Lesson 11: Information Resources and Computer Technology
Serving Students with Disabilities
Distance Learning Course
SUBJECT: Access 11: INFORMATION RESOURCES AND COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY
The purpose of this lesson is to increase your awareness of the use of accessible information resources and COMPUTERS for students with disabilities.
By reflecting on YOUR own service area while reading the CONTENT, you will be guided to consider possible modifications SPECIFICALLY related to the accommodations for using computer stations or labs. By considering design features to include when setting up a new station that will be accessible to all students, you will become more aware of the possibilities of adaptive resources.
Question to reflect upon while reading the content
What challenges might students with disabilities face when using computers in my service area? What accommodations might they require?
In the past six lessons, we have concentrated on accommodations for students with specific disabilities or impairments. This lesson presents issues and suggestions of accommodations related to the use of information resources and computers in your service area.
Today, many offices produce brochures, flyers, and other print-based information resources. It is important to remember to address disability access issues when you are creating these materials. Answering the following questions can help guide you in creating accessible information resources:
- In key publications, do you include a statement about your commitment to access and procedures for requesting disability-related accommodations? For example, you could include this statement: "Our goal is to make all materials and services accessible to all students. Please inform staff of accessibility barriers you encounter and request accommodations that will make activities and information resources accessible to you."
- Are all printed publications available (immediately or in a timely manner) in alternate formats such as Braille, large print, and electronic text?
- Are printed materials within easy reach from a variety of heights and without furniture blocking access?
- Do electronic resources, including web pages, adhere to accessibility guidelines or standards adopted by your institution or your specific project or funding source? Section 508 Standards for Accessible Electronic and Information Technology (www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/abou...) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (www.w3.org/WAI) are the most commonly used. For general information about making your website accessible to everyone, consult World Wide Access: Accessible Web Design video presentation and publication at https://www.washington.edu/doit/videos/index.php?vid=35.
Computers and Assistive Technology
Some student service units use computers as information sources. The organization need not have special technology on hand for every type of disability but should have available commonly used assistive technology. Start with a few key items, and add new technology as students request it. Purchasing the following computer products will get you started:
- At least one adjustable-height table for each type of workstation can assist students who use wheelchairs or are smaller or large in stature.
- Large-print key labels can assist students with low vision.
- Software to enlarge screen images can assist students with low vision and learning disabilities.
- A large monitor (17 inches or larger) can assist students with low vision and learning disabilities.
- A trackball can be used by someone who has difficulty controlling a mouse.
- Wrist and forearm rests can assist some people with mobility impairments.
It is unlikely that YOU as a staff member are directly responsible for setting up COMPUTER LABS or selecting ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY. However, in order to help your students, it is important for you to be AWARE of computer access issues facing students with disabilities and the hardware and the software solutions for providing access to computers and electronic resources in your service area.
The examples of issues and accommodations presented can serve as a reference to help you recognize options when you encounter a student with a disability in your program and to assist you in the PLANNING and DESIGN stages of creating new materials. Incorporating universal design principles into the materials from the beginning reduces the need for accommodations later.
Question for Discussion
Send an email message to the group answering the following question:
What are some specific design features your service area might employ when setting up a new computer lab/station to make it accessible to all students?
Your email SUBJECT line should read: Access 11: INFORMATION RESOURCES AND COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY.
You can read answers to frequently asked questions, explore case studies, and access additional resources at The Conference Room, https://www.washington.edu/doit/distance-learning-course-serving-students-disabilities.
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