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Administrative Panel: Understanding the Law & Building Accessible Institutional Infrastructures [TRANSCRIPT]

HOST: Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us today for the Sloan-C Institute 2013 Accessibility Webinar Series, Student and Faculty Success in Online Education. We will have one webinar every month, January through April, 2013. And for our first meeting today, we have our administrative panel, with the Understanding the Law and Building Accessible Infrastructure topic.

Our panelists today are Mark Riccobono, Bill Welsh, Gaeir Dietrich, and Norman Coombs. Gaeir hasn’t shown up yet, so we are hoping to get her in shortly. And our moderators will also introduce them a little bit more in detail, in a moment.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, 3Play Media and Perkins eLearning, for their support for this webinar series. And although we had planned to have two moderators today, unfortunately our Chief Knowledge Officer, Janet Moore, is unable to join us due to some technology-related problems. So our wonderful organizer, Dr. Kristen Betts, will do the heavy lifting today and moderate the discussions.

Dr. Betts is the Director of Online and Blended Learning at Armstrong Atlantic State University. In this position, Dr. Betts is leading innovative initiatives with academic affairs, information technology services, and university system of Georgia to develop new online and blended programs, including certificates and graduate and undergraduate degrees. Dr. Betts also served as a Senior Director for eLearning at Drexel University, and she has over 15 years of experience as an administrator, program director, associate clinical professor, and adjunct instructor with private and public institutions. She publishes and presents nationally and internationally on various aspects of online education. And without further ado, I’ll hand the microphone over to Kristen so she can start the discussions today. All yours, Kristen.

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much, Zarin, and I especially want to thank our panelists for being with us today. Each has a wonderful expertise and years of experience within the area of accessibility. We have our four panelists that you have briefly introduced. We’re going to hear from Mark Riccobono, who’s with the National Federation of the Blind, Bill Welsh, with Pennsylvania State University, Gaeir Dietrich, with the California Community College High Tech Center Training Unit, and Norman Coombs, who’s done just phenomenal work in equal access to software and information. And he’s going to talk about, really, longevity within this area, because he’s been involved in research and many, many projects.

In terms of the agenda, we’re going to focus on two primary issues. We’ll first have the panelists provide a brief introduction about themselves so you can learn a little more about each of these individuals. We’ll then focus most of our time on critical issues for all higher education institutions and look at effective practices and available resources for creating accessible institutional infrastructures that support students and faculty success in online education.

We’ve also ensured that we have 20 minutes for questions and answers. If you have any questions, you can go to the Sloan’s common resource link. I’ll ask Zarin if she can cut and paste it and put it in the chat room area. And what we’ll do is we will go from there.

Disability Statistics

I’d like to start off with just a little data, in terms of just a global and national context. There’s a wonderful report that came out in 2011. It was a world report on disability, and it was jointly produced by the World Health Organization and the World Bank Group. And they state that more than one billion people in the world today have a disability, and in the years ahead, disability will be an even greater concern because its prevalence is on the rise.

And as we look at that nationally, what we find in a report that came out in 2012, citing data from 2010, essentially, 56.7 million report some type of disability in the United States. And this was a pretty significant increase from 2005. When you look at the Department of Labor, you’ll notice when we look at unemployment rates that you’re going to have a higher unemployment rate with individuals with disabilities. And there’s some wonderful–

–education particularly in post-secondary education. Individuals with disabilities are more likely to be employed and reach their professional goals.

So as we go on, the last thing to share with you– Sloan-C recently came out with the publication, “Changing Course– 10 Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States.” And it has looked at what has transpired over the last decade. I encourage you to look at this report, and you’ll see that your chief academic leaders are all looking at online education as something critical to long-term strategy.

We have an increasing number of students enrolled in at least one online course. We’re still seeing online growth increasing each year. And basically, a third of all students are taking at least one online course.

So without any further ado, there are two primary things, in terms of student and faculty success. First, we have access and we have support. There’s also a very important part of this as well, and that’s each of you. All of us have an extensive community in which we work, and I encourage you to share this information and really take on a leadership role within accessibility.

Accessibility Panel Introductions Mark Riccobono

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to start with our panelists. Mark Riccobono– I’m going to provide just a little information about himself, and I’ll ask Mark to share a couple of words as well. So Mark is the Executive Director of the Jernigan Institute at the National Federation of the Blind. If any of you happen to have any conferences in Baltimore, Maryland, I encourage you to contact him to set up a tour of their institute. It is phenomenal. He is a wonderful guide, and I think everyone would certainly enjoy the tour that they provide.

Previous positions– he’s done quite a lot in the state of Wisconsin. He was the Blind and Visual Impairment Educational Council representative working with them. And he was also with the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He was their first director.

Going on, a couple of things that you may not realize– he has been actively involved with the Federal Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials, and he’s at the Department of Education today, calling in. He is also in race cars on his leisure time, and he is the first individual who has gone into a race car– I’m going to have him share a little more information about that. But the first to actually drive a street vehicle in public without any assistance of a sighted person. So Mark, if you could share just a little more information about yourself, that would be fantastic.

MARK RICCOBONO: Thanks, Kristen, I appreciate it, and I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this webinar. My involvement in higher education and accessibility goes back to when I was in college at the University of Wisconsin, and I was employed at the Disability Services there. At that time, we called it Document Conversion. We were just getting past recorded books and into scanning books and things like that. So I’ve been dealing with higher ed accessibility and technology issues for a long time, as well as education.

I am a father of three children, so I’m pretty passionate about education and accessibility. I work on it every day. And I work on building technology.

As Kristen indicates, we at the National Federation of the Blind decided to try to build a car that a blind person could drive. This is innovative applications of technology and taking advantage of the capacity that blind people to think and react. So we built a car that we demonstrated almost two years ago to the day at the Daytona International Speedway. I look forward to participating in today’s discussion.

Bill Welsh

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much, Mark. Bill Welsh is the Director of the Office for Disability Services at Penn State University, and he works within a 24-campus system. He’s a co-chair of Penn State’s Accessible Technology and Information Committee. He has 18 years working in disability services within higher education.

And I’m going to have him provide a little more information about himself. I’ve got one more slide. But he is actively involved with providing training, seminars, webinars, consultation regarding accessibility. And one of the key words you’re going to hear today is usability. So he does that within their campus system, Pennsylvania, and also on a national level.

A couple of things, in terms of the committee that he is the leading– a lot of their focus is looking at web accessibility, training. They have a wonderful website that we’ve cited here. You’ll also see it as one of the resource links. I strongly encourage you to visit this website, because there is so much that you certainly do not need to reinvent. So Bill, if you could provide just a little more information about yourself, that would be fantastic.

BILL WELSH: Sure. Thank you, Kristen. I’m very excited to be part of this webinar and to share my experiences and information from Penn State’s institutional plan and strategies. In addition to my roles that Kristen mentioned, I am also a father of three kids, three girls.

And so I want to talk a little bit more about our accessibility technology and information committee, though. That’s our focus. It is a university-wide committee charged by the administration at Penn State to coordinate their efforts through university-wide practice groups.

