Volume XI Number 1, August 2005
The state of Kentucky has embarked upon a large scale systems change effort to integrate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, including use of digital curriculum and computerized reading supports to improve overall student achievement. As higher expectations are placed on student outcomes, UDL offers a host of instructional advantages leading to improved performance for Kentucky’s K-12 students.
This article presents a practice used to implement systems change regarding the improvement of electronic and information technology (E&IT) access in the K-12 educational environment. The project is funded by the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation and Research of the U.S. Department of Education as part of its initiative to promote the acquisition and use of accessible information technology in elementary through postsecondary education institutions. The project engages in simultaneous top-down and bottom-up activities to educate stakeholders and demonstrate accessible E&IT within and between the state government educational agency and public schools. The top-down endeavor includes establishing legislation on accessibility and working with the public education department's technology staff in creating compliance policy and practices for public schools. The bottom-up approach includes establishing memorandums of understanding with certain districts as demonstration projects where accessibility is assessed and an improvement plan is developed and implemented.
The Kentucky Accessible Information Technology In Schools (AITIS) Project was developed to provide Kentucky public school systems with the tools and resources necessary to understand and comply with Kentucky's Accessible Information Technology Act. The AITIS Project has developed state accessibility guidelines designed to create effective district-level policy for schools, has conducted surveys to measure the level of district awareness and activity, and has provided direct technical assistance supports to school system personnel to ensure that computer mediated and computer assisted learning strategies and other information technology (IT) components are not "locking out" students with disabilities.
Community and technical colleges, especially those located in rural regions, face significant challenges in effectively addressing the educational needs of students with disabilities and in maintaining information equality as they struggle to keep pace with technology. Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in the Appalachian region of North Carolina developed a practice to assess current educational technology accessibility, implement faculty training, and upgrade adaptive technology on its two campuses. The project included the input of a student advisory board, the development of faculty training materials, the creation of a disability services handbook, an assessment by the NC Assistive Tech Project, and the proposal of procurement policies.
The Internet provides unparalleled opportunities for people around the globe to gain knowledge and learn new skills. However, some people with disabilities cannot fully participate as instructors or students in existing distance learning courses because of the inaccessible design of these courses. The University of Washington (UW) Distance Learning program teamed up with UW Accessible Technology Services and Outreach in a project to identify and implement systemic changes in policies and procedures to improve the accessibility of the UW Distance Learning courses. The authors of this article define the scope of the project and discuss ongoing efforts and lessons learned so that other programs might benefit from their experiences. It is expected that such changes in policies and procedures will, ultimately, lead to programs that are more accessible to students and instructors with disabilities.
In its efforts to promote accessibility and universal design in education, the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) created an online learning object that can be utilized by all students, including those with disabilities. Through a collaboration between two CATEA projects, the Georgia Tech Research on Accessible Distance Education (GRADE) project and the Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC), "Federal Court Concepts" was designed to implement CATEA research findings and serve as an example of an accessible online learning object. This paper will discuss the process and different technologies used in creating and evaluating the online learning object.
Electronic technology can be used to overcome many of the restrictive factors or barriers to delivering services to rural schools and it can expand the world of rural gifted students who are blind or visually impaired. On-line college and high school sites offering courses are listed. Also listed is a site for tutoring and one offering help for teachers of rural gifted students who are blind or visually impaired. Recommendations are made for legislatures and for rural school districts.