How do I develop accessible educational software?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended in 1998, requires federal agencies to ensure accessibility of software (and other electronic and information technology) that it develops, procures, maintains, or uses. The Access Board published a set of standards to support Section 508. The final standards document, Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards, includes a "Software Applications and Operating Systems" section.

What is the Access Board?

The Access Board is an independent federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. The Board is structured to function as a coordinating body among Federal agencies and to directly represent the public, particularly people with disabilities. Half of the Board members are representatives from most of the Federal departments. The other half is comprised of members of the public appointed by the President, a majority of whom must have a disability.

Does a postsecondary institution have to provide specific hardware or software (known as assistive technology) that an individual with a disability requests so that they can access information technology used on campus?

Title II of the ADA (which covers public postsecondary institutions) requires that public institutions must give "primary consideration" to the requests of the individual with a disability when determining what type of auxiliary aid and service is necessary (28 C.F.R. §35.160(b)(2)).

California Community Colleges: A Promising Practice in Alternate Media Accessibility Guidelines

One of the greatest challenges that students with print disabilities face in higher education is gaining access to alternate format materials such as Braille, large print, or electronic text. Higher education entities are often large and decentralized and sometimes have inadequate systems in place for responding in a timely and efficient manner to alternate format requests. Such was the case in 1996, when the U.S.

California Community Colleges: A Promising Practice in Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines

In the spring of 1996, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), notified the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges that it was about to begin a statewide review under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Specifically, the focus of the review would be on whether or not the community colleges were meeting their obligation to provide students with visual impairments access to print and computer-based information.

How does accessible web design benefit all web users?

There are many examples in society of innovations that were originally intended for people with disabilities but that have provided access benefits to all people (curb cuts and automatic door openers are two of the most common). Accessible web content is a similar innovation. Web content designed in a way that is accessible to people with disabilities additionally benefits many nondisabled users and often benefits all users. Following are specific examples:

The Federal Government: A Promising Practice in Providing Assistance to Procurement Officials

As educational entities purchase information technology (IT) products, it is critical that they consider the accessibility of these products for their students and employees with disabilities. At present, only a small number of educational entities have begun to systematically address accessibility within their IT procurement processes. However, the federal government of the United States has worked diligently to address its IT accessibility since the passage of 1998 Amendments to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Letter to the President: A Promising Practice in Promoting Technology Accessibility

Postsecondary education institutions play key roles in assuring a future world where information technology (IT) is accessible to people with disabilities. Not only must they provide accessible IT environments for their students and employees, but they can also produce a future workforce of accessibility-aware scientists and engineers. To date, postsecondary institutions have generally fallen short in both of these areas, though many individual students, faculty, and staff have taken valiant steps toward addressing their institution's systemic accessibility problems.

PIVoT: A Promising Practice in Making an Online Physics Course Accessible

PIVoT stands for Physics Interactive Video Tutor and is a comprehensive online learning environment that supplements a notoriously challenging Introduction to Physics class at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Its content includes a complete online textbook, a multimedia library containing one year's worth of lectures, and dozens of tutorials centered around specific problems in the course. In 1999, MIT began a project with the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) in which collaborators worked to make the content of this course accessible to people with disabilities.