The Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards, developed by the Access Board as required by the 1998 amendments to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, apply directly to federal agencies. Increasingly, they are being used by other organizations, including educational entities at all levels, to assess the accessibility of their information technology. The Access Board's standards address the accessibility of six technology categories, including computer hardware and software.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Technology in Education Consortium (MAR*TEC) was an organization working to address the Mid-Atlantic region's educational reform needs to ensure that every student in the region becomes technologically proficient. Technology accessibility was at the forefront of their efforts. One particularly promising practice was MAR*TEC's series of Techno-Briefs. As of April 2005, there were forty briefs, many focusing on technology accessibility.
Techno-Briefs like Accessible Educational Technology: Minimum Standards for Computer Software and Accessible Technology: Minimum Standards for Computer Hardware were particularly effective in explaining the Section 508 standards with language and examples that educators could understand, relate to, and apply. Another Techno-Brief, Technology: Is It Accessible to All Students?, discussed some common accessibility problems with instructional software and online content and outlined alternative instructional strategies and accommodations that educators could employ to overcome these problems.
Although staff admitted that progress was slow, it was the hope of MAR*TEC that as more educators integrated technology into their classrooms, that accessibility would become an integral part of the procurement and curriculum development process. Their Techno-Briefs represent a promising practice in creating training and resources for educators in order to increase the consideration of accessibility in the procurement and use of educational software.
For more information on choosing, developing, and purchasing accessible software, the following Knowledge Base articles may also be of interest: