DO-IT Mentoring: A Promising Practice in Creating an Accessible Electronic Community

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) is housed at the University of Washington in Seattle. DO-IT provides computers, assistive technology, and Internet connections in the homes of college-bound teens with disabilities accepted into the DO-IT Scholars program. Participants have many different types of disabilities, including those that affect the ability to hear, see, speak, learn, and move.

How can our school or district go about developing an accessible information technology policy?

Policies and procedures can be developed to assure that electronic and information technology procured and used in schools is accessible to all employees and students, including individuals with disabilities and their family members. How can an organization begin this process? Considerations for K-12 (preschool through high school) and postsecondary educational entities should include the following:

Does the information on public websites, intranets, and distance learning courses at postsecondary institutions have to be accessible to visitors with disabilities?

The short answer to this is yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (§504) prohibit postsecondary institutions from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education has indicated through complaint resolution agreements and other documents that institutions covered by the ADA and §504 that use the Internet for communication regarding their programs, goods, or services, must make that information accessible.

What is the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and what do they do?

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a federal agency with the responsibility of ensuring equal access to education through the enforcement of civil rights. Several federal agencies have offices for civil rights attached to them, but the OCR in the Department of Education is specifically responsible for enforcing numerous federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education.

North Carolina State University: A Promising Practice on Web Accessibility Policy

A growing number of postsecondary educational entities are drafting web accessibility policies and guidelines. Typically these policies include a broad policy statement regarding the university's commitment to accessibility, followed by a declaration of how web accessibility is defined by the institution (usually institutions simply adopt the Section 508 web accessibility standards). Many policies additionally include a timeline by which accessibility must be attained, exemptions to the policy, and links to internal resources that are available for support and training.

How can the use of accessible IT be promoted to K-12 educational entities?

Whether you're a person with a disability, a parent, a developer, a vendor, an educator, or another advocate, promoting the use of accessible information technology to K-12 educational entities is a worthy cause. However, this mission can be difficult. Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that there are so many stakeholders involved in the process of selecting and procuring accessible information technology. Administrators, technology specialists, teachers, parents, students, therapists, and counselors are all appropriate audiences for promotion.

Missouri State University: A Promising Practice in Building Accessibility into Mainstream IT Policies

When a college or university addresses the accessibility of its information technology (IT), one of the challenges it faces is elevating the issue beyond the focus of disability-related special interests and into the realm of mainstream institutional policy. Missouri State University has risen to this challenge and has built universal access solidly into the university's website policy.

NAD: A Promising Practice in Streaming Captioned Educational Video

Educators are becoming increasingly aware of the power of video to engage students in this multimedia world. Video content, however, can create barriers for some individuals with disabilities, including people with hearing impairments. The solution is to caption the video, so that content that is available via audio is simultaneously accessible via text to those who can't hear the audio.