Notes from Sessions 1 and 2 of the Technology Strand at the National Summit on Distance Education and Disability

May 11, 2004

Comments:

Priority 1 Issues

Standards and Guidelines for Accessibility and Usability

Component Issue A: Legal

  1. There is a lack of enforcement of existing legislation (e.g., ADA , 508).
  2. ADA has a focus on accommodation and there is not a requirement for native accessibility.

Component Issue B: Current Standards

  1. Existing standards are not always followed (e.g., W3C, IMS).
  2. We do not yet have standards that guide all of the distance education technologies that are currently in place. Moreover, accessibility has not yet infiltrated all the standards-setting bodies. We do not have full information on the best ways to make these technologies useable for those with disabilities in distance education.
  3. Individuals are not always aware of multiple standards or of the harmonization that must occur across standards. Examples would include different groups of technologies, audiences, and even countries.
  4. There are systemic accessibility issues that often do not get addressed through entire organizations and processes.
  5. There is not always a common vocabulary between standards.

Component Issue C: Standards That Are Needed (e.g., not yet in existence, or that need modification)

  1. There is too much emphasis on the "accommodation" process, instead of emphasizing inherent accessibility
  2. States and other entities can benefit by linking accessibility with procurement, using Section 508 as a model.
  3. We need to provide incentives for businesses to create accessible products (e.g., educational materials), rather than require that they provide accessible versions at no cost because these no-cost versions are not high quality.
  4. Create the requirement to do a "disability impact statement". This could go into RFP’s, or be part of OMB regulations. Reviewer pools could be trained to look for these items in a quality way.
  5. We need to create opportunities for strategic intervention with our policy makers through knowing what is coming up legislatively and our points of influence. This includes knowing how to follow the flow of money.

Component Issue D: Implementation Of Standards

  1. Need to increase awareness that standards exist. If new items were added (e.g., accreditation requirement, disability impact statements) the awareness issue would also pertain to those items.
  2. Need to increase motivation to conform to standards. This might be from a legal standpoint or from a funding standpoint. Other things that might motivate would include affordability, ethics, demand in the market, and linking to accreditation.

Need to monitor compliance with standards

Certification would aide procurement officers who are not always knowledgeable about accessibility

Testing documentation should be part of a requirement (third party would be best) so procurement officers have an outside data source.

Priority 2 Issues

Research and Development

Component Issue A: Need To Encourage The Creation Of New Technologies

Component Issue B: Need to Leverage Existing Technologies and or Apply them in New Ways

Component Issue C: Need to Ensure that New Technologies do not Create New Barriers

Component Issue D: Now is the time to Incorporate Accessibility into Products, as it Transitions from Analog to Digital

Component Issue E: We need to consider points of impact during content development

  1. In the development of tools:
    • There is a need to increase the prominence of disability aides, prompts, or tips in the tools we use.
    • There is a need for tools to produce accessible content by default.
    • The tools need to help developers from an accessibility architecture and planning point of view, not just from a compliance or checklist point of view.
  2. Better evaluation and repair tools
  3. Both content creators and developers need training
  4. Tools that convert content into Web formats need to help authors make it accessible, rather than just output inaccessible content.

Component Issue F: Considering the Role of On Demand Accessibility Rather than Built-in Accessibility

  1. It can be expensive to build in accessibility for all products at all levels, thus on-demand models may hold promise.
  2. We must consider the issues of timeliness and accuracy with on-demand models and answer the question of how this differs from "accommodations".

Priority 3 Issues

AWARENESS, EDUCATION, AND OUTREACH

Component Issue A: Stakeholders are a Diverse Group

e.g., Education: K-12, special/general education, technologists, administrators; postsecondary faculty, distance learning designers, administrators, disability resource personnel, technology staff; Industry: publishers/content providers, management; Government: policy makers/legislators; vocational rehabilitation/agencies; community agencies; public access facilities [libraries, voting systems]; Private Sector: consumers; advocates; researchers.

  1. Many topics require education. We need to point people to "best" or "recommended" practices
    • Accessibility issues in general (size of market/population within community, potential market, etc.) [Forrester Report: market is 60% of population].
    • Accessible development strategies.
    • How to capitalize on the embedded accessibility of the tools we use (capabilities, limitations).
    • Successful procurement strategies to yield accessible results.
    • The legal issues.
    • Existing standards.
    • Funds available for accessible development.
  2. Dissemination strategies need strengthening
  3. Need to emphasize that disability issues cut across populations, and should not be regarded only as a specialty topic.

Priority 4 Issues

SYSTEMIC CHANGE/POLICY IMPLEMENTATION

Component Issue A: Coordination and Communication

  1. Improvements between special education and general education.
  2. Improvements between faculty and technologists.
  3. Improvements amongst federal agencies.
  4. Need to create a "one stop" resource (or coordinate several of these [some of these already exist]), either virtual or in "brick and mortar" form.

Component Issue B: Need for Embedded Training

  1. Need to create opportunities for learning that are part of the typical curriculum or learning environment

Component Issue C: Need for Strong Implementation to Create Systemic Change.

Component Issue D: Switch to Digital Systems May Hold Promise and Pitfalls.

Priority 5 Issues

LACK OF ACCESSIBLE PRODUCTS (e.g., Software)

Component Issue A: Need to Fund Development of the Accessibility of Products (small and large companies)

  1. Much of current incentive money goes unused
  2. Need to create business environments that will promote accessible development. For example, how can we create interest and a market strategy for accessible development and sales? This remains a chicken/egg dilemma.