Volume XIII Number 1, April 2013

Feature Articles

Seeking Predictors of Web Accