2006 Conference General Sessions

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PROMOTING AN ACCESSIBLE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT IN K-12 SCHOOLS

 

Presenter(s)
Stephanie Rosso
PACER Center

8161 Normandale Boulevard
Bloomington MN 55437
Day Phone: 952-838-1412
Fax: 952-838-0199
Email: stephanie.rosso@pacer.org

Presenter #2
Annette Cerreta
PACER Center
8161 Normandale Boulevard
Bloomington MN 55437

Day Phone: 952-838-1409
Fax: 952-838-0199
Email: acerreta@pacer.org

Presenters will discuss the successes and lessons learned from working with K-12 school districts to improve the accessibility of education technology.

Technology plays an increasingly important role in K-12 education today. Schools are becoming more reliant on technology as a method of curriculum delivery and access to school services. For example, teachers use online activities within classrooms; students have the option to take classes online; and teachers, students, and their families can communicate with the school through e-mail and school Web sites.

While technology has shown great potential to advance learning and improve access to school services, it also has created barriers for some students with disabilities who have difficulty accessing education technology. Even when these students have the assistive technology they need, the education technology may still be inaccessible or difficult to use because of poor design. For example, a student who is blind who uses screen reading software (assistive technology) to access content on a computer screen may still not be able to obtain important information from an educational web page if the page is not designed to be compatible with the student’s screen reading program.  In this case, the education technology actually prevents the student from accessing necessary educational content.

Post-secondary institutions have made significant progress toward establishing accessibility standards for education-related information technology in recent years, allowing students with a wide range of abilities to gain full access to school services and curricula. Unfortunately, K-12 schools have lagged far behind post-secondary programs in their efforts and progress to address accessibility concerns.

Therefore, there is still a tremendous need for K-12 schools to address accessibility problems with the technology tools they create and purchase, such as school Web sites, internet-based courseware, computer hardware and operating systems, and also stand-alone technologies, such as PDA’s and copy machines. K-12 schools, similar to many post-secondary institutions, need to establish accessibility standards and procedures to guide them in the evaluation and selection of more accessible technology. In doing so, they will ensure that students with disabilities benefit from education-based technology as do their classmates without disabilities.

Over the past four years, the PACER Simon Technology Center, a community technology center in Minneapolis, MN, and the Great Lakes ADA and IT Center in Chicago, IL, have collaborated on a project to promote awareness of accessibility issues and increase the use of accessible technology in K-12 schools. The project provides direct training and technical assistance to school districts to help them build capacity to provide accessible education technology.  This project has been successful in helping schools integrate accessibility standards into their district technology plans to bring about improved technology access to students with and without disabilities.

In the proposed session, presenters from PACER will discuss the successes and lessons learned from working with K-12 school districts to improve the accessibility of education technology. Speakers will present an overview of the strategies, training content, and resources utilized when working with K-12 districts and offer recommendations for educators and others interested in accomplishing similar goals.


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