I’d like to give a special shout-out to some of our members from the committee and thank them for all their hard work and dedication. I know a few are listening in today. They are the model for working across systems from different units as a cohesive group, and you’ll see why from this webinar. From the central committee, we have nine practice groups who have organized to carry out the work of the ATI committee. And as Kristen mentioned, more detailed information on these groups to be found at accessibility.psu.

I’m not going to have time in the webinar to go through great detail. However, I will share highlights throughout, and share how these groups and infrastructures have made great impact at Penn State University. And hopefully you can do the same at your university. Thank you.

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much, Bill. What we’re going to do is, we’re waiting for a Gaeir to join us, Gaeir Dietrich. She’s the Director of the High Tech Center Training Unit, and she works with California Community Colleges. We tried to ensure we had a panel that well represented the institutions that would be participating, especially today.

They support programs at 114 community colleges and satellite centers, and they have more than 10,000 students with disabilities who are enrolled within the program statewide. The resources that they have are infinite. And so we’re excited about sharing those links.

I will have Gaeir provide a little more information about herself when she logs in. Couple of things– she was a chair of the federal Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education. We will have a link to that later. Again, I encourage you to download this information. It’s a seminal piece, and very critical to accessibility. And she also serves on several advisory boards.

Norman Coombs

I’m very excited, also, to introduce Norman Coombs. Just being a part of this webinar, he has just a real light, in terms of talking about accessibility issues, especially today with all of these things that are transcending with technology. Norman is the CEO of Equal Access to Software and Information, Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology. He has taught for 36 years, and he’s done extensive online teaching, as you’ll see here.

He has an entire list of awards. We have one down here for the CASE Teacher of the Year award. But other awards include Zenith’s Master of Innovation Award, the Richard Johnson Pioneers in Education Technology Award, Teacher the Year Award, Man of the Year Award at AHEAD, and I could certainly go on with these lists. In terms of presentations and publications, he has just been a renowned speaker globally. And he does have a recent publication, so if you’re looking for a new textbook to add to your library, here is one we’d certainly recommend. So Norman, I am going to let you share a little information about yourself.

NORMAN COOMBS: Hi. It’s an honor to be here. I want to thank the Sloan Commission for inviting me to participate. And I want to thank all the participants for coming, not so much to hear me, but I appreciate your coming because it shows you care about accessibility, and you’re working on it.

The fact is, much of the work you do, nobody’ll thank you for it. They’ll take it for granted. So I want to thank you for all the people whose lives you’re going to improve.

I lost my sight when I was eight and had to depend on a lot of readers. There were very few, very little material available in Braille or recorded stuff that was any good to me in school. And certainly as a professional for 37 years at RIT, there was less materials. And so I depended a lot on readers. When I began to play around with a computer, I could do my own typing, my own proofreading, and a number of things. And it changed my life.

And in the process, it made me feel more like a real person. It’s not just the functional things. It deeply impacted me, so that when I could do things independently, I felt more like a real person. I had my students submitting their papers to be in email and didn’t have to depend on a reader. And that was that was great.

One of the first students who did that was a deaf girl. We exchanged several emails related to her paper. And one day, I got an email from her that said, this is the first time in my life that I’ve talked to a teacher without somebody in between us. And I began to see it wasn’t something that would just change my life, but we had a tool here that could give us the most level learning space in history.

Gaeir Dietrich

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much, Norm. And I’m very pleased to let you know that Gaeir is with us. So Gaeir, I have done a brief introduction, and I’m going to ask you to share just a couple of words about yourself.

GAEIR DIETRICH: Hi, is this working? Can you hear me?

KRISTEN BETTS: You sound fantastic.

GAEIR DIETRICH: Great. OK so we’re good then. Thank you so much. So I am Gaeir Dietrich. I’m the Director of the High Tech Center Training Unit. And what we are is a grant program funded by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. And we provide assistance, training, referral, and information on the area of disability and technology. So anything that has to do with using technology for the success of students with disabilities pretty much comes under our purview and is what we train.

KRISTEN BETTS: Wonderful. Thank you. And what I’m going to do is we’re going to move on to our first topic, which is Critical Issues All Higher Education Institutions Should be Addressing. And we are going to start with Mark Riccobono.

What we’ve done is we’ve provided some highlights on each of the slides, and we are going to ask them to talk to the points. Some of them have more than one slide, so we’ll move ahead as needed. But we also will provide you with access to all of the content that you see today. Also, we have resource links at the bottom of all slides as references, as well. So Mark?

The Digital Technology Environment and Disabled Student Participation

MARK RICCOBONO: OK. Thank you very much. And I think this panel that we have will really give some perspective, and I think we really want to reiterate that this is not meant to answer all the questions, but to introduce some perspectives on getting started on this important topic. And that’s kind of where I want to start.

Technology provides us with a different paradigm and way of thinking about how people with disabilities can participate in the educational system. We are very used to the accommodations model, but technology is different. Technology is not inherently inaccessible. I like to say that digital is not inherently visual by default. At its base, it’s ones and zeroes, and it often happens to be built in a way that certain people can’t use it.

The other problem is that accessibility really cannot be accommodated effectively in the digital technology environment. If you have a robust technology, trying to provide accommodations that provide equivalent ease of use, it’s not very easy, and frankly, it’s not effective. It’s not cost-effective. And I think a lot of us are going to lose hair trying to do it.

So we need to really think about the technology paradigm in a much more different way. We don’t even want to start thinking from the accommodations point of view. We want to think of a point of view that’s mainstream access, that is inclusive of all of our students and faculty– which is an important point– and that takes into account, we need to have some different systems for how we do that. Of course, that’s when we get into the weeds of this. That’s one of the things we’ll talk about.

The other point I want to make is that pressure from outside academia is never going to be as powerful and effective as from inside. That really all the participants here from higher education have tremendous power to move the marketplace. In fact, what we want to see happen is we want to eliminate the market for inaccessible technology. Now if everybody requires that the technology being purchased is accessible, the market will move in that direction, and folks that are not accessible, they’ll have nobody to sell to. And that’s a huge opportunity, and great things will come out of that.

The last point I want to make– this is the next slide– reiterates why we’re here to participate in this webinar. That is, there is a legal framework here. And there are legal concerns. And every institution should be thinking about how those legal concerns play out, in terms of how they’re implementing technology.

And certainly, the National Federation of the Blind has been active in trying to get the laws to support access to technology. But there’s a collaboration and partnership opportunity here. The National Federation of the Blind is an example, has a lot of information and resources that we’ve been gathering as we work with universities and technology vendors.

We’re here to say that we want to work with you and your institutions on that. We want to be a hub for sharing resources, connecting you with some of the great folks, like this call, this webinar, and really figure out how we develop best practices in this area. We know some things, but there’s certainly a lot more to be gained by working together, and a lot more we need to learn as we really charge forward and have a digital technology world that’s fully accessible to all our students and faculty. So that’s what I wanted to present, to sort of set the tone and stage for the rest of this discussion.

Shifting the University Accessibility Model

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much, Mark. And we’re going to move on to Bill Welsh.

BILL WELSH: Great, thanks. Thanks, Mark. Those are great comments. My comments are around technology.

And technology that has progressed so quickly, I think, that accessibility is typically an afterthought rather than being built into our systems, as Mark mentioned, or putting into our purchasing requisitions. Often the Disability Services Office, which is really where I work and my world for 18 years, is asked to solve issues of inaccessible technology and information with accommodations in a very reactive mode. I’ve been doing it for 18 years, and I know that that’s the case.

But let’s shift that paradigm. If knowledge of how to create accessible technology and information is spread throughout the university, a more proactive approach could be utilized. And that’s where I want to go to today. The concept of true accessibility, universal design, and usability at campuses would be realized if that happened.

Often, Disability Services do not have the expertise or staffing to handle these complex technology and information issues. Many times, the disability office is the last to find out about new technologies used, but then asked to accommodate in a very short period of time. And I know a few of my friends from Disability Services across the country are listening and shaking their heads. So hi, everyone out there.

Most institutions would spend a great deal less money and time and energy on accommodations if more time and energy is put into training, resources, and infrastructure on accessible technology and information being built from the start, as Mark mentioned. Also, it isn’t fair to the students to have to worry about what is going to be accessible when they register for classes. It just should be built-in.

So at Penn State, it is no longer just the Disability Services office or a few champions discussing accessibility and usability concepts. Many are embracing these concepts, and many now have the knowledge, tools, and resources to implement changes. Next slide, please. 25.

Most institutions do not have a structured strategic plan or action plan for university-wide adoption of accessibility. Most institutions I connect with are still in the mode of reactionary rather than proactive responses for implementing technology and information changes. Many don’t even have policies or procedures in place for accessibility, web accessibility, procurement, online accessibility, or training plans for faculty and staff.

My advice to them is to start somewhere. Don’t wait. Complacency is not an excuse. Without a plan, nothing happens, and inaction and reaction becomes the norm.

It is my belief that institutions of higher education, in general, are in a similar situation with technology and information that we were in 1990 when the ADA mandated changes to the physical environment. It took numerous complaints in court cases, and today most campuses across the country are very accessible physically. There isn’t a building being built or a sidewalk installed without having national and state accessibility guidelines being met. We need to move this realm and urgency with accessible technology and information. Next slide, please, Kristen.

To change the culture, there needs to be buy-in from many areas, administration that is important, not as an afterthought. So at Penn State, we are beginning to see a culture shift from being reactive to proactive. Many more are asking the question about how to make things accessible and asking about accessibility during major purchases of software. Accessibility is no longer an afterthought when accessible technologies policies, procedures, and strategies are instituted and implemented. They are done from the very beginning.

Also, there are responsible personnel to implement these changes. It’s been my experience that most people want to do the right thing regarding accessibility, and complacency and inaction really come from a lack of knowledge about how to make the necessary changes. So without proper university-wide training and resources that are obtainable, faculty, web developers, IT managers, administrators, et cetera just do what they always have done, and the cycle continues.

So to break the cycle, ownership, responsibility, tools, resources must be a priority from the top down and bottom up. Promoting universal design concepts for all, instead of accessibility for a few, is a key factor in cultural change. It’s also very good design, and frankly, from a pedagogical standpoint, it’s just good pedagogy.

And a good example of how this culture shift has happened at Penn State with their own training programs, our teaching and learning with technology organizations cosponsored over 100 accessibility training events and webinars last year. They were also well-attended. In the past, I can tell you– I started this 10 years ago– we had five people show up, or a handful.

Now what’s changed? What’s different? Well, through our trainings, many people now know that the university has a strategic plan. We’re reviewing our technology and information for accessibility. Its administrators, most importantly, are aware and supportive.

And there’s been a shift in the culture. Not only are these strategic plans, there are timelines and goals associated with it, and personnel accountable. So thank you. That’s all I wanted to say about that for now.

Embracing Universal Design Principals for Hardware, Software and Content

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much, Bill. And we’re going on to Gaeir. OK. We’ll see if Gaeir’s having a technical issue, ’cause it looks like she may not be there. I’m not sure if the talk button’s not–

GAEIR DIETRICH: There it is.

KRISTEN BETTS: OK, Gaeir–

GAEIR DIETRICH: There we go. Sorry. I clicked it and it didn’t work. I love technology when it works. Sorry about that.

So one of the things that I wanted to talk about, basically building on some of the comments that both Mark and Bill were making, is that when you consider universal design, when you consider the needs of a lot of different learners, you really are coming to an area where design and pedagogy intersect. And looking at some of the universal design principles in that area makes a huge difference for all learners.

Things as simple as when you’re designing online materials, ensuring that there’s sufficient contrast between whatever it is in the background color and the foreground color. Some people just use black on white, which is fine, but other people want to get a little more creative than that, and I’ve seen instructors put things online where they may have a yellow background with white text on it. Well, that’s difficult for anybody to read.

So there are some of these very basic principles that really, people overlook the significance for all learners, I think. Alt text, where you tag a graphic to ensure that there is something that a screen reader can attach to for somebody who’s blind, also allows search engines to go in and find that information. So there’s a lot of these things where they’re looked at in a particular way as being something that aids accessibility, but they actually really aid so much for everyone.

There’s a lot of studies that have been done, for example, on how having captions on videos makes a difference for all learners. Because the first time that you hear new vocabulary, if you don’t also see that vocabulary, you don’t necessarily connect to what is actually the word that is being said there. So some simple things like that just make a huge, huge difference.

The other thing that I find interesting is there is a perception on the part of the general populace that everything that’s online is accessible. When you talk to people who are outside of this field, they just make the assumption that it’s accessible. And I think part of what they’re saying, with that assumption, is well, of course this is the way that it should be.

So there’s a natural instinct that people have about universal design. What they don’t understand, really, I think, is how to get there. And when we look at what does it mean for something to be accessible, there’s a lot of misunderstanding on the part of people who are creating the content. They don’t really recognize that accessibility is not one thing, but there’s actually three different parts to it.

The hardware that you’re using has to be accessible. This is one of the problems that happened in the early Kindle debate, where Arizona State, the complaint resulted in a Dear Colleague letter that was very significant to all of us for what DOJ and Department of Ed were saying about ensuring that technology is accessible. That was a hardware issue, where literally when you used the hardware, it didn’t interface with the software in such a way that it was fully accessible.

Having the software that you are using be accessible, the portal. Blackboard, for instance, if Blackboard itself is not accessible. Well, you may be running it on a computer that is accessible, but if Blackboard’s not accessible, that’s a problem.

And then the third part is what you load into that shell, into that software also has to be accessible. So you have to be running an accessible document in Blackboard on a computer that’s accessible in order to have full accessibility. And I think that people don’t understand that this chain can be broken at any of those places, and that will deny access. So I have a lot of instructors say to me, well, Blackboard’s accessible, so I don’t have to worry about my documents, because Blackboard is accessible. And they don’t understand that the documents that they’re creating and uploading into Blackboard must also be accessible.

Understanding Legal Obligations for University Accommodation

And then I wanted to just mention the role of Section 508. Bill was talking about planning for access and purchasing. And all of those things are really essential if you’re going to really have a fully accessible campus.

