Sept. 25, 2001 --
Increasingly colleges, universities -- and even grade and high-school courses -- depend on at least some online instruction. Some universities offer entire courses for credit via online instruction. In putting together these courses, educators must remember that federal law -- including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and the 1973 Rehabilitation Act -- are all cited as legal mandates requiring that such offerings be in an accessible format (see http://www.accessiblesociety.org/topics/webaccess/sect508.htm).
Beginning Oct. 1, EASI -- Equal Access to Software and Information -- will offer an online course in how to make online courses accessible. The group, dedicated to the proposition that "students and professionals with disabilities have the same right to access information technology as anyone else," has information at http://easi.cc/workshops/adaptit.htm . Course instructors Joseph J. Lazzaro, Richard Banks and Norman Coombs say the month-long series "provides the framework needed by an institution to establish an organization-wide, systematic program to become information technology barrier-free. It is ideal for administrators, information technology staff, instructional technology staff, disability services staff, librarians and also for concerned faculty." EASI's workshops are offered in conjunction with the Rochester Institute of Technology (see http://www.rit.edu/%7Eeasi/easi/alleasi.htm for more information about the group).
A new site, Assistive Technology Training Online, a project of the University at Buffalo's Center for Assistive Technology, offers "free information and tutorials on using assistive technology devices and strategies with students with disabilities in elementary grades" (http://at-training.com).
The Center for Assistive Technology is a NIDRR-funded Center: EASI gets part of its funding from the National Science Foundation.
There's a clear need for more information about developing accessible materials for students; many online courses remain inaccessible (see "Distance Learning: Boon or Bane" from the Sept. Ragged Edge magazine at http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/0901/0901ft1.htm).