Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Bits & Bytes: Accessibility Is Everyone's Responsibility

Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Bits & Bytes: Accessibility Is Everyone's Responsibility

Article excerpt

Over the past few months the faculty and staff in the Office of Disability Services at my college have been working tirelessly to share the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

While our office of Disability Services has not yet seen a request to use a miniature horse as the preferred service animal, that mental image has caused quite a few chuckles. The intersection of the clarified and revised guidelines for the use of technology on our campuses, however, is no laughing matter. As a college, we are working towards meeting the new guidelines and anticipating changes we need to make throughout our technological infrastructure to continue to meet the needs of all of our students.

For someone who follows the tech and teaching scene, the new requirements should not be unexpected. In 2009, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind sued Arizona State University, Tempe's adoption of the then inaccessible Kindle DX as the sole means of distributing e-textbooks. Less than a year ago, two Florida State University students filed suit against their college regarding the inaccessible elements of their Math classes. In November 2010, Penn State found its electronic infrastructure under scrutiny. The October 201 1 agreement to settle that case, covering everything from ATM machines to the university's LMS, has become a guideline for what needs to be addressed by colleges and universities throughout the nation in order to make technology accessible to everyone.

I am hopeful that the conversations we are having on our campus are happening everywhere. It is far too easy to get swept away in the promises of technology and the potential of new gadgets and gizmos in the classroom without reflection on accessibility issues. But we need to think beyond the bells and whistles of the new online course supplement provided by our textbook publisher or the super cool elements of the e-textbook we could adopt or even the old VHS recordings from that PBS program that fits so perfectly with the course. The revised ADA and Section 504 guidelines are not meant to prevent or even limit our use of technology to teach, but they do ask us to critically think about the technology we use as teachers and administrators.

In case you are just entering this conversation, there are some initial questions you need to ask of your own course(s) and/or program. …

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