Kentucky's AITIS Project: A Promising Practice in Helping Schools Comply with an Accessible IT Act
In February of 2003 the Kentucky Assistive Technology Service (KATS) Network , in collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Education Division of Exceptional Children Services, launched the Accessible Information Technology in Schools (AITIS) project . The AITIS project goal is to develop materials to help school systems understand and fulfill their obligations under Kentucky's Accessible Information Technology Act.
In order to address issues related to lack of awareness, policy, and accessibility implementation, the AITIS project created resources such as an Information Technology (IT) accessibility policy matrix, school district Section 508 technical standards checklists, and an online tutorial on Kentucky accessibility guidelines for K-12. According to AITIS staff important lessons learned in implementing this project include the following:
- It is important to communicate directly with the head technology person assigned to a school district. In Kentucky, the District Technology Coordinator serves as the Chief Information Officer for the district, and is the key individual involved in district technology planning and purchasing, technology policy development, and monitoring. Although getting the word out about accessibility to the individual technology teachers in all schools--in Kentucky they are referred to as Technology Resource Teachers--is also important, enforceable district-wide policy must originate with the district office.
- It is essential to stress that accessibility is a technology issue, not just a special education or disability issue. Accessibility is often a new concept to technology staff. Many times information technology accessibility will be confused as a special education issue and ignored by technology personnel as something for the special education director to handle. However, the special education director typically has little understanding of IT issues, and no direct responsibility or authority for dealing with this issue.
- It is important to highlight that IT accessibility is not just an assistive technology issue. Many technology staff and special education staff alike come to the inaccurate conclusion that information technology accessibility is merely a matter of purchasing the right assistive technology product after a student has been identified as unable to access the IT through "standard" methods. To the contrary, the focus of information technology accessibility is on adhering to minimum accessible IT specifications at all times, regardless even if a student with a disability has been identified. Purchasing assistive technology for a specific student may not provide access to IT that is designed in such a way that it is inaccessible. The creation of accessibility policies and adherence to them, however, will ensure that inaccessible IT products are not part of the school environment from the outset.
This effort provides a promising practice in developing tools to help schools understand and meet their responsibilities in the area of IT access. For more information please visit The Kentucky Accessible Information Technology in Schools Project in the August 2005 volume of Information Technology and Disabilities.