International Panel: What Typical Models, Approaches Or Frameworks Are Used In Each Country For Supporting And Delivering ICT For Disabled Students In Post-Secondary Education And How Successful Are They?

A panel member speaks into a microphone while other panelists look towards him.

This panel included one representative from each participating country: Tali Heiman (Israel); Alice Havel (Canada); Chetz Colwell and Tim Coughlan (UK); Dan Comden (US); and Christian Buehler (Germany).

The Open University of Israel (Tali Heiman)

Accessibility in higher education has been improving over the last six years in Israel:

  • In 2011, the equal rights regulation draft was written, which included accessibility adjustments to existing public places, higher education institutions, and higher education services.
  • In 2015, the Israeli Internet regulations were passed on the basis of global accessibility guidelines (W3C).
  • In 2016, the regulation of higher education institutions was legislated.
  • In 2017, higher education institutions were required to make accessibility adjustments.

The Open University of Israel (OUI) has open admissions, integrated teaching methods (including technologies), and a distance learning method. Since 2011, universal design has been used on campus and online. Students with learning disabilities make up the largest group of students with disabilities. Varieties of ICT tools used by tutors include online course materials, collaborative tools, hardware such as SMART board, communication tools, social networking, and personal computer technologies in class.

The Road to ICTs is Paved with Good Intentions (Alice Havel)

In Quebec, post-secondary education is a provincial responsibility, and we must follow the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which states “Every person has a right to full and equal recognition and exercise of his human rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on… a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.”

If we had to choose models we use, they would be the Interactional Model; the Disability Creation Process, a local model that focuses on each person’s specific needs; and the Universal Design for Learning model. Our processes mainly follow the social model of disability, and we are always trying to remove barriers. We get funding for software for individual students; however, we are only beginning to tackle accessibility in web design and documents.

Our barriers to supporting and delivering ICTs to students with disabilities are weak legislation and enforcement, a lack of top-down institutional support, heavy responsibility on disability services, and insufficient knowledge on creating accessible products.

What Typical Models, Approaches or Frameworks are Used in the UK for Supporting and Delivering ICT for Disabled Students in Post -Compulsory Education and How Successful are They? (Chetz Colwell and Tim Coughlan)

External drivers for accessibility for people with disabilities from the government includes the Disabled Student Allowance, the Equality Act and Public Sector Equality Duty (2010), some practitioner organizations, WCAG 2.0, and a lack of transition planning to college. We have discourse for inclusive teaching, but most of that is not brought into practice. While we want to believe in the social model of disability, we’re still falling back on the medical model, where resources are allocated based on diagnoses. There is a difference between claims of compliance and reality. The UK focuses mostly on the Holistic, Contextualized, and Staff Development Models—however, many of these models are mainly used in technical fields.

The Open University UK is open to all students and has a history of creating and presenting courses. The Securing Greater Accessibility team has brought colleagues together from across faculties and professional units. The greatest challenges fall in the fact that we have tight production schedules, some outdated modules, a lack of strategic direction related to practical actions, and lower attainment of some students with disabilities (though no research into which groups and why). We plan on increasing attention to accessibility in module production, including creating a policy for accessibility, and we want to take on a range of academic research.

Higher Ed Accessible Technology in the US (Dan Comden)

At the pre-college level, technology is personalized, with specialized support and equipment for each student. However, in higher education, support is not individualized, and each person must advocate for himself or herself. ICT support comes from student services, information technology, and sometimes both. In student services, students can go to one disability services office and get a more personalized experience. However, they may not be getting what information technology (IT) support and technology tools they need to be successful. If a student can turn to IT, they get the tools they need to be successful; however, they may need to reach out to find more about what they need, and staff will need specialized technology training.

On the UW campus, we have the Access Technology Center, where we promote accessible computers and equipment across campus for students to use, as well as alternative media options. Processes at other schools are unique to their campuses.

