Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education Update Session

Presentation from the 2011 CSUN Technology Conference.
Presenter: Gaeir Dietrich, Director of the High Tech Center Training Unit

Full Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education Update Session PowerPoint Presentation available here

Background on the Commission

The Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities was established under the Higher Education Opportunity Act and they held their first meeting on September 27, 2010.

The basic goal of the commission is to:

indentify ways to improve the opportunities for postsecondary students with print disabilities to access instructional materials in a comparable timeframe as the instructional materials for nondisabled students.

The commission is working to identify barriers and systemic issues as well as consider technical solutions. However, Gaeir acknowledged that whatever solutions exist today will likely not be the solution three years from now. As an example, the California Assembly Bill 422 passed in 1999 requires publishers to provide electronic text for students with disabilities for certain colleges and universities in ASCII format (no bold, italics or other formatting).

Six Areas the Commission is Considering

Accessible Formats With Comparable Timeframe and Costs

How students with print disabilities may obtain instructional materials in accessible formats within a comparable timeframe and at costs comparable to the costs of such materials for nondisabled students.

Feasibility of Standards

The feasibility and technical parameters of establishing standardized electronic file formats to be provided by publishers of instructional materials to producers of materials in accessible formats, institutions of higher education, and eligible students.

National Clearinghouse

The feasibility of establishing a national clearinghouse, repository, or file-sharing network for electronic files used in producing instructional materials in accessible formats, and a list of possible entitites qualified to adminiser such a clearinghouse, repository, or network.

Market-based Solutions

The feasibility of establishing market-based solutions involving collaborations among publishers of instructional materials, producers of materials in accessible formats, and institutions of higher education.

Universal Design

Solutions utilizing universal design.

Low Incident, High Cost Materials

Solutions for low-incidence, high-cost requests for instructional materials in accessible formats.

Four Task Forces

Gaeir was clear that they are still early in the process and the ideas express are simply a snapshot of their current thinking.

Task Force One

Led by Tuck Tinsley of the American Printing House for the Blind.

This task force is considering high-cost & low-incidence materials such as braille and tactile graphics as well as instructional materials in the areas of:

  • science,
  • technology,
  • engineering,
  • mathematics,
  • foreign languages, and
  • graduate studies.

They are also considering best practices, the definition of print disability (based on functional limitations) and the definition of instructional materials. Their report will include current data that shows that approximately 1% of all students have some type of print disability.

Task Force Two

Led by Jim Fructerman from Bookshare and Benetch.

This task force is looking at technology Issues, the possibility of a file repository, a standardized format and a federated search.

This group so far has recommended that it is not feasible to recommend a standardized file format. However, they are recommending a single repository and they do recommend a federated search to consolidate data and adding metadata to files pertaining to accessibility.

Task Force Three

Led by George Kerscher of the DAISY Consortium and the RFB&D

This task force is looking at market model solutions, E-pub and DAISY formats, Web solutions, Open Educational Resources (OER), Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Considering the market model solutions, they are looking to find where market needs and the needs of users with disabilities overlap. Gaeir mentioned the example of text messaging that is replacing TTY services for many people.

Task Force Four

Led by Maria Pallante of the Copright Office

They are looking at the legal framework, copyright, the Chafee Amendment, the Americans with Disabilites Act and Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act, and State Higher Education E-text laws.

There are difficult issues to resolve in this area, but they are feeling that any rework of copyright will not pass the legislature. They are looking at how there can be an appropriate balance between copyright law and civil rights law. Because the exceptions under the Chaffee Amendment require that a learning disability be organic based, they are also working on providing guidelines that include current brain research on the organic basis of learning disabilities.

Wrap Up

Gaier is really excited about DAISY, but she mentioned that most students are still requesting Word or MP3 files in postsecondary settings because those are the formats that they are used to. She feels like this will change as the younger generation grows up using DAISY.

The commission is planning on having a rough draft of their report at the AHEAD Conference in July.

Anyone can receive public updates by sending an email to with the word ‘subscribe’ in the subject line.

Related Links

Mobile Education and Access for Students with Disabilities Webcast

The National Center on Disability and Access to Education is hosting a free audio Webcast titled Mobile Education and Access for Students with Disabilities on Wednesday, April 26th at 1pm Mountain Time (3:00PM Eastern). A description of the Webcast from the NCDAE website:

As technologies become smaller, sleeker and easier to carry can they be developed and used so that no child is left behind? That is the question we will address during NCDAE’s April 26, 2006 webcast entitled, “Mobile Education and Access for Students with Disabilities.” Join us at 1 PM Mountain Time (3 PM EDT) for a discussion of technologies, practices and standards related to this increasingly popular education delivery method.

The discussion will be moderated by Marty Blair and will include a panel of John Peifer, Ed Price and Paul Baker. Registration is not necessary. If you miss the Webcast then check back later at their page of archived Webcasts where you can access previous Webcasts such as:

If you haven’t visited the National Center on Disability & Access to Education website it is a great resource, with sections on Tools and Technology, Community and Partners and News and Activities.

Email eLearning- Using Email as a Course Management System

For distance education, online course mangement systems are often appropriately used to facilitate discussions and other activities associated with the instructional process. Course management systems are also often used to add an online component to face-to-face instructional experiences. Some of the oft-used features in this type of a blended/hybrid learning setting include discussion board, file sharing/storage and the sending out of announcements.

Often, a simple email discussion list could just as well provide at least the same functionality of the features mentioned above without requiring the learner to become familiar with a new a course management system. Here are some ideas on how to take full advantage of an existing technology (email) that everyone is familiar with to encourage learning, especially blended learning situations. The term discussion list is being used with the same meaning as a listserv.

  1. Announcements This one is obvious, if an instructor needs to let students know about something he or she simply send out an email to the listserv and it automatically goes to everyone’s inbox. (Hopefully there isn’t anyone out there using a CMS simply for the purpose of emails other students).
  2. Discussions This seems to be a common feature for instructors who desire to add an online component to their face-to-face teaching situation. Using a CMS you log in, browse to the discussion section, find whatever thread you are looking for and then read and post. Using a listserv the discussion arrives in your inbox and you click reply when you want to respond to a discussion thread- easy. Small group discussions would also be possible although it would require a second discussion list to be set up.
  3. File storage and sharing As long as the nature of an assignment allows it to be shared by the group then it can be sent as an attachment where others in the group can read and comment (and grade) and the attachment is then automatically archived. Discussion list archives can be public or private.

Another advantage of using a discussion list where possible is that understanding and being able to use such lists effectively is a great way to promote future professional development in relevant discussion lists.

More Reading…

Syllabus of an entire course on Using Email in Instruction
Email games from

Accessible Multimedia – Skills for Access

Skills for Access bills itself as The Comprehensive Guide to Creating Accessible Multimedia for e-learning. I haven’t had time to go all the way through the site, but it looks like it delivers with a lot of substantive content, complete with great case studies as well as in-depth instructions on how to create accessible multimedia using a variety of technologies. (via splintered)


Online Portfolios

I’m not yet super informed on electronic portfolios, but I had a few thoughts that I wanted to throw out and hopefully get some feedback. If you’re at all new to portfolios you may be asking yourself, “So how exactly is an online portfolio different from a regular old website?” My impression is that in some ways they are not different at all- but there are (or at least can be) some key differences. A good primer is this article titled The Electronic Portfolio Boom: What’s it All About?

Briefly, my understanding is that a website is generally more flexible and gives the portfolio developer more control over layout (not always a good thing in the hands of an amateur). Online portfolios generally have a set framework for content, occasionally a couple of templates to choose from and some even allow students to correlate work they’ve done with a set of learning standards.

One way of setting up an online portfolio that has been discussed is to use an open source blog or other CMS piece of software. Here is an example of a ePortfolio about portfolios done using WordPress, a great article from Stopdesign and some interesting thoughts from the ERADC, ePortfolios and weblogs: one vision for ePortfolio development.

As far as using a specific portfolio software, I’d love to hear what options people know of. One to check out is the Open Source Portfolio Initiative a well developed effort of a lot of universities that seems to be fairly full featured.

All of those resources noted, I think there are big questions to consider about sustainability and effectiveness of portfolios for any group before too much time is invested in developing any kind of comprehensive long-term system.

WebCT Accessibility Learning Module

A learning module titled WebCT, Accessibility, Usability and the Disabled Student from Evergreen Valley College. Comprehensive overview of barriers, solutions and alternatives available to ensure your content is accessible. Great resource. (via Teaching and Developing Online)

Accessible Online Math Resources

I profess in no way to be an expert on the topic, but recently provided these resources to someone and thought I would pass them on:

As far as I can tell, one of the most exciting initiatives in this area is the
NIDE MathML project available at the MathML Accessibility Project Page or the W3C Math Homepage

The Program Access Project is geared toward engineering and science, but the Principal Investigator is a Math professor, so it may take a mathematical slant.

Norm Coombs, noted accessibility expert has also done some work in
this area as well. He is involved with a
Reaching New Audiences with New Media: Opening the Door to Science and Mathematics Project and has a list of resources on the topic.

This Mathematics Accessible to Visually Impaired Students project has finished, but they still have some good resources listed at
their site. They have a page with current contact information That links to to their old main page

Lastly, the Regional Alliance for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics – Squared has a number of great resources as well- Enjoy!

Distance Education Resources

I have developed a few distance education resources for staff at the Institute for Community Inclusion and thought that some of you might find them useful. Enjoy and please let me know if you have any feedback. The resources include an overview of distance education, understanding listservs as well as some examples of streamed, captioned videos.

In addition, I am currently evaluating three course management systems- Moodle, ATutor and Prometheus (now owned by Blackboard). I have setup a sample course in each of the three systems, if anyone is interested in looking at the courses, let me know . I would also love to hear about the experiences that any of you have had working with any of these systems.

Access E-Learning (Free Training!)

Access E-Learning

From the site:

Access E-Learning (AEL) is a ten-module tutorial that is a resource for those seeking to make their distance education accessible for individuals with disabilities. AEL offers information on the most common needs in distance education, and provides instruction in techniques that will enhance the usability of online materials for all students.

The tutorials are being provided as a service of the Georgia Tech Research on Accessible Distance Education project (GRADE). The ten modules go over Disabilities, Accessibility Planning, Powerpoint, Video, Flash, Word, Excel, PDF, HTML and Scripts/Java. Many of the modules even have a lab along with the necessary files (Windows or Mac) that you can download to practice what you are learning.

Perhaps even more exciting are some of the future activities that Project GRADE has planned, including the development of distance education accessibility standards and a national leadership institute on accessibility in distance education. I’ll be watching this project closely and keeping you updated on what they are up to.

Making Online Teaching and Learning Accessible Satellite Event

I’m back among the living and came across what looks to be an exciting event on the Disabled Student Services in Higher Education Listserv yesterday. Working with the PBS Adult Learning Service, the University of Maryland University College is producing a live telecast titled:

Untangling the Web: Making Online Teaching and Learning Accessible

From the description, the areas that the telecast plans to cover are:

  • How students with disabilities are navigating the Web, and how
    inaccessible course content impacts the work of faculty and staff
  • How to address accessibility problems posed by courseware, course
    management systems, multimedia, and use of audio and video in online
  • What kind of collaborative models have been developed to help faculty
    and staff meet the challenge of online accessibility
  • How to develop institutional coordination policies in your campus or
  • What faculty and staff development programs can do to enhance
    understanding of disability and technology
  • What role good teaching plays in improving online accessibility
  • How Universal Design and Universal Design for Instruction can inform
    the process of ensuring online accessibility

It is still 3 months away, but looks to be an exciting event.

On another note, I have recruited Jeff Coburn to share with us some of his accessibility wisdom on Curb Cut Learning. Jeff is our web specialist at the Institute for Community Inclusion and he is the guy I go to when I’m stumped with an accessibility question or am trying to figure out a new technology. Welcome Jeff.