2002 Conference Proceedings

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Educational IT: How Students and Employees with Disabilities can AccessIT

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph. D.
Director, DO-IT, University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195
206-221-4171 FAX

Kurt Johnson, Ph. D.
Center for Technology and Disability Studies
University of Washington
Dagmar Amtmann
Center for Technology & Disability Studies
University of Washington
Box 357920
Seattle, WA 98195
206-543-4779 FAX


Legal, policy, management, training, support issues for making educational IT accessible nationwide, featuring the new NIDRR-funded National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education (AccessIT) at the University of Washington.

Access to information technology is essential for full participation in today's high tech society. Technology that is inaccessible to people with disabilities interferes with their ability to participate fully in education, employment and the community. Although progress has been made, there are still significant challenges to the full participation of people with disabilities in American society. Business, education, government, and other stakeholders need to be more fully aware of legal issues, technology solutions, and implementation strategies in order to develop appropriate policies and procedures in order for the vision to become reality regarding equal access to technology for people with disabilities.

Educational-based IT includes any technology used by students and employees in educational settings, such as:

* Computers
* Software
* Videotapes
* Web pages
* Telecommunications
* Fax machines, copiers, printers, kiosks and other information transaction and office equipment

This presentation will provide an overview of the access challenges and current solutions related to various types of IT used in educational entities. It will outline legal, policy, management, and training issues. The audience will be engaged in a lively discussion about how stakeholders and policymakers can be motivated to implement needed changes. Efforts of a new national center, AccessIT, will be highlighted.

The National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education (AccessIT) at the University of Washington in Seattle, is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of AccessIT is to coordinate a nation-wide effort to assist educational and governmental institutions to reach the goal of making education-based information technology (IT) accessible to all students and employees, including those with disabilities.

AccessIT employs a combination of proven practices in a concerted national effort to make education-based IT accessible to students and employees with disabilities. High quality training and technical assistance is provided where it has the greatest impact. Existing infrastructures for information dissemination and technical support are utilized. Working primarily through the established network of ten NIDRR-funded Disability Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs), its efforts reach elementary, secondary, and postsecondary educational entities of all types.

Most who participate in AccessIT activities fall into three categories, those who:

  1. develop policies and make decisions regarding planning for and procuring IT;
  2. implement IT (including regular and special educators, computer lab staff, library staff); and
  3. use accessible IT or advocate on their behalf (including students and employees with disabilities, their families and advocates).

As part of its nation-wide outreach activities, AccessIT:

  1. Compiles, redesigns, and develops materials to assist educational entities and their constituents to understand and fulfill their legal obligations to provide accessible IT.
  2. Conducts a national information dissemination campaign utilizing multiple formats and venues, to raise awareness of accessible education-based IT and inform target audiences about the availability of technical assistance from the DBTACs and others.
  3. Develops, disseminates and provides technical assistance with implementation of policies, procedures, and practices that promote the use and procurement by educational entities of accessible IT that meets recognized standards and applies universal design principles.
  4. Coordinates with and provides training, materials, and technical assistance to the DBTACs in support of their technical assistance efforts to educational entities on accessible IT.
  5. Provides training, materials and technical assistance to staff at the U.S. Department of Education's various IT initiatives, and coordinates efforts with relevant Federal agencies and programs to assure that strategies for achieving accessible IT are used and promoted in all of their activities and programs.

AccessIT brings together partners with substantial expertise, resources and dissemination channels. The University of Washington's Center for Technology and Disability Studies (UWDCTDS) and Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology (DO-IT) lead the efforts of AccessIT.

AccessIT partners include the Pacific Northwest Disability Business Technical Assistance Center (PNWDBTAC), Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI), the Washington Education Association (WEA), and Microsoft Corporation. AccessIT activities are coordinated with relevant Federal agencies and NIDRR-funded Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers on IT Access and Telecommunications Access and the IT Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC) at Georgia Tech, who targets businesses and corporations with activities whose goals are similar to AccessIT. AccessIT coordinates its dissemination efforts with its project partners, as well as with all NIDRR-funded centers, including The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET) and The National Center on the Study of Postsecondary Education Supports (NCSPES). People with disabilities are involved in all project activities.

Participants in this presentation will learn the broad issues that must be addressed and the stakeholders who must be involved in order for students and staff at all levels of education nationwide to gain full access to educational IT that will contribute to their academic and career success and full participation in society. They will also have a chance to impact future of AccessIT activities designed to reach these goals.

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