And one of the wonderful things about Section 508 is it gives you actual standards that you can use as a map, essentially, for laying out what that means on your campus and how to get there. And there’s a lot more that could be said about that, in terms of the details, but the bottom line is that it does not apply directly to most of us in colleges, unless you’re in one of the about 12 of the 50 states that actually have laws that do apply it. But even if it does not apply to you, I still think it’s really an excellent road map that you can use to help you gain accessibility.

Because as both Mark and Bill were saying, we’ve had this accommodation model where a student’s needs, that individual student’s needs, are what we’re trying to meet. But we can’t do that with technology. It really is not possible for us, necessarily, to meet the needs of that one individual student. We have to plan for access, plan for creating a more accessible infrastructure, ensure that that hardware and that software are accessible, and ensure that the instructors are creating accessible documents. When we have all of those working together, then we will have the full access that all of us are looking for.

And faculty can be very involved in this. I don’t know how many faculty members we have online, but I think in the colleges, they tend to not think of ourselves in terms of the kind of economic impact that we can have. And faculty members are right on the front line of that.

If, as faculty members, you start going to your vendors and saying, you know, I want to offer this electronic book to my students, but I’m hearing from my students it’s not fully accessible. What can you do about that? Or I want to purchase this video, but it’s not captioned. Why are you not captioning your videos? You have a lot of economic clout there, where you can make a really big difference, just by making sure that people are aware of these issues. And even for those faculty members who are actually teaching things like web design, web layout and design classes, ensuring that training people to create accessible websites as part of that curriculum, right there is something that you can do that’s really going to be huge for all of us.

Budgeting for Accessibility at Your Institution

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you, Gaeir. And I know you’re going to be going and extending that conversation into the resources with this next part of the presentation, which is fantastic. Norm, I’m going to pass the mic over to you, and if you could provide your insight to our audience, that would be fantastic.

NORMAN COOMBS: Hi. I feel like I’m put in a very responsible position here. If this were a baseball game, we’d have Mark did a hit and be on first, and then Bill, so we got first and second, and Gaeir, first, second, third. And here I am, the cleanup hitter. Well, I hope I can do it.

We’ve talked quite a bit about policy. We can’t talk about policy too much. The way I phrase it is that we need to have policies that express a commitment, campus-wide commitment, to providing accessible information technology. That’s a nice platitude, and most everybody says, yeah, yeah, yeah.

But it’s more than a platitude. Over the years, the various cases have come before the Department of Education Civil Rights Division. There’s been a tendency of each school to say, hey, this is a disabled student– or a student with a disability, whichever way you want to look at it– and the Disabled Student Service department takes care all of their problems. And so the rest of us can ignore them. And of courts have said, no, no, no. The student belongs to the entire campus. It has to be a campus–

I have an example of a situation. We needed, when I was at RIT, needed to do get a Braille embosser. You might call it a Braille printer, except it embosses and doesn’t print.

And everybody thought, that’s a great idea. Who will pay? So the computer people said, oh, it’s housed in the library. They pay. The library people said, well, it’s for students. They said, well, students pay.

And of course, but it’s a computer. The computer department pays. And that was being kicked around for months. I finally got my hands on a grant and I bought it.

So that kind of thing can be a real serious roadblock. And it’s important that policy have objectives and accountability. And Bill talked about that, and I’m glad they’re doing that at Penn. It doesn’t necessarily have to be accountable in ways that are terribly punitive. It could even be encouraging, that you get to mix the points towards a promotion. But somehow, you’ve got to know somebody’s watching and that they care.

Testing the Accessible Features of Vendor Products

Second, we’ve talked already here that it’s important to require vendors to provide accessible products. And so I would say that a school should have a policy that vendors ought to demo the accessibility of their product before it’s even purchased. And that’s not enough, either.

There is the VPAT– Voluntary Product Accessibility Template— and that’s helpful. But oftentimes, the person at the company who writes it doesn’t know what accessibility is anyhow, so that you can’t trust those too much. And I’ve found that it’s dangerous to trust a salesman when he’s demonstrating a product.

I bought a product recently. The guy demonstrated it, and it was, gee whiz, beautiful. But he set up a perfect environment it test it. When I got it home and tried to test it elsewhere, it didn’t live up to its name. And so don’t always trust the salesman. But if you put a clause in where if they promise it is, and it isn’t, then you have some kind of comeback.

Developing an Accessibility Community at a University

I also think that we should, on the next slide, have a caring community at a university, a caring community that wants to develop the potential of each person. Not just the bright students, or not just the special students, but to bring out the unique potentials of everyone. And again, that sounds platitudinous, but it’s not always true.

A blind friend of mine at RIT was in a class. The teacher gave a handout, so he had to go scan it to read the handout before he could do the homework. So he said to the teacher, do you make this in Word?

He said, yeah. He said, could you put it on a floppy disk and give it to me? And he said no. And he gave no reason for it. So there isn’t always a caring community. And that’s important that we do that.

Also, I suggest that it’s important to have structures that encourage people to complain or report abuses of the system, students that aren’t accessible or teachers that aren’t cooperative. And if you do that, somehow you’ve got to build in to it ways to protect the whistle-blower. Whistle-blower’s often the only one that gets punished in the process.

And last, there are times you need exceptions to all the rules and regulations and standards. But the courts have always said that that exemption has to be very high. If you say, oh, it’s too expensive, and the DSS office can’t handle it, they say, yeah, but it’s the whole university, maybe a university with 30 campuses. And by the time they push it up to the highest level, it’s pretty hard to get an exemption. But I think we do have to admit, sometimes that’s the case.

OK. I think that covers what I wanted to say.

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you, Norm. And as we move to the second part of our presentation, I do encourage you to listen to each of the panelists when we talk about a caring community. I think so often, we can focus on reports, data sets, statistics. And the focus needs to be the students, it needs to be the faculty, and we need to really focus on our mission.

So if you can, share the information for the upcoming webinars, because you’ll hear from faculty members, some who are blind, some who are deaf, who have been very successful in their careers and want to share information for individuals who may want to come into higher education. And we also have an entire panel of students. And it’s very transformational and life-changing when individuals are able to hear from students, and not simply read about the small percentage or the likelihood of having a student in your class with a disability. So because it is online, I think we need to pay greater attention, especially with that focus.

So now we’re going to look at effective practices and available resources. We will move quickly on to Mark, and I’m going to have Mark talk about what they have available. And I do encourage you to reach out to National Federation of the Blind. Mark?

Accessibility Best Practices of Administrators

MARK RICCOBONO: Thanks, Kristen. So this is kind of where the fun starts, because there are some things which can be done, and then there’s lots of room for innovation and innovative practices in this area. We have Bill on this webinar to talk about the wonderful work being done at Pennsylvania. But there’s lots of room for other sharing and collaboration here.

So a few things about best practices and what should be done. And the first thing I would say is stop the bleeding. A little bit tongue-in-cheek. But in all seriousness, universities today are planning for major procurements or major implementations of software suites that may or may not be accessible. And the more that you bring on today, the more problems you have– well, I mean, you create the problem today.

So this is where a number of other folks have already mentioned having a policy. And there are some great examples of policies a number of universities have now. Make sure that procurement is requiring accessibility. Universities have 100% of the legal responsibility to put it in the purchasing contracts that the materials have to be accessible, that the systems have to have accessibility. And that requires some thought, because it’s not just, write it in the contract and it happens.

But there are some very good examples out there. Cal State is one. Certainly the work that Penn State’s doing. There are others, and we’d be happy to share what we know in talking with universities.

The second thing I would say is we need more university leadership to be engaged in this issue. 10, 12 years ago, if you said security at the IT department at the university, it wasn’t nearly as critical, as high-level, as high-profile as it is today. Accessibility needs to be that same way. We need to get leadership behind it.

And part of the leadership is establishing a university process to self-audit. Where are we, related to technology and accessibility? And what are our measures of success?

The University Accessibility Secret: Inaccessible Technology

Now sometimes this scares people, so I want to let the secret out right here. This is the critical point of the webinar, now. The secret’s out. We know that everybody participating in the call has inaccessible technology at their university. Every single university in this country has something. We know that’s true. That is no secret. No need to hide it.

A lot of times, related to self-audit, it’s not happening because there’s a fear that, well, if we talk about it, it’s an exposure point. Well, it’s not a secret. And actually, having a self-audit– and Cal State has a great set of metrics that they’ve put together and they review regularly– it signals to the community that’s something’s being done about it. And this, again, ties into the leadership issue, about being upfront, getting the leadership invested, and being transparent about what’s being done. That tells the students, faculty at your institution that we know we have work to do, but we are working on it.

You know, sustainability really took off at universities when university leaders banded together and created sort of voluntary measures, standards for implementing sustainability across campuses. We need accessibility to be as important as IT security or sustainability or any other grand initiatives that have really done great things.

And then we need ways to talk about it. And there are some great examples on the web of universities that are putting right out there, here’s what we’re doing. Here’s our policy. And let us know if we have missed something. I think that engagement of the community is something that hasn’t been happening and will really help turn this paradigm around, and help point us a much better direction.

Partnering to Exchange Accessibility Information

The other thing I’d suggest is participating in programs to both share information with major institutions and with other institutions of higher education. I was at a university last month, and a bunch of players in the room from different departments– some IT, some Disability Services, some Academic Services.

And they all had a little piece of knowledge, but no one had figured out how to put all the knowledge together in one place to make it effective across the university. And across institutions, again, you have that very powerful lever of, OK, well, if five institutions in your state are all thinking about adopting a particular piece of software or learning management platform, you have a much more powerful position with vendors than just one institution going to those vendors. And frankly, sharing across institutions evaluations that have been done about the accessibility of products is very important.

And the last thing I would invite you to do is reach out to the National Federation of the Blind. We do product evaluations. We talk with universities. Again, we want to help connect you with the players that we know are ahead of the game. If you’re doing something on the cutting edge or innovative in this area, we want to help share that with other folks.

One great example is this summer, we got to talking with folks about open educational resources, a whole other area. So we got together with the MERLOT Project and the OpenCourseWaregroup, and we created an OER access website where people COULD share information about accessibility and open educational resources. We want to help be a hub of information like that. There are opportunities here, but the key is we have to stop introducing technologies that are inaccessible, and then make a plan to move forward.

The Penn State Accessibility Assessment and Policy

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much. And we will move on to Bill.

BILL WELSH: Great. Thanks, Mark. That was an awesome segue for me. I really appreciate your thoughts and your comments.

I’m going to talk a little bit about Penn State, but then I am going to shift to where we can go as institutions, and as Mark mentioned, across systems and across some things that we’re doing in the Big Ten. Penn State basically has been working on accessible web technology and information for more than ten years. Our first web accessibility policy was instituted in 2004. And we had a web accessibility review committee that began in 2005.

And even though we had many things going on, it was evident that we needed to do more. As an institution, we had to change how accessibility for technology and information was implemented. In the past, there were a number of grassroots champions for the cause, but there was not global acceptance of responsibility, as Mark mentioned.

Now the culture’s shifted. There’s a wider acceptance of responsibility. Our provost sent out a message to all budget units that had to have a member for web accessibility initiatives, and then sent out another message, once we did our first review of our sites, to let them all know how they were doing. And so it’s kind of almost become sort of a competition.

The university now has a buy-in from not only top administrators, but strategic plans include shared responsibility across all university budget units. It’s not just Disability Services. It’s not just IT or a library. It’s a shared responsibility, and people are starting to get that message.

Several new policies, procedures have been implemented in the past two years, including a web accessibility policy using WCAG 2.0 as our standard, AA conformance. A policy on captioning of all promotional videos– that one came out of our communications, and didn’t even come from our ATI committee. The university library’s websites and services have made great progress in eliminating many obstacles for individuals with disabilities. And new policies and procedures for procurement have been developed.

And these are just a few examples of the progress we’ve made in the short period of time because many people have come together, as Mark mentioned. That’s what needs to happen. So my advice for institutions beginning this process is to find some kernels of success or grassroots champions from many levels and departments that are already in place. And I know they’re out there.

Administrator and Faculty Training on Accessibility

And provide trainings to administrators and faculty on why it’s important. I find that interactive sessions showing how difficult it might be for someone using a screen reader, such as JAWS, to navigate inaccessible websites or Word documents or PowerPoints– which are used all over the place– is very effective. This is effective not only with administrators, faculty, and web developers, but also with vendors, showing them how their product is not working well.

Also we’ve had our audience experience videos without a sense of sound or captioning, and asking the audience to decipher what’s going on in the video. Well, they can’t. They can’t see or hear, and there’s no captioning. And then provide them, after that experience, tools and resources for making these tools accessible. There’s so many resources on the web for free, so there’s really no excuse for complacency or inaction.

And then once you have buy-in, rather than asking the question why, let’s figure out how. Develop a strategic plan. That includes realistic timelines and goals, responsible personnel, and progress reports from all units at the university. Start with one area and move on from there. And then better products can be developed. There’s no need, as Mark mentioned, to reinvent the wheel. There’s a great deal of information out there already.

But my message to everybody on the call today is, knowledge allows change to happen. As I said before, inaction comes from lack of knowledge and how to make the necessary changes. So knowledge and understanding is key to us moving forward. So universities need to provide the tools and resources and knowledge, and then change can happen. Next slide, please.

University Accessibility Strategies

So what are effective practices? Penn State started out our assessment– I’m just going to give you an example of our websites. So we chose the top 100 popular sites using web analytic tools. Instead of choosing the top eight million websites that we might have out there, we looked at the top 100. What are people looking at the most?

And we assessed these sites to find out, what was the most common accessibility barriers that they had? From then, we implemented training and resources for everyone to check their websites, using a university-wide assessment tool. And we call this our triage method, which we took from the medical emergency rooms. Because you have to start somewhere and figure out what you’re going to do first.

So the first year of training and our efforts at Penn State, we focused on how to use the assessment tool, how to fix the major blockers for screen readers, as well as captioning our most important multimedia on the web. So rather than taking on the entire WCAG 2.0 standards, the idea is to break it down into manageable efforts where significant progress can be made. So now each year, our area of WCAG standards will focus on a whole new area. It might be color-blindness.

