The Kentucky Accessible Information Technology in Schools Project

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In 2000, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a far-reaching law, commonly called the Kentucky Accessible Information Technology (AIT) Act, KRS 61.980 61.988, which requires that all state-supported institutions utilize information technology resources that are accessible to people with disabilities. This law explicitly covers school districts, universities, and all other institutions supported with state funds. As one of the "covered entities" under this statute, school districts are required to ensure that the information technology they use will provide students with disabilities with access "that is equivalent to the access provided individuals who are not disabled" (KRS 61.982). As a means of determining conformity with this provision, Kentucky law further defines that the level of access provided by school systems and other covered entities must be in compliance with federal Section 508 access standards (36 C.F.R. 1194).

Although Kentucky's AIT law has been on the books for a number of years, anecdotal evidence suggested that few school systems were aware of its implications, and there was no evidence that any formal policies had been formulated to address compliance with this legislation. To help provide a framework to address this issue, the Kentucky Assistive Technology Service (KATS) Network, in collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Education's Division of Exceptional Children Services launched the AITIS (Accessible Information Technology in Schools) project to develop accessibility guidelines, checklists, and other technical assistance materials for helping school systems understand and fulfill their obligations under Kentucky's AIT law. These materials were developed with input from personnel at the school district level, assistive technology professionals, and representatives from disability consumer groups. Guidance and other forms of assistance were provided from national experts in the field through the participation of our primary project partner, the Southeast Disability Business Technical Assistance Center (SEDBTAC), as well as the National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education (AccessIT) at the University of Washington, the National Center for Accessible Media at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting/WGBH, and Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI). Funding for the KY-AITIS Project is provided in part through a grant by the U.S. Dept. of Education (Grant #H133D010207).

The AITIS Project was initiated by the Kentucky Assistive Technology Service (KATS) Network on February 1, 2003, and the initial funding allocation ended on December 31, 2004. Additional funding for ongoing project development was approved effective April 1, 2005.

BACKGROUND OF THE KATS NETWORK

The KATS Network is the federally-funded Assistive Technology Act program for the state of Kentucky. KATS is a statewide network of organizations and individuals connecting to enhance the availability of assistive technology devices and services to improve the productivity and quality of life for individuals with disabilities. KATS engages in advocacy activities and capacity building efforts to help make assistive technology information, devices, and services easily obtainable for people of any age or disability.

The KATS Network is a Kentucky state agency affiliated with the Kentucky Office for the Blind, which is part of the Department for Workforce Investment within the state Education Cabinet. KATS is headquartered at the McDowell Center in Louisville and supports four regional resource centers and two satellite centers across the state. KATS initiatives are designed to work toward permanent systems change through responsive, comprehensive, statewide programs of technology-related assistance for individuals of all ages with disabilities.

KATS regularly works with other state agencies and educational entities on matters of accessibility and access to assistive technology. …