Volume XI Number 1, August 2005

The Kentucky Accessible Information Technology In Schools Project

Steve Noble
Policy Analyst
Kentucky Assistive Technology Service Network


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.


In 2000, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a far-reaching law, commonly called the Kentucky Accessible Information Technology (AIT) Act, KRS 61.980 - 61.988, which requires that all state-supported institutions utilize information technology resources that are accessible to people with disabilities. This law explicitly covers school districts, universities, and all other institutions supported with state funds. As one of the "covered entities" under this statute, school districts are required to ensure that the information technology they use will provide students with disabilities with access "that is equivalent to the access provided individuals who are not disabled" (KRS 61.982). As a means of determining conformity with this provision, Kentucky law further defines that the level of access provided by school systems and other covered entities must be in compliance with federal Section 508 access standards (36 C.F.R. 1194).

Although Kentucky's AIT law has been on the books for a number of years, anecdotal evidence suggested that few school systems were aware of its implications, and there was no evidence that any formal policies had been formulated to address compliance with this legislation. To help provide a framework to address this issue, the Kentucky Assistive Technology Service (KATS) Network, in collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Education's Division of Exceptional Children Services launched the AITIS (Accessible Information Technology in Schools) project to develop accessibility guidelines, checklists, and other technical assistance materials for helping school systems understand and fulfill their obligations under Kentucky's AIT law. These materials were developed with input from personnel at the school district level, assistive technology professionals, and representatives from disability consumer groups. Guidance and other forms of assistance were provided from national experts in the field through the participation of our primary project partner, the Southeast Disability Business Technical Assistance Center (SEDBTAC), as well as the National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education (AccessIT) at the University of Washington, the National Center for Accessible Media at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting/WGBH, and Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI). Funding for the KY-AITIS Project is provided in part through a grant by the U.S. Dept. of Education (Grant #H133D010207).

The AITIS Project was initiated by the Kentucky Assistive Technology Service (KATS) Network on February 1, 2003, and the initial funding allocation ended on December 31, 2004. Additional funding for ongoing project development was approved effective April 1, 2005.


The KATS Network is the federally-funded Assistive Technology Act program for the state of Kentucky. KATS is a statewide network of organizations and individuals connecting to enhance the availability of assistive technology devices and services to improve the productivity and quality of life for individuals with disabilities. KATS engages in advocacy activities and capacity building efforts to help make assistive technology information, devices, and services easily obtainable for people of any age or disability.

The KATS Network is a Kentucky state agency affiliated with the Kentucky Office for the Blind, which is part of the Department for Workforce Investment within the state Education Cabinet. KATS is headquartered at the McDowell Center in Louisville and supports four regional resource centers and two satellite centers across the state. KATS initiatives are designed to work toward permanent systems change through responsive, comprehensive, statewide programs of technology-related assistance for individuals of all ages with disabilities.

KATS regularly works with other state agencies and educational entities on matters of accessibility and access to assistive technology. As such, the AITIS project is a natural extension of the KATS Network's regular collaborations with the Kentucky Department of Education and Kentucky school districts.


As a means of gauging the current level of information technology accessibility awareness and policy activity within Kentucky school systems, a survey was developed with input from the Kentucky AITIS Project National Advisory Panel. During the spring of 2004, District Technology Coordinators in each school system were asked to complete the online survey detailing their level of awareness on accessible IT issues, as well as documenting their district's level of compliance with Kentucky’s AIT law. A report entitled School District Information Technology Accessibility Survey Results was created in August of 2004 and was disseminated as a 17-page document that included the original survey instrument. This report is available at http://www.katsnet.org/aitis.html on the KATS Network website. Survey results showed that District Technology Coordinators were uninformed overall, and that school districts had done little to comply with Kentucky's accessibility requirements.

The following highlights of the report of survey findings help to demonstrate just how significant the lack of awareness and general compliance with accessibility requirements was among school districts:

The final component of the policy section of this survey was an open-ended response that allowed school districts to elaborate on previous answers and include policy details, links to policies on district websites, and similar information. Only five districts provided such details. However, in such cases the policies cited were general software selection guidelines, which had no specific mention of accessibility. In other cases the district pointed to practice rather than policy, for instance stating that "special education teachers serve on school technology committees," or "we use the IEP to guide the implementation of accessibility." Such responses, when coupled with the results from the other questions in the policy section, seem to suggest that many District Technology Coordinators did not understand the concept of information technology accessibility in contrast to assistive technology accommodation. This concept paradigm--that accessibility is just about buying the right assistive technology product--continues to be an important barrier to overcome in continuing project success.


In order to address the fundamental lack of awareness, policy development, and accessibility implementation demonstrated by the survey results, the AITIS Project set out to create a number of resources designed to help schools get on the right track. Primary activities are outlined below:


Although getting the attention of Kentucky's 176 school districts--and getting them to make substantive changes toward accessibility--is a daunting task amid the many state requirements coupled with shrinking budgets over the last several years, the AITIS Project has made important progress. A few of the identifiable results to date include the following:


The AITIS Project has made important progress in helping Kentucky school districts make important changes toward accessibility, and has brought to the surface a number of important issues. A few of the most important lessons learned include the following:


The KATS Network will continue to implement the AITIS Project to the extent that funding and staffing is available. Future plans include:

As the AITIS Project moves forward, it is hoped that the success of this project will help to ensure that all educational components used in Kentucky schools are as inclusive and effective as possible, and as a result that each and every Kentucky student--including students with disabilities--has the opportunity to reach their full potential and achieve true proficiency.


Kentucky General Assembly. (2000). Kentucky Accessible Information Technology Act, Kentucky Revised Statutes, KRS 61.980 - 61.988. Retrieved April 7, 2005, from http://www.katsnet.org/ait-law.rtf

Noble, S. (2005). The Kentucky Accessible Information Technology in Schools project. Information Technology and Disabilities E-Journal, 11(1).