So more information on our strategic plans and training tools and resources, if you go to accessibility.psu, it’s all out there for you to use.

So then the next thing is to how to develop an institution-wide committee. Every institution is different, and they all have different strengths and weaknesses and resources. So it’s very important for each institution to look for their champions, gather them together, and see how resources and plans from other institutions might work for their college. So benchmarking is a good way to show administrators how strengths and weaknesses of your institution compare to others.

Mark mentioned collaboration with other institutions. The Big Ten and the Consortium on Institutional Collaboration at the Big Ten, has formed a multi-institutional group called the Information Technology Accessibility Group. That reports directly to the chief information officers at their institutions. Even two of the CIOs are members of this group. And this is a way of us to easily benchmark with each other and work across institutions in making changes happen and obtaining buy-in from our chief administrators. So there’s a great deal to be said, as Mark said, in the power of collective numbers.

And so at your institution, once the committee’s been formed, it is time to begin to develop plans for university strategy, to begin to implement it. So look at who’s at the table, and then who needs to be invited to the table. So some of the assessment questions you might start with are, do we have a policy and procedure on web accessibility? Procurement, accessible technology. Accessible online courses, captioned video, multimedia. Accessible course materials and information for faculty.

Are our policies current? What are the appropriate standards that we might use? Have we assessed our technology in the classrooms and offices, student unions, computer labs?

And then look at your learning and course management systems. Are they accessible? Are your email systems accessible? How about your course registration? Can students with disabilities even register for courses?

So my final thought is, I believe most institutions get stuck in not knowing where to start. If broken into smaller, realistic, achievable goals, progress really happens and takes off. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Creating an Inclusive Online Campus

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you, Bill. We will move on to Gaeir, and again, another fabulous resource for everyone that’s attending this webinar.

GAEIR DIETRICH: Thank you. So building on what Bill was saying and what Mark was saying and Norm was saying earlier, it really is that planning. And on a campus, it does start with a committee. And it starts with ensuring that you have broad representation from all the different stakeholder groups who are going to be involved.

And if you have a really inclusive campus environment, I would include students on that committee, if you can. And really start looking at what kind of strategic plans can we put in place to really move the whole process forward? And one of the things that I’m really going to encourage you is to recognize that the whole accommodation model that we’ve done for years, where one individual student walks into the Disability Services office and makes a request, to where we’re moving to, which is basically making sure that we have an accessible infrastructure– those are not either/or kinds of solutions. Those are really both/and solutions.

When I do presentations for my system on Section 508, one of things that tends to happen is people say, oh my gosh, well, we’ve got to ensure accessibility for all of these different things. And it just seems like it’s too much. And then they become paralyzed by the scope of it.

But if you recognize that accommodation is not going to go away, so draw a line in the sand. Here we are today. Now where are we going to go, moving forward? And don’t worry about what’s in the past. Let’s look at, how can we go from today forward? And as Bill said, break it down into bite-sized steps.

The web is a great place to start. And I know a lot of people just think about trying to make their websites accessible, and it just seems like it’s just impossible. You’ve got, depending on the size of your campus, thousands to possibly even tens of thousands of different web pages up there.

Start with the ones that get the most use. So start with your main portal. Start with your main website. Make sure everything there is accessible.

Is there a form that everybody has to use? Make sure that’s accessible. And then work your way down.

So from there, start looking at your library issues. Start looking at your major core curriculum. I’m going to be much more concerned about the accessibility of my English 1A curriculum than I am going to be about some survey of literature in the 14th century, that there’s probably only 20 people who are going to take in the coming year.

That’s one where I can say, OK, I’m going to rely on accommodation for that course. But the things that are larger, than have the bigger footprint, that have the greater exposure, that’s where I want to start. I want to start with the big targets, and then work my way down from there.

So one of the things that happened in my own system a number of years ago was we had some money for captioning, and all of our campuses were given money to help with the captioning. And immediately, the question became, wow, how can we use this to caption all the videos? And people sat down with their libraries and said, OK, which videos are checked out the most often?

And what they found is that there was a small core group of videos that were the ones that were used repeatedly, that might be checked out 50 or 100 times in a year. And then there was a huge number that might be checked out four or five times in a year. Caption the ones that get the most usage. The other ones, you can wait until somebody makes an accommodation request, and then get it done.

So that’s how these two can kind of work together. And there’s something about human nature, where it’s often easier for us just to say, we’ll just do it this way, and we’re doing it that way all the time, and that makes it easier. But it only makes it easier in sort of an intellectual, conceptual way. When it actually comes to the doing of it, it’s much more difficult if you don’t recognize that this is a continuum, and both parts have to work together.

“Buying In” to Accessibility through Purchasing Agreements

And part of that is making smart buying decisions. The California State University system– which is not my system, but I do work with them and I know the people who are part of their access initiative there– they have some really wonderful resources on their website. And I’m actually going to– I hope this appears. I’m going to post in the chat here another very, very good website. San Francisco State University, I think, is one of the CSUs that’s done a really, really nice job of providing resources for their staff and faculty on making smarter buying decisions.

This makes a huge difference. And let me give you one simple concrete example of how what the Cal States have done with their initiative made a big difference. So a number of years ago, when we all first started going to the smart classrooms with the overhead projectors, there was this little issue, which was that those smart projectors, at that time, did not have a captioning decoder installed.

And what a decoder does is it is literally the piece of technology that allows your captioning button to work on your remote. It what allows you to turn on the closed captions. Without that decoder in the system, you cannot turn on your captions, even though they’re there. You still can’t turn them on.

So people were putting in all of this smart technology, and suddenly, their captions were no longer working. And they didn’t understand why, and they kind of ignored it, frankly. And so some of us who knew what was going on came on the scene and said, wow, you know what’s going to happen here? You’re going to have to buy an external decoder to put into the system. And those cost a couple hundred dollars– per classroom.

So what the ATI initiative did– Mary Cheng, at the time, at the Cal State Chancellor’s Office– they went out to a vendor. It happened to be Epson, but it could have been any of them. And they said, you know, we will give you our contracts for all of our campuses, all 24 of the Cal State campuses, if you include a decoder in your overhead projectors.

And Epson’s response was, wow, you want a decoder? We didn’t know you wanted a decoder. We can do that. In fact, it’s so inexpensive for us– it costs us like a nickel per machine– we’re not even going to charge you any more. Just the value to them of having an exclusive contract for a year was sufficient to make it worth their while.

Well, funny thing. The next year, Panasonic had them. And now there’s about four or five of the different vendors that include that technology built in.

So it makes a difference. It really does make a difference. Your efforts will make a difference. Even if you’re just starting small, it seems like a mountain. But you’re not going to get to the top if you don’t start.

So there’s other people who’ve done it before you. They’ve got some great resources out there. So I encourage you to really utilize those resources.

We have a different kind of resource on our website. I work for the High Tech Center Training Unit of the California Community Colleges. And at our website, www.htctu.net, we have a lot of training resources available. So if you’re in the situation of, say, trying to implement web accessibility, and you’re not sure yourself– how do I make an accessible PDF? What do I need to do? How can I teach my faculty members to make an accessible PDF?

We have those materials already created for you. They’re on our website. They’re completely free to you.

I do have to say we’ve had some staffing issues the last couple of years, so sometimes, we’re a little bit behind. So if you’re not seeing the most current ones for Adobe X, that’s just because our secretary’s getting trained and hasn’t gotten them up there yet. But please do feel free to contact us, and we are very happy to help you with that.

And Kristen, could you go back, just briefly, to the previous slide? Because I don’t remember what my last point was. Oh, right. The AIM report. Thank you.

How To Create Accessible Instructional Materials: The AIM Report

And the last thing I want to mention is the AIM report. So this is something that my friend Mark Riccobono and I were both involved with for– well, I joked about it. It was the year that ate my life, basically. But what we did was we put together a study of the issues around alternate instructional materials. So basically, how to create accessible instructional materials.

And I would refer you to that report, and in particular, to the suggestions that we included in the report of ways of moving forward. We came up with a number of suggestions, and you can read through those suggestions. And the whole report, frankly, I think it is very good.

But in particular, I would refer you to the section that talks about the issues around accessibility. I think that can be really helpful starting point for you, when you’re looking at these issues and you need to go back to your campus and begin the discussion. It lays out for you what a lot of the actual issues are.

And because it is a federal document and it is a public document, it gives you a way of saying, look, this is not just me. This is not just Disability Services who’s talking about this. There’s a lot of people who are part of this discussion and this conversation. And you can point at that report and say, here, this information is laid out.

And then you can essentially take any of those recommendations that we made and move them forward. This is a way that you can get really involved. If you like to get involved in the political process, you can go to your state senators and members of the House of Representatives, and you can say, you know, I don’t see why all instructional videos should not be captioned by the vendors. It doesn’t cost that much. It won’t add a whole lot to the price. It will make it easier for all of us. That’s a place that you can start.

Or any of the other recommendations that are ones that personally have meaning to you. Because what I’ve found is that if it has an emotional resonance for you, if it’s something you can feel passionate about, then that’s where you can put your efforts to make a difference. So I think that’s a great resource for you, and I would really recommend that you take a look at those.

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much, Gaeir. We’re going to move on to Norm. What’s going to happen right now– Zarin is going to open up the chat area for you to type in any questions that you have. So Norm is going to come up with some concluding comments and share his information with you. And then we will be fielding the questions as they come in.

Effective Practices for University-wide Accessibility

NORMAN COOMBS: Hi. I’m going to try to hurry through this, because I know we want to save time for questions. I like the title we have for this area, Effective Practices. Because I come to this through personal perspectives.

One is, I’m a blind student, and therefore, I’m interested in using the material. The second, as a teacher, I’m interested in creating accessible materials. And so under that heading, I want to talk about functional accessibility rather than technical accessibility.

We have a lot of standards out there, and some of them are very complex. And some of them are really aimed at technical people to follow through on. And they’re important. I don’t want to downplay them. But as a user and as one who prepares content, I want to focus much more on usability than whether you keep the standards.

I went to a webinar not long ago, and someone who was talking about a system such as this for web conferences, and she was bragging how they’d made their conference system accessible. And her brag was that they had 92 specific hotkeys to let a screen reader user access everything in the room. I’m not going to learn 92 hotkeys.

And if I were, it would be something I’d been using all day, every day. Not something that I go into once every week or two, or twice a year. So technically, they may have met the standards, totally. But in terms of usability, I think it fell very short. So that’s one of my focuses, is to stress functional accessibility more than technical accessibility.

The book which I wrote focuses on helping teachers make accessible content. And I know, as a teacher, there’s no way you’re going to get me to learn dozens and dozens of technical standards that I have to follow to make my web material accessible. It’s got to be easy, or else I’m not going to do it. And I’ve found that some of the tools that we use all the time to create materials, if we use them properly, they will end up with materials that are 95% to 90% accessible, even from a technical point of view, and in most cases, 100% usable. So I want to help faculty find ways to use the tools they already know and use, and use them in ways that enhance accessibility.

How Disabled Students and Faculty Use Campus Technology

For example, you all use Word or something similar to Word. And you all have it divided in paragraphs, and you have major headers and subheaders through the whole thing. You can do your headers in different ways. One is you can go in and adjust the font size, the font type, the alignment, things of that kind, and get a nice-looking line that looks like a large, [INAUDIBLE] one header. And you can do something a little different that looks like a nice number two

Header. The software has no idea why you’ve changed the font. If you use the Styles feature in Word and click on Header 1 and Header 2, the software knows what’s the function of that particular feature. So why should you care? If it looks the same, it’s fine, right?

Well, if the software knows, it can interact with it in a lot of ways. For example, a screen reader can go in and I can ask it to find the next Level 2 header. Bang, it goes there. So the ability of the software to understand the layout of the page and the function of what’s there can be extremely helpful.

One of the other points I want to make is in making something accessible for people with disabilities, we’ve talked a lot about needs of how to do it for someone with a disability. I think first, we’ve got to realize they’re students. And so if you put up a web page or some content, and what you have written there is rather obscure and confusing, so that your A student may have to read it three times to understand it, then someone with a screen reader or screen magnification probably is going to have to read it more often to understand it.

So I think one of the first things in accessibility is to be the best teacher you can. Put up clear content that’s well-organized. Focus on communication. And if you have something when there’s better communication, there’s better accessibility.

OK. On the next slide, I want to talk briefly about e-books and e-readers, which are now one of the big rages, and it’s been an interest of mine for the last year. The fact that there are e-readers and e-books out there– you can go to Amazon and almost all the books they have are available in e-book format, in one way or another.

That means, as opposed to a hard-copy book, that e-book is at least potentially accessible to me. I think it was Bill who mentioned that the Kindle reader, when it first came out, the hardware was inaccessible to people with disabilities. So not only does the content need to be there in an accessible way, but the reader has to be accessible.

And this is a hot issue today. NFB is involved in several suits, trying to get accessibility done. I want to say a little bit more about accessibility for e-readers, because you may not understand. If you can just access it and the screen reader can read it, that may not be real functional accessibility.

Think back to before you got e-readers, and if I sent you a 200-page Word document, and you wand to find something that was 3/4 of the way through the document that was a header, you would have to scroll down– scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, like you were in the the Middle Ages– to find it. So you found it, you read it, and you had to go away. You close it, you come back, you want to find it again? All over again.

So if you’ve got a print book, you’ve got page numbers. And you flip the pages and you’re there. So e-readers are building a lot of navigability into the e-reader and into the device. And what we want to make sure is not just that when you bring up your Kindle that it will talk to me. But I want to know, can I have the accessibility features you have to navigate?

Oftentimes when I have somebody reading something to me, I have them read the first sentence of each paragraph. I often taught students that before you read a chapter of a book, go through it quickly, read the headers, the first sentence of each paragraph. Then go back and study it.

