Free access to assistive technology products

If you or your students are suddenly at home with no access to your AT software, Freedom Scientific has you covered.

Your health and safety are just as important to us as accessibility. We know many of you must remain at home and will need to continue to work or attend school remotely. To ensure that your life remains accessible Freedom Scientific is offering those in the US and Canada a Free Home License of JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion which will expire June 30, 2020.

For those outside North America, Freedom Scientific and its international distributors are working together to provide home solutions for their customers during the COVID-19 crisis. Please contact your local distributor if you need assistance connecting to school or work from home.…Read More

4 common barriers to accessible content for all students

This summer, many faculty will work on developing or revising curricular content for their courses. One of the keys in developing new digital materials is verifying that those materials offer accessible content for all students.

Today, most learning management systems (LMS) and software programs offer some level of accessibility compliance checking. However, they are not always thorough or error-free.

Related Content: 5 steps to ensure accessibility…Read More

Ensuring accessible content for all students

This summer, many faculty will work on developing or revising curricular content for their courses. One of the keys in developing new digital materials is verifying that those materials offer accessible content for all students.

Today, most learning management systems (LMS) and software programs offer some level of accessibility compliance checking. However, they are not always thorough or error-free.

Related Content: 5 steps to ensure accessibility…Read More

5 steps to ensure accessibility

While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was last reauthorized in 2004, with amendments in 2015, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) updated back in 2008, the demand for accessibility and equality in education continues to grow. Administrators and teachers, who want to help every child reach their potential, can’t afford to wait for new laws and policies. To ensure accessibility, educators need to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of accessibility initiatives, advocate for resources for their students, and anticipate where they need to go next. During the edWebinar “Accessibility: Effective, Equitable Learning Environments for All Students,” which is part of a series hosted by CoSN and edWeb.net, the presenters discussed how they approach CoSN’s five steps to ensure accessibility.

5 steps we need to take to ensure accessibility and equality in education

Step 1: Stay current with federal and state legislation.
First, every district needs an administrator who stays current on federal and state laws regarding compliance. That person then disseminates information as needed to principals, teachers, etc. The presenters also recommended reaching out to colleagues, staying in touch with state associations, and in general having an ear out for any changes.

Related: 3 steps to a more accessible classroom…Read More

Make your Google Docs more accessible

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published on the TCEA TechNotes blog.]

As educators, there are many things we can do to make our Google Docs more accessible to our students. We should always be thinking about including universal design for learning (UDL) in all that we do. As a matter of fact, the ISTE Standards for Educators call for educators to design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability (ISTE Standard 5, Designer). Check out the best practices below to create documents that will be more readable and accessible for everyone, including your students.

Related: So you think you understand UDL?…Read More

4 examples of engaging vision-impaired students in STEM

STEM learning is a cornerstone of education in today’s K-12 schools, but STEM classrooms often aren’t all that inspiring to students who are blind or have low vision.

So much of science is based on sight and observations, and when students who have vision challenges are forced to stand off to the side and listen to classmates’ observations about experiments or data, they lose some of the excitement that goes along with scientific discovery.

But students who are blind or have low vision don’t have to miss out on STEM’s engaging aspects. Science companies are creating tools that accommodate different needs, and some groups have created science experienced geared toward students with vision challenges.…Read More

3 steps to a more accessible classroom

“Turn on the subtitles, Ms. Olague!”

I clicked on the “CC” button underneath the YouTube video, and the closed-captioning appeared at the bottom of the screen. Suddenly, all my students were looking at the screen with wide eyes, eager to watch the video. In my first-grade classroom, a third of my students were learning English as a second language. Though my English learners were the initial reason I starting using closed-captioning on videos, I soon realized that students with special needs also benefited. As a public school teacher, I had to constantly evaluate how my teaching practices and materials could better include and empower the vast diversity in my classroom.

My students loved having subtitles on during short videos because it gave them more opportunities to interact with and learn from the content. All my students were learning how to read, and the captions helped them connect the audio to the visual representation of text. Plus, the students who struggled with attention didn’t miss out on any information since they could access the content through the voice-over, the visuals in the video, and the text in the captions. I used closed-captioning with BrainPop Jr. content, ClassDojo videos, GoNoodle, and other phonics or science videos on YouTube.…Read More

10 steps for making your online courses accessible for all students

New report highlights 10-step plan to applying Universal Design for Learning online

universal-UDL-learningAccording to a new report, incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in online courses not only benefits students with disabilities, but can have significant benefits for all students, ultimately increasing retention and improving learning outcomes. UDL is tough enough in a face-to-face environment, but the real challenge might be how to implement the principles in an online world where students’ abilities and learning styles differ drastically.

The recent report, written by three professors at Montana State University, aims to help educators involved in online learning implement UDL for teaching both general and diverse populations, including students with disabilities.

The authors note that while, ideally, UDL allows students with disabilities to access courses without adaptation, it can also help to improve learning—and, therefore, retention—among all students.…Read More

Improving online accessibility for students a major issue for schools

As schools make recorded lessons available to students online, they may not be making them accessible

accessibility-ccIn February, advocates for the deaf filed federal lawsuits against Harvard and M.I.T., stating that both universities violated antidiscrimination laws by failing to provide closed captioning in their online lectures, courses, podcasts, and other educational materials. In Harvard and M.I.T. Are Sued Over Lack of Closed Captions, the New York Times highlighted portions of the complaint and zeroed in on the fact that, “Much of Harvard’s online content is either not captioned or is inaccurately or unintelligibly captioned, making it inaccessible for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Applying ADA to Online Education

This new case highlights a particularly controversial subject in an era where more colleges and K-12 schools are making lectures available online and developing related content that may not always be accessible to students with disabilities. Sheryl Burgstahler, founder and director of University of Washington’s DO-IT Center and UW Access Technology Center (ATC) in Seattle, says part of the issue lies in confusion over exactly how the American Disabilities Act applies to the world of online education.…Read More