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NCDAE: The National Center on Disability and Access to Education

Increasing universal access by
developing educational resources

NCDAE Accessibility Newsletter - May 2007

In This Edition:

This Month's Feature - The Times They Are A Changin'

It has been almost a decade since Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require that electronic and information technology used, purchased, or maintained by federal agencies be accessible to persons with disabilities. However, Section 508 has remained largely misunderstood and, while some efforts have been made to comply with the standards set forth in the amendment, enforcement has proven to be problematic. Most products and websites still have a long way to go before they can truly be considered accessible (or usable) for persons with disabilities. Furthermore, Section 508 only applies to federal (and federally funded) agencies. The United States has no laws requiring private agencies to afford accessibility in electronic formats. Recent lawsuits against companies such as Target ( and Oracle however, ( are giving private concerns monetary reasons to consider accessibility when developing their products.

The internet has made accessibility a global concern. A British Tribunal ruled this year that a US company with no physical presence in the UK was still liable under the UK's Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which requires that all websites (public and private) meet accessibility standards ( The World Health Organization estimates that 10% of the world population (or 600 million people) have some form of disability, yet a study commissioned by the United Nations found that only 3% of websites around the world meet even the basic standards for accessibility. In order to address this deficiency, the first Global Forum of the UN Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) was convened in March 2007.

This international focus on accessibility is helping to drive the winds of change toward a more accessible world. Many countries including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Japan and the European Union have laws relating to accessibility and electronic media and the US Access Board is currently updating the standards set forth in Section 508. With the aging baby boomer population and the realization that 1 in 5 Americans will experience a disability in their lifetime, many businesses are also realizing the benefits of making their products accessible to all.

Over the past five years, the National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE) has been working to promote accessibility in electronically mediated education. We have focused on three areas: policy, education and technology. The following sections are the thoughts and predictions of the staff at NCDAE as we prepare to enter a new phase of accessibility (Accessibility 2.0?). It is with enthusiasm and optimism that NCDAE reflects on the past and looks toward the future of accessibility...

Read the full article:

Tips and Tools - Online Communication Tools

People use many different tools to collaborate in an online environment. These include forums, instant messaging tools, IRC, whiteboards, and Voice over IP.

NCDAE has created a fact sheet that outlines the general accessibility principles for each of these technologies and highlights some accessible collaboration tools.

Read the resource:

Webcast - Web Accessibility 2.0?

Tomorrow - May 16th, 2007

Join Derek Featherstone, Gez Lemon, Aaron Leventhal and Jared Smith tomorrow as they discuss the future of web accessibility.

Web 2.0 is a term used to describe the recent trend in web applications and development. Innovative applications of AJAX and other technologies are changing the way users interact with web content in dramatic ways. These technologies hold much potential for people with disabilities, yet also bring many potential barriers. This webcast will explore these next generation web applications and technologies and will present how these impact people with disabilities for good and for bad.

The webcast will be held tomorrow (Wednesday), May 16th, 2007 from 3:00 - 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time (12:00PM Pacific; 1:00PM Mountain; 2:00PM Central). The audio broadcast will last approximately one hour. It is free of charge and will be captioned simultaneously for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Tune into the webcast at:


According to the US Administration on Aging (, the aging population will continue to grow significantly into the future. The "baby boom" generation is hitting age 65 and will swell the ranks of the aged between 2010 and 2030.

"The population 65 and over will increase from 35 million in 2000 to 40 million in 2010 (a 15% increase) and then to 55 million in 2020 (a 36% increase for that decade). By 2030, there will be about 71.5 million older persons, almost twice their number in 2005. People 65+ represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2005 but are expected to grow to be 20% of the population by 2030. The 85+ population is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2000 to 6.1 million in 2010 (40%) and then to 7.3 million in 2020 (44% for that decade)."

As people age, they are more likely to experience a disability as well as general reductions in motor control, visual and aural acuity, and cognitive function. As a greater percentage of the population reaches 65 (and over), it is essential that guidelines and measures for accessibility are in place to ensure that seniors can maintain their independence and ability to participate in daily activities.

Affiliate Highlight - Norm Coombs and EASI

Norm CoombsThe one time in my life that being blind was an advantage happened in the early 1980s. When I began to use a computer with a speech synthesizer a new world opened for me. Besides using it to send documents to my secretary, I had students submit work in email instead of on hard copy. It automatically became a communication device for me while most people viewed it as a programming and computational device. Personal computers did not, at that time, even come equipped with email software or Internet software. When the college wanted a faculty person to experiment with using interactive computer programs to support a telecourse, I was the only volunteer. It meant I was thrust into being an international pioneer in distance learning. Although I can't claim credit for the insight, it put me in the forefront of educational technology.

A decade later I became the CEO of EASI (Equal Access to Software and Information), and, after retiring from teaching history, I have dedicated my efforts with EASI to provide training to schools, colleges and other institutions helping them to learn how to make their computer and information technology systems accessible to people with disabilities. The computer, the World Wide Web and adaptive computer technologies have provided the opportunity for us to create the most level learning space, most equal work place and a more equal entertainment platform than ever before in history.

Teaching is still my passion, and EASI provides online courses on accessible information technology ( EASI also provides regular, interactive Webinars on accessible information technology ( Recently EASI began providing 3 separate Podcast feeds on various aspects of accessible IT. In the near future, EASI will begin exploring how to make video Podcasts (vodcasts) accessible and will provide training opportunities for others who need to learn this skill.

Coombs and EASI present regularly at several computer and disability conferences. EASI has a special track of invited presentations at both the Accessing Higher Ground conference in Colorado and at the Technology and People with Disabilities conference sponsored by California State University Northridge.

Norman Coombs was born in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. He became blinded at age 8 in a play accident. Coombs earned the Ph.D. in history at the University of Wisconsin and taught history at the Rochester Institute of Technology for almost 40 years. He now resides with his wife in southern California.

Upcoming Events - WebAIM Training

Join WebAIM's accessibility experts in two days of intensive, hands-on web accessibility training June 20-21, 2007 in beautiful Logan, Utah. Learn everything from basic web accessibility principles to advanced accessibility techniques. Learn what you need to know to ensure that you and your website meets legal guidelines and international standards. Registration is limited to ensure you get individualized attention, so register now to secure your place. To register or to find out more, visit:

In the News - Accessible IBM

Over the past several years, IBM has shown a commitment to accessibility. From the development of assistive technologies, to political activism, to donating open source code to make other companies' products accessible, over 50 articles featuring IBM have appeared in NCDAE's RSS feed over the past four years. In fact, our very first article on this RSS feed was about IBM. Their latest project, the Accessibility Common Courseware Exchange for Software Studies (ACCESS) is a partnership with universities from across the United States to create a repository of learning materials that that can be used to help teach students, professors and Web designers how to make technology more accessible for persons with disabilities and the aging population.

The following are some of the articles about IBM that have been featured on the NCDAE RSS feed:

Designs to focus on IT needs of disabled

IBM partnership will make technology more accessible to the disabled, aging

Program Aims to Make Tech Disabled-Friendly,1895,2108555,00.asp

IBM helps blind 'see' web video

IBM to make streamed media more accessible

IBM technology helps disabled surf the web

University of Toronto signs up for IBM accessibility program