So that kind of ability to navigate and manipulate content is important. And the e-readers we have, a lot of them don’t have that. It’s partly the fault of the e-book, and it’s partly the fault of the e-reader.

But you know, the first time I got Kindle for PC with accessibility, I went online and bought a commercial book. First time in my life I could buy a commercial book and read it by myself. It’s a whole new, exciting world that you can open up to all of us, or else you can lock the door and leave us on the outside. So do what you can to push for accessibility.

The last thing I want to say for the DSS department– help students to become self-advocates. Some people with disabilities are loudmouth, angry, and in your face. Most of them tend to be shy and backward and retiring and not very pushy at all, and they’re just happy to take anything you want to give them. They need to be trained to be more self-advocates, and so I think that’s something that we need to do as well.

OK, I think we’re ready for questions, Kristen.

Questions

KRISTEN BETTS: We are. In fact, Norm, we’ve done a great job. We’ve got some of our panelists who are actually answering questions in the chat room right now.

Just to wrap up– in the report that I shared, in the World Report on Disability, there’s a fabulous quote. It says, “We must empower people living with disabilities and remove the barriers which prevent them participating in their communities and getting a quality education.” And this is what we’re doing today.

In terms of resources, there were a number of things in the chat asking for the resources. You will have access to all of these slides in the Sloan-C comments area. We have all of the links to everything that we have referenced here. So if you want to get hold of anything, just click on one of these links.

I’m going to pass it over to Zarin. She’s going to talk about our upcoming session. And please type in the questions, and Zarin will pull them out and ask our panelists.

HOST: Thanks, Kristen. Actually, I think all the questions that have been asked in the chat area are now answered. But if there are any that we missed, please feel free to raise your hand using the Raise Hand icon, right next to the emoticons there, the third button with the hand sign on it. And we’ll try to give you the microphone.

Tess is one. Let me give you the microphone back. Go ahead, Tess.

What are the best practices for closed captioning? Do you have any advice?

AUDIENCE: I am interested in hearing more about best practices with closed captioning. It has been a really big, huge obstacle, that no one that I talk to with my colleagues seems to know how to deal with. Do you all have any advice?

BILL WELSH: Hi, this is Bill. Yeah, I do. We’re working on a university-wide captioning process. We have lots of people doing captioning across the university in many different colleges. And there are three models we’ve found.

One is they’re sending them out to companies such as 3Play Media, which is certainly one of our sponsors, and automatic sync technologies. And then there are others that have actually hired students to write their transcripts and use captioning programs to time-stamp the videos and then put them out that way. We also have a person here at Penn State, Pat Besong, who is on our captioning practice group. And he developed a product– originally for Mac, but now it’s available for PC– that allows you to do your own time-stamping if you have the transcripts, and create captioned videos. So those are the three methods we’ve found, and we’re looking at university-wide contracts, and different ways that we can meet each individual needs of our departments and colleges as they do their captioning.

GAEIR DIETRICH: I just posted a link, because the California State University system just went into a contract with the group. And I’ve provided the link in there. But it’s defraying the cost that’s typically associated with captioning. And they said they’ve had tremendous results, and it’s all of their partnering system institutions that are involved. So you can get in touch with Gerry Hanley or Cheryl Pruitt, and they’ve just been leaders in that area as well.

NORMAN COOMBS: I want to make one other comment. We think of this as an expensive thing for relatively [INAUDIBLE] people. I think there’s a video or audio– in some ways, as a teacher, I see them as fairly poor study materials, because you tend to go into passive mode. And learning is an indirective activity. So if you provide transcription, in some way so that people can print it off, then while they’re listening to it or watching it, they can also be scribbling in the margin, underlining, and let them interact with the content, that they can’t without the captioning or the transcription.

BILL WELSH: That’s a great point, Norm. We’ve found that 75% of the people watching the videos are also using the captioning, and they don’t have a disability at all. So that’s the way to really sell it at your university. It’s searchable, it usable, and just as Norm mentioned, it’s the way that most people would prefer to use and watch a video

Questions cont.

HOST: Thanks, Norm. Thanks, Bill. I’m now going to turn the microphone over to Herman, who had his hand up. Go ahead, Herman. There might be a problem there with the microphone.

So Joel, you’re next, and I think this is going to be the last question that we can take, because our time is up. Hold on a minute, please. There you go. You have the microphone, Joel.

How can I better help students with disabilities?

AUDIENCE: Hello. I don’t know. I may have a disability myself, of watching this webinar. We make videos for California Community Colleges for the professors to use in their courses. And after this, what’s the most important thing I should take away from this webinar, to make sure we help students with disabilities?

KRISTEN BETTS: Bill, and Zarin, I’ll leave that to you and Norm, because of the resources, as well as Mark. I think the resources are right there.

GAEIR DIETRICH: Hi, this is Gaeir. I would like to say, I think one of the most important takeaways that I would hope that people get is that digital does not equal accessible. You need to start with that understanding. Because people make this assumption that if it’s online, if it’s an e-book, if it’s on a CD, that means it’s accessible. And in fact, that is often not the case. And if you start with recognizing that, I think it helps you to make better choices and better decisions about how you can take a look at these things and how you can ultimately help students.

KRISTEN BETTS: Mark wanted to jump in as well.

MARK RICCOBONO: Well, the one thing I would take away is I think there’s a need for action and there’s a need for leadership. As I said, there’s a perception that well, if we talk about what’s not accessible, it’s an exposure. But we already know. I mean, the students with disabilities, the faculty with disabilities in our institutions already know. They’re already doing with it.

So we need to figure out a way to bring those people together and to get the leadership at our higher ed institutions to feel comfortable with that. To say, you know, we’re going to talk about something. It’s probably exposure, but you know, doing nothing about it is an even bigger risk.

KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you, Mark.

HOST: Well, thank you so much everyone for this very informative webinar. And thank you for everyone posting questions. Unfortunately, we ran out of time.

But please take the time to go to Sloan-C Common and post your questions there, share your ideas, best practices, best tools. And let’s keep the discussion going, onto or next webinar on February 12, which is going to be the student and alumni panel. What Students With Disabilities Want Faculty and Administrators to Know.

And then we have the third one on March 14, and the last one on April 23. So that doesn’t mean that the discussions are ending here. We hope to be carrying them on in Sloan-C Commons, and hope to make our coming webinars more comprehensive and more relevant to what everyone wants to discuss.

So with that, I am going to thank all our panelists and moderator, Kristen, for the great work and for spending their time with us. And also, our sponsors, 3Play Media and Perkins eLearning for their support. And please, I also want to share the upcoming Sloan-C activities with you. Our 2013 workshop schedule is already announced on our website. And as I mentioned, our webinar series is continuing in the coming three months. Please sign up for them, if you haven’t done so.

Our next conference is the 6th Annual International Symposium– Emerging Technologies for Online Learning. It will be held April 9 through 11 in Las Vegas, Nevada. It also has a virtual option. If you don’t have the time to be there in person, you can always utilize the virtual option. And check our webinar site for how to participate in the virtual or the on-site options for our conferences.

With that, I’m going to thank you all for taking time for joining us today, and hope to see you on the next webinar. Thank you.