What Typical Models, Approaches, or Frameworks are Used in Germany for Supporting and Delivering ICT for Disabled Students in Post- Compulsory Education and How Successful are They? (Christian Buehler)

Compulsory school lasts until children are 9 or 10; the years 11-13 are for specific job training. Further vocational training and university training can be pursued after an exam. Throughout these stages, education is a responsibility of the states, with each state handling its implementation differently. For people with disabilities, the states often follow a medical model with social benefits, with a strong focus on employment; companies who do not hire enough people with disabilities are penalized by the requirement to pay equalization fees.

People with disabilities get strong technical support during their education, including hardware tools as well as software tools and individual school and workplace adaptation. Under, Barrierefreiheit, infrastructure is considered barrier free accessible if they are “in a general manner, without special difficulty, principally without external help, findable, accessible, and usable by people with disabilities.” This is the state law for all universities. Similar to UD, Design for All is another concept that has come out of a focus on special users and diversity as a strength, where products are suitable for most potential users and are easily adaptable for different users.

Some of the questions and responses from the International Panel are included below.

What ideas would you steal from other countries?

  • In the US, there is more enforcement of responsibility to support students with disabilities. Students can use the law to complain and force a university to meet their legal obligations.
  • In the UK, things are often done quickly and from a top-down perspective.
  • Other countries have a formal link between disability resources and information technology.
  • We need more specialists in accessibility and ICT and a link between accommodations and mainstream technology.

How can we fix the faculty workload to encourage them to promote accessibility?

  • We need a model that makes it clear who is responsible for what level of accessibility. 
  • We need to impress upon faculty that it is their responsibility to make their teaching accessible.
  • My argument is that it is all our responsibility—if we share it, then each person adds a little bit of time to their workload, and since faculty are the ones creating the content, they should proactively make it accessible. 
  • We need to be teaching people to create accessible content at a younger age.
  • Innovation and change efforts can sometimes lack consideration of accessibility; accessibility should always be part of the design process.
  • A faculty member should take pride in their own teaching and want all students, including those with disabilities, to learn their material well. 
  • In our country, we have a lump sum of money given to each college for faculty to apply for in order to can take time out of their schedule to improve their courses—this can include accessibility projects.

What can we consider is “enough” for promoting accessibility?

  • It will never be completed—it is a continual process that needs to be supported.
  • Accessibility will be achieved when we don’t need accessibility specialists on campus, which probably won’t be happening any time soon.

Design Issues Panel: What are the Design Issues Regarding ICT with Respect to the Institution and Students with Disabilities in Post-Secondary Education? And How if at All Do Models and Frameworks Contribute to Resolving Those Issues?

This panel included Christian Vinten-Johansen, Penn State University; Jeffrey Bigham, Carnegie Mellon University; Cyndi Rowland, Utah State University; and Cynthia Bennett, University of Washington. 

Below are some of the answers to the question: What can we do to help the next generation of faculty and IT creators promote and create with accessibility in mind?

  • I include accessibility as a point in all of my classes, even if that class doesn’t have a main focus on accessibility.
  • People with disabilities are often at the forefront of technology—this makes accessibility even more important to focus on.
  • Accessibility is becoming more and more of a requirement when creating products. On the corporate side, businesses are having a hard time finding people who know about accessibility—we need students to learn about accessibility so they can fill these jobs.
  • All of our faculty must work with an instructional designer—all designers and faculty must pass a course on accessibility.
  • All new class content should be accessible and, as appropriate, include accessibility topics.
  • There needs to be a stronger motivator for faculty to make accessible documents. Humanizing disability may encourage some people. Bringing people with disabilities into class to center the conversation around can help faculty and students think more about accessibility.
  • Service providers should help facilitate the connections between faculty and students with disabilities.

Transition Issues Panel: What are the ICT Issues Related to Transition to Employment for Students with Disabilities? And How if at All Do Models and Frameworks Contribute to Resolving Those Issues?

This panel included Hadi Rangin, University of Washington; Megan Lawrence, Microsoft; Patricia Malik, University of Illinois; and Raja Kushalnagar, Gallaudet.

Below are some of the responses to the question, what should be considered for students who need ICT when transitioning to employment?

  • It’s difficult to decide whether to disclose a disability or not—I often feel like this can change the conversation or make people uncomfortable. I think if the general public learned more about disability, people would be better equipped to talk about accommodations.
  • People with disabilities often have two jobs—one job is their actual job, and the second is to raise awareness and educate their coworkers about their disability.
  • People use social media to promote their own “personal brand”— having a bad social media presence can affect getting hired.
  • The hiring process is often not fully accessible. These steps should be evaluated for accessibility, and alternative methods should be available as necessary.
  • We need a diverse workforce—if we do not have accessible hiring processes, then we are selling our society short.
  • In higher education, students are given accommodations. In the workplace, often an employee may have to fight for the tools they need. If a company has equipment that doesn’t work with accessible technology, what does the employee do?
  • We host a networking event that invites companies and students with disabilities to come together to share a meal and learn more about each other. This can both help introduce employers to potential employees and break the stigma about disabilities.
  • Choosing when to disclose an invisible disability is especially difficult.
  • Some people with disabilities are often not able to get entry level positions since they are more labor intensive—this creates more barriers to hiring a person with a disability since they can’t get their foot in the door at an early stage.
  • Working can often be very different from school—a person may not know exactly what they need to be successful and may need to learn what works for them.
  • People with disabilities are more successful if they have allies in getting their accommodations. This might be their manager or someone in human resources (HR).
  • In the tech field it can be even harder to find an appropriate sign language interpreter, since they may not know how to sign the technical language.
  • We need to empower students to ask the right questions. Ask if there is a resource group or other groups that could be joined.

Following are some of the responses to the question, what IT barriers did you come into when you got your job?

  • The hiring software didn’t work with my screen reader when I tried to apply to this job. Furthermore, it wasn’t that clear how to apply otherwise. I had to reach out to someone in the organization to help me apply for the job.
  • Many pieces of technology on the job can be inaccessible, and sometimes it can require an accommodation and finding other solutions. Sometimes jobs will say they have a subcontractor creating the technology, so they can’t fix those issues. This then becomes a procurement problem.
  • On my campus, we have an HR module about diversity, and that module isn’t accessible. My campus stated they got that module from a third party and therefore can’t fix it.
  • We should be proactive in making sure we don’t purchase inaccessible tools and software. Vendors can often be worked with to make sure tools are accessible or become accessible when a problem is found. Adding accessibility to a contract can also help keep a vendor on the right path in designing an accessible product.

Student Issues: Disabled Students Share Their Experiences of How the Support and Delivery of ICT Has Impacted Their Learning and Transitions Between Education Levels and to Employment

This panel included Scott Ferguson, Erika Teasley, K Wheeler, and Emanuel Lin.

Below are some of the responses to the question, what are your experiences of how ICT has supported and impacted your learning and transitions between education levels and employment?

  • I had to train myself in a screen reader and refreshable braille display, which has very different keystrokes than Korean tools. I have a unique challenge of not only being blind, but learning a new language when I came to America.
  • I used Inspiration, organizational software, and I tried Dragon Naturally Speaking back when it wasn’t as good as it is now for dictation.
  • I am Deaf and use a cochlear implant that helps me hear pretty well in quiet environments. I use Pidgin American Sign Language (ASL) and a phone to text.
  • I’ve been using technology in school since third grade when I started using the computer to type since it was a lot faster than writing. I’ve used a laptop most of my high school career, and I got a Microsoft Surface in college, which was much lighter and allowed me to use my technology independently.
  • I got a small keyboard that I could type on in middle school that I could use for notes and essays, and I could plug it in to a computer to print it out. However, this made math very difficult. Later I got Dragon Naturally Speaking, which was not very effective in doing mathematics. I have always needed someone to assist me in writing out math. I am a computer programmer, and I need an assistant to help write out some of my code. I have had many challenges in finding and using assistive technology.

Below are some responses to the question, if you a professor posted notes before class, would that alleviate that need for a note taker?

  • The student will volunteer to take notes and post them online with disability resource services. However, I’ve had teachers use TopHat, which is a program that sends out slides to anyone’s phones and tablets, and people can answer quiz questions during the lecture. This has really helped.
  • Sometimes a note taker won’t take notes in the same way I would take notes taken, so I like to take notes as well as get the note taker’s notes to fill in the blanks I missed.
  • Sonocent can sync an audio file with each PowerPoint slide, so that I can hear specific teacher comments for each slide.
  • Some teaching assistants will agree to give me notes as long as I don’t share those notes with others.
  • Sometimes when slides or notes are posted in advance, a professor will go off their planned materials, and so I don’t get notes on that content. So even if I get notes beforehand, I still need a note taker.
  • I use FML and LightTech for any math subjects to take notes, but these were delivered after lecture. I also connect my refreshable braille display or have used Google Docs where my note taker will type what is on the black board or screen and I can follow the flow of the conversation.

Below are responses to the question, what are your social challenges at the university and does the institution address any of those challenges?

  • I’ve fortunately not had any social issues; it was easy for me to make friends.
  • In K-12 we all had lunch together, but I could only sit in the accessible seat. This could sometimes lead people to not sit near me.
  • In college, I run a club and I try to design everything to be universally designed. Even if someone doesn’t request captioned videos or an accessible location, I make sure we try to be as accessible as possible.
  • At the UW, we try to have assistive technology across campus so students can meet anywhere on campus and not just one computer lab.
  • People can sometimes make assumptions about my abilities. I can talk pretty well and hear okay, so people sometimes assume I don’t need my ASL interpreter. People can sometimes also think I’m going to slow them down in group work if we need to use the interpreter, even though I can bring a different perspective to the table.
  • I can encounter inaccessible technology; if a class is fully accessible, I can be free and feel more confident in my work.
  • I often feel burdened to push people to use more accessible technology, and this can make me feel guilty, even if it’s my right. I have made connections with other blind students to find solutions.

Below are some of the responses to the question, who provides you with accessible technology and does that change in transition?

  • In high school I always had an ASL interpreter, and it was DO-IT that taught me that in college there wouldn’t just be an interpreter in class. In college, I had to prove I was deaf and needed an interpreter and my other accommodations. I had to really decide on what I needed when I went to disability resource services.
  • Most of my hardware I got from DO-IT; I use assistive features of my phone.
  • My initial computer and assistive technology were loaned to me by the Department of Rehabilitation. When I transitioned to my workplace, the HR manager and my manager both asked me if I needed any assistive technology so they could provide it before I came on board.
  • In the US, high schools provide most technology you need. In college, it can depend on the technology—at the Access Technology Center at the UW we provide many different types of standard assistive technology that we can give to students. In employment, it is up to the employer to provide the technology.
  • Often K-12 schools won’t let students take their technology home from school, and this can create barriers for doing homework independently. 
  • For online learning, the university only has to provide as much technology as they provide to any other student—since they don’t provide computers to students, they don’t have to provide assistive technology to students with disabilities.

When panelists were asked about their successes and barriers in getting accommodations when doing anything outside of the classroom, one panelist reported that outside of class whether he/she can get an interpreter depends on making a request at least a week in advance. If someone wants to meet in a noisy area, he/she may request working in a quiet study room or request an interpreter.

Responses below are to the questions: What types of text to speech technology do you use? and What platforms do you use for e-books?

  • I just use a basic PDF reader and the disability resource services will scan books to me.
  • I have issues with formatting, since those can’t be delivered easier with speech. I use Jaws and use specific sounds for bold or italics or placement. That way I can know the structure of a program, sentence, or mathematical equation. Sometimes heading or color can bring information to a reader. Since I can’t see those, BRF format for braille can help me get some more of that information when reading via braille.

Participants responded as follows when asked how they cope when there is a lot of time and/or stress in getting the tools or accommodations they need, which can affect grades?

  • I just make time in my schedule every day just to make sure I have extra time to get anything I need. I have to have a very flexible schedule.
  • I am usually at the mercy at the professor. Some professors are lenient and give me extra time on homework if I haven’t gotten my resource yet. I’ve had professors scan their own textbooks for me as well.