2001 Conference Proceedings
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The A to Zs of Setting Up Assistive Technology Services in
the College Environment
Marla C. Roll, MS, OTR
Director, Assistive Technology Resource Ctr
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
Howard Kramer, ATP
Assistive Technology Lab Coordinator
University of Colorado-Boulder,
Boulder, Co 80309
- Model of Services
a. Central Lab vs. Distributed Across Campus
At some point, when either starting up Assistive Technology
Services or evaluating current services, the decision will have
to made as to the best model for providing services, either
through a central location or through adaptive technology
distributed around campus. Many campuses use a combination of the
above two models, using a centrally located AT Lab for training
(of Assistive Technology) and then distributing adaptive
workstations around various locations to ensure that students
have access to technology where needed.
A survey of 4 universities/colleges along with the models of our
own two institutions provided results that support this
contention. University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State
University, Ball State University, Oregon State University,
UC-Berkeley and San Jose State all have labs at both a
centralized location and distributed at various labs and
classrooms/departments around campus.
b. Legal Issues that relate to the above model
This combined model described above not only makes programmatic
sense but is also encouraged by OCR rulings related to the Title
II or the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a letter to UC-Long
Beach, OCR stated that:
"....sole reliance upon a single centralized location (when not
limited to adaptive technology training, but instead used for
instructing disabled students in course subject matter) may run
counter to the strong philosophy embodied in Title II and Section
504 regarding the importance of fully integrating students with
disabilities into the mainstream educational program, unless such
services cannot be otherwise effectively provided"
Therefore, having Assistive Technology integrated throughout the
campus is not only a question of effective access, it is also
necessary to do to ensure compliance with the ADA.
c. Other Models for distributing adaptive workstations around
Another model discussed and at the beginning stages of
implementation at the University of Colorado is a laptop loan
model. With this model, instead of placing workstations at
various labs and locations around campus, laptops with adaptive
equipment are sometimes loaned to students. The advantage to this
model is that the user is provided with the particular technology
(on the laptop) according to their specific needs. The technology
can then be ported to any location on campus where it is
There are a number of issues that will arise and have surfaced
with CU's implementation of this project. Since access to the Web
and Internet are key to academic activities, this model will only
work if there are available network/data ports for students to
plug into (physically or through infra-red ports) around campus.
Furthermore, there is still the question of access to scanners
for students with vision or reading disabilities who need to
convert hard copy to an electronic format. Therefore, students
will either have to conduct scanning at existing satellite
stations or "scanning stations" need to be established that can
be hooked into by students as needed.
Another questions that arises with this model is: how to
determine who receives this loan of equipment and who does not.
Do we discourage students from acquiring their own technology if
it is provided through the university?
- Selecting Equipment
Another issue faced by any institution that seeks to set up
Assistive Technology and Adaptive Computer Stations on campus is
"what is the essential equipment that needs to be obtained and
how to decide among competing products?"
Most Assistive Technology programs include the following types
a. Screenreaders (voice output, usually for students with vision
impairments). Ex. JAWS & Window-Eyes.
b. Screen Enlargement such as Magic or ZoomText.
c. Scanners to be used with specialized software to convert hard
copy to computer format.
d. OCR software for individuals with vision impairments (usually
converts document to a text-only format). Ex. OpenBook, Omni
e. OCR software for individuals with reading disabilities
(usually includes both text and graphics). Ex. Wynn, Omni
f. Reading software for individuals with reading disabilities.
Ex. E-Reader, Read & Write.
g. Voice recognition. Ex. NaturallySpeaking, ViaVoice.
h. Ergonomic mice and keyboards
i. Larger monitors (17" or greater)
j. Braille printer and brailling software
k. Closed Circuit TV for enlarging hard copy
l. Adjustable workstations
m. Adjustable chairs
- And sometimes:
a. Tactile printers
b. Dynamic braille displays
Choosing a product among a field of choices is often a dilemma.
A campus or university often does not want to use the resources
in obtaining and upgrading two products that perform the same
function, such as JAWS and Window-Eyes. Furthermore, selecting
more than one product in a particular function area means
learning and supporting that software, another drain on
Without recommending one product over another, we will start by
saying that there are advantages and disadvantages among the
pairs of products listed above. For instance, in the area of
screenreaders, JAWS is the most popular screen reading software
for Windows. Therefore, most students who have their own
screenreading technology will more often have this product. If
this is your chosen campus screenreader, your should be better
able to support students who have this software. Another
consideration is platform. If you require a screenreader for an
NT platform, you have no choice but to select JAWS over a product
such as Window-Eyes.
Some of the benefits of Window-Eyes are that it is often ahead
of JAWS in access to the Web though at the time of writing this
paper, they both have excellent tools for "reading" Web pages.
Another advantage of Window-Eyes is that it has tools for
individuals with low vision. A user who can operate the mouse,
can use the mouse pointer to read icons, text and other items on
the screen. JAWS does not have this feature. One last point to
consider is cost. Windows-Eyes is significantly less expensive
There is similar give-and-take when comparing other products
with similar functions. IBM's ViaVoice is rated more accurate
than NaturallySpeaking (PC Magazine, 11/5/99). However
NaturallySpeaking was also rated as a better product for
hands-free control and correction.
During the actual CSUN presentation we will look at how other
- Access to online classes and online course material that
supplements traditional classes
No matter how well equipped your campus is with Assistive
Technology and adaptive access, there are some issues that can
only be resolved in collaboration with other departments and
campus units. One of these areas is Web Access.
Even if access is provided to computers and print material
through assistive technology, that does not assure full academic
access for students. As the college and university presence on
the Web grows, Web based information must be designed accessibly.
This issue must be addressed through inter-department
collaboration since Web pages, particularly academic-related
pages, can come from many different parts of a campus. The
impetus for such collaboration and outreach must usually come
from the Disability Services Office or from the staff involved in
providing Assistive Technology Services since other groups are
usually not aware of this access issue.
Many campuses, including CSU and CU-Boulder, have found that
forming a committee with representatives from various areas of
campus involved with Web design is an effective way to address
this campus-wide issue.
Problems that often arise when trying to improve Web access on
campus include the following:
a. There are no LEGAL guidelines for determining the
accessability of Web pages.
b. It is not clear that Web access is legally required by the
ADA or Sect. 504.
c. The technical guidelines that exist, such as from the Web
Access Initiative (WAI), are too complex and lengthy.
- Some approaches that can be used to address this issue
a. Using a subset of the WAI guidelines such as AHEAD's
(http://www.ahead.ie/acc/index.html) , WAI's
(http://www.w3.org/WAI/References/QuickTips/) own Quicktips or
Ron Stewart's from Oregon State University and posting these
guidelines or links to these guidelines on campus Web
b. Develop an outreach and training program to various areas of
campus involved in Web development and distance education.
c. In outreach activities, use the OCR rulings, such as the
letter to CSU, Long Beach, to emphasize the need to make Web
pages and other electronic information resources accessible.
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