMD having an accessibility plan to proactively address issues. A future agenda item for an AT meeting could be to brainstorm ideas to help start making the idea of a plan a reality.

Considerations and Tools

Consider what you are testing, timeline, who will remediate problems found. Do you need to tell people how to fix the problems? Create or find a checklist for your specific needs.

Create an Accessibility Team

Consider creating an accessibility team from people already on staff. One person can't do all the work. Share the work based on roles instead of one person correcting everyone's work. This makes the entire team responsible and accountable.

Create a Future-Proof In-House Accessibility Plan

Create an in-house policy (not an accessibility statement for the public). Get management support to make it stick. All of this will save money by not having to make costly accessibility fixes later. You'll have a solid process that fights the "accessibility is time consuming and expensive" issues and a fluid process that stands despite staff changes, work demands, etc

7. Testing for Accessibility

Jeff Singleton, the presenter of this session was from the HiSoftware company that makes Compliance Sheriff, the assessment tool, which is licensed by the University of Minnesota.

Session 7: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items

Accessibility evaluation is much more involved than some people may initially know. A pitfall is relying solely on one evaluation method, for instance automated testing tools. As mentioned in a previous session automated tools capture only 25 to 30% of the accessibility issues. They are only one part of the toolbox.

This session reaffirmed we are on the right track with regards to methods employed for the Fall 2013 evaluation of the UMD home page as we used a combination of user testing by people with disabilities as well as a combination of evaluation methods such as standards inspection, guideline checklists, heuristic evaluation, auto testing, and other methods.

We should continue to use a combination of methods in evaluations.

Myth: An Automated Testing Tool is all that is Needed

Some have been led to believe that investing in an automated scanning solution is all they need to verify or validate the accessibility of their electronic content. A number of automated tools exist.

No automated tool alone can validate the absolute accessibility of electronic content. However, they can identify coding issues that might otherwise be time consuming or difficult to identify manually. It will also identify which content is less likely to need manual inspection based on the absence of those same objects.

A level of human interaction will always be required to assure that content is fully accessible. An automated tool is not a complete solution. For example:

While automated tools are not a complete solution they are a necessary part of any serious accessibility testing effort.

Testers with Disabilities

If you have the ability to include real world assistive technology users as part of your testing effort, should you do so? Absolutely! There are many capable accessibility testers with impairments that you can call upon. These users, as a general rule, know their assistive technology very well and they intimately understand the challenges end users with their specific impairment face when accessing electronic content.

Non-Tester Testers

Non-tester testers are people from within an organization who are tasked with helping out with accessibility evaluations. This is done to help cut cost of the accessibility review. The pitfalls of this approach include:

Include People With Disabilities in Your Usability Testing

Provide key scenario's to these users so they are all focused on the same tasks. In doing so, the group will represent a wide variety of a user base and provide focused and usable test data. This will result in insight and usable information for the accessibility of your content and more.

All of this is also an education for your organization and will help it to grow in understanding and its ability to identify accessibility issues.

Screen Reader Testing Pitfalls

There is a sizable cost, both in time and money when deciding to do your own screen reader testing. There is a huge learning curve regardless of the brand of screen reader used. It takes time to become familiar with and proficient in the use of these products. Not to mention the effort required to gain insight and understanding into the challenges that a real-world user of these products may face.

Your screen reading settings matter! Do you customize those settings or do you just use the default? In most cases you want to evaluate using the default settings but there are potential pitfalls to watch for which may require customizing those default settings. For example auto correction of poor coding.

Keep in mind that screen reading software is developed to help users with a visual impairment to consume the electronic content that they need. Screen reading software is not a testing tool. As such these products, JAWS included, will attempt to auto correct for various common coding errors. Different brands and versions of screen reading software will typically not do this the same so you need to know what your screen reader is doing in these situations to avoid missing issues. If you are not familiar how your product auto corrects if does at all, how will you know what settings to adjust? Example: If input controls don't have the proper tags JAWs will attempt to put them in place. It will often times just look to other text and assume that is the label for a field. And that could be very wrong with the wrong data being connected to the wrong field. Don't assume it is correct because JAWS could be incorrectly interpreting things. The form could be coded wrong and not work.

Myth: Accessibility is all About Screen Reading Software

A complete accessibility evaluation requires more than just testing with a screen reader.

Keyboard Only Evaluation

Can a user successfully make use of just the keyboard to navigate and control the electronic content? This is important for those users who may have dexterity or mobility impairments and are unable to use a mouse or execute complex keyboard commands.

Screen Magnification Evaluation

This is important for those users who have limited vision and require magnification to discern the electronic content.

Contrast Settings Evaluation

This is important as users with and without vision impairments may be affected by poor contrast.

Evaluating with Focus on Hearing Impairments

This is important for users with limited or no hearing because if electronic content makes use of a sound to convey information and it is not accompanied by a visual indication the users is not being given equal access.

Evaluating for Dexterity or Limited Strength Issues

This is important for those users who are unable to execute complex key combinations or unable to respond to a prompt if the time allowed is too short and if functionality requires the use of a mouse.

Evaluating for Cognitive Issues

This is important as content can be too complex for a user with a cognitive impairment. Content may also make reference to a location or color as the only method of identification within the electronic content.

8. Opening Doors to Accessibility

Rob Carr, Accessibility Coordinator of Oklahoma State University presented this session.

Session 8: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items

This session was similar to session 1 in that institutions are in the midst of trying to figure out how to incorporate accessibility into their campuses effectively. The presenter offered some good ideas. It is a big issue which takes a village to solve. We know that we can't do it all ourselves, but who could be drafted to help? Identifying the areas is a first step. Then, approaching the people behind those areas that are identified the next step. Then crafting a message so that it is ready to help even the stubborn get on board one way or another is the next step. The only way to get accessibility into the DNA of an organization is for people to have ownership of it. It needs to be a genuine core value and an integral part of processes. It will require change management.

As previously mentioned a future agenda item for an AT meeting could be to brainstorm ideas to help start making the idea of an accessibility plan a reality.

Accessibility Challenges and Frustrations

Challenges and frustrations include that accessibility is unknown and misunderstood with little to no research base, few initiatives exist to point to as templates, and misunderstood constituents on campus. It is a big problem that is not easy to put boundaries on. The questions are: Where does it live? Who owns it? Who implements it?

Approach and Paradigm

Build it in, don't bolt it on. Remove bottlenecks. Create efficiency. Create sustainability. Change campus culture. Find or make an accessibility champion, standard bearer, advocate, evangelist. Accessibility need to be un-siloed.

Assemble a Team

Identify who needs to be on board. Leadership is absolutely key, at every level. (But not every campus leader). People to do the work, a committee that meets regularly, and a bunch of advocates are all needed.

Ascertain Who Plays a Role in Affecting Accessibility

Who to Start With?

Start with those in close proximity and follow critical pathways for students, faculty, staff, and the public. For example figure out where students touch technology:



9. Read&Write Gold and Universal Design

Liz Henley, Associate Director of Southern New Hampshire (SNH) Disability Services (DS) presented this session on Read&Write Gold (R&WG).

Session 9: Takeaway Message and Possible Action Items

This was a timely session as our AT Team is considering purchasing a Read&Write Gold site license. It is good to know that Southern New Hampshire University has had a very positive experience with their license. Many students beyond just those with disabilities are using R&WG at SNH due to Disability Services promoting it. Our AT team may want to consider R&WG promotion strategies. Publishing ITSS blog posts, newsletter article(s), and updating web pages on R&WG would be other ways to promote it.

"Universal Design" has a negative connotation at SNH. If an accessibility plan comes to fruition at UMD we should be mindful of what it is called and the terminology used within it. Words matter.

Background: What Read&Write Gold is and How It is Used at SNH

Read&Write Gold is an assistive technology suite. It's available in multiple formats. Desktop PC and desktop Mac are the two that they utilize on their campus.

Various types of licensing options exist which was one of the things that was really attractive about this product to SNH. It can be purchased individually or via site license for on-campus. Or license it to allow at-home use. Originally they had one license of Kurzweil installed on a computer in the library that was flagged as the AT computer. They found that students weren't using it. And when the computer in the library got upgraded, no one remembered to install the software on it. It was two years before they realized that they had no Kurzweil on campus. So they looked at a different software options that they could install on their lab computers to take care of most basic needs. R&WG works really well with their learning disabled students and it plays well with assistive technology, but it's not Dragon, it's not JAWS.

They are a laptop campus for their day population. Everyone has to come in with a laptop. The students really wanted something that they could install on their own computer. So when they were in that in-between phase, that's when they were recommending that they install maybe three or four different software programs. That got kind of clunky for students.

The software is not cheap. When they were trying to get budget approval to purchase the software they talked up the universal design aspect. They said it would serve many populations on campus (English composition classes, tutoring, International students). And then they had to follow through with actually promoting it to those groups.

There were 121 attempts at downloading the install files between September and the start of the conference. 45% of installs so far this semester are students who are not actively receiving services through the Disability Services office.

Read&Write Gold Reading and Reading Support Tools

Text- to-Speech

The main feature that SNH Disability Services promote to the students is text to speech. The voices that come with it are nice. They looked at the text-to-speech from a more universal design perspective as a lot of SNH classes have E- books. SNH online classes have lecture notes. And so those are accessible documents. And then they also have discussion boards for on-line students. And that's also very text based. That's handy because especially with the online population, not all students have gone through the documentation process. So those students can utilize R&WG without being registered with Disability Services.

PDF Aloud

This feature does text-to-speech within accessible PDF files. The text-to-speech will work if you highlight a PDF document. What it does though is if you're using the standard text-to-speech is it extracts the text and puts it in a little window. Some students are fine with it. Others want to see the entire feed. PDF allows the tracking and the reading word-by-word right within the original PDF document.

Screenshot Reader

The screen shot reader can be used to read a lot of inaccessible content. You basically have an image of the text on- screen. You drive your window around it and it does an OCR conversion. It's not perfect. It shouldn't be used to produce full, accessible textbooks. But it's really helpful to students . It provides a way for students who aren't registered with Disability Services to obtain content for inaccessible files compared to students who are registered and who will convert them in house themselves. From there, they can also export the text to Word.


The scanner is another tool of the OCR things that people can use to scan into Microsoft Word, HTML, PDF or ePub formats. They have had some students use it for their own handouts.

Speech Maker

R&WG can convert digital text into audio files, such as MP3s. With Speech Maker, a they can make adjustments to the voice that they like and then convert their own MP3s. Some students, again not registered with Disability Services, will turn some of their reading assignments to MP3s and bring them to the gym.


R&WG has multiple dictionary options built within it. SNH's international students have especially liked it. They can check a word in the dictionary immediately instead of having to use a second dictionary.

Read&Write Gold Writing and Self-Editing Tools

Text- to-Speech

A lot of students say text-to-speech is a great proofreading tool. When the presenter of this session taught English composition classes, she would show this feature to her class. It is especially useful for students who like to procrastinate. If a person writes something and you go through visually trying to proofread it is easy to miss some errors. The brain is seeing what you meant to say. Text-to-speech isn't going to lie. It's going to read exactly what's on the page. The example she used is that she had a student who was writing a personal, narrative essay. The student was writing about what he had to wear for his first job. He was talking about a shirt and missed the letter " R." A mistake that R&WG would have caught.

Some of SNH international students are better at hearing English than reading English. With R&WG Text-to-Speech they can tell that something sounded awkward when they hear it and they can go back and change it.

Spelling-Grammar Checker

The spell checker helps recognize unusual spelling errors. Spelling suggestions as well as definitions are provided and can be read aloud to ensure the correct replacement word is chosen. The presenter liked it better than the Microsoft Word built-in tools as it gives a lot more options and is better for phonetic spelling.

Sounds Like and Confusable Words

One of the presenter's pet peeves with Microsoft Word is when the spell checker changes the word "definitely" it to "defiantly". So you have students who defiantly agree with that. They just go with it. With the spell checker and the verb checker, it's not a contextual spelling and grammar checker. But it will flag everything. And it will help with context. So it will go through and give definitions of the words. She has heard from some students after the fact who really liked it and it helped them fix those commonly-confused words.

Speech Input

Speech input is only on the windows operating system. It is not perfect. It's not Dragon, but it does a pretty god job for the in-between. Even for those students registered with the Disability Services office. If a student has never used speech input before and they're trying to decide if they like it or not, DS recommend that they try R&WG Speech Input first to ascertain if it works for the them. If not, they look at Dragon. But there's no purpose in investing in expensive software if the student hates the overall concept of dictating.

When doing the demos, the presenter says "do any of you have an easier time talking out your ideas than writing?" "Is a blank screen on the computer, is that really tough for you?" "Do you have a hard time starting?" If so, speech input might be something that they want to try out. They still have to go through and clean everything up, but it's a great rough draft starting point.

Read&Write Gold Study Skills and Research Tools

Fact Mapper

Fact Mapper is a graphic organizer, akin to Inspiration. It is not as robust as Inspiration, but still useful. With the Fact Mapper, you can build your own visual mind map - adding elements, sticky notes and imagery. After you have a graphical representation, you can easily export it to Word and it will put the content into a linear format. So whatever was in the center that everything was branching off on was the bullet point to the far left of the document. And the things that branch off of that move in one tab and then in another tab for anything off of that. Fact Mapper is helpful for preparing work before starting to write, and is especially helpful to visual learners.

Study Skills Highlighters

Colored highlighters can be used to highlight sections of text, such as main ideas, supporting details, and a list of vocabulary. The presenter compared it to highlighting print-based documents but better. You can extract highlighted text from Word documents and web pages to create study guides, outlines or complete assignments. Highlights from multiple documents or web pages will be collected into a single document including a bibliography. This makes it easy to collate related information, start an outline, or create a study guide. It is useful when gathering information for a project from many different sources.

Promoting Read&Write Gold

International Students

The first group that Disability Services did a demo for was their international students. They would go into English 101 classes, which was fundamentals of writing just for students who were international. The students in those classes really liked R&WG.

English Classes

Disability services started out presenting to college composition classes. SNH has good English faculty who are very open to trying different things. The faculty did not object to R&WG as a tool as many of their student population needs extra support. They have a very large learning center that does tutoring and the faculty do a lot of sessions on inclusive approaches to teaching. So at the time Disability Services presented on how writing can be taught in an inclusive way. R&WG doesn't fix everything. It doesn't automatically write a perfect paper for students. But it's just another tool. Faculty were already telling students to read their papers out loud to proofread so R&WG was helpful.

Education Majors

Disability Services goes into education classes once a semester and shows demos of R&WG and Live Scribe pens. It helps education majors become aware of the product and encourages them to use them in their teaching and their coursework.

Jump Start

Another group that that Disability Services just started presenting R&WG to was Jump Start students. It's a program that's run through their learning center. 50 students apply and they get to move onto campus a week early like college boot camp. They have sessions every day on note taking strategies, how to prepare for tests, and how to be a good student. So this year DS was asked to go in and do a presentation.

Advisor Training

They have done training for online and continuing education advisors. It came about because one of the online advisors had a student who found the software, because it is on their I. T. website. Any of the software that's freely available to students is listed there. She was using it to proofread her papers and said "Since I've used it, my grades have gone up because I'm catching a lot more errors. This is really, really great. You should tell other people about it." So they did a demo. More people are now using R&WG.

Study Skills

Disability Services has done individual demos again as requested.

English Tutor Sessions

The coordinator of their English tutor group asked Disability Services to do a training for their English Tutor program.

Webinar for Online Students

Disability Services will doing a R&WG webinar for online students.

Negative Connotation of the Term "Universal Design"

For a few years Southern New Hampshire University had a Universal Design (UD) initiative on campus. They don't use the term Universal Design on their campus now because it got a connotation that was something through Disability Services. Faculty members had the wrong impression that if they didn't have a student with a disability, then they didn't need universal design. Faculty at training sessions would say "I don't do Universal Design in my class. I'll do accommodations if needed." But then Disability Services talked through some of the faculty member's strategies with them. They were implementing Universal Design, but they just had associated it somehow with accommodations and something through disability services. They needed to point to the faculty member that: "Hey, you're providing multiple methods of representation" or "you're letting students pick from different options to do class work to show what they've learned." That's all Universal Design.

So SNH has shifted from using the term "Universal Design" to "Inclusive Approaches" or "Good Teaching Tips". Their faculty center will run stuff where they're talking about, how do to engage students in the classroom. And they'll bring up a lot of strategies that would be Universal Design without calling it Universal Design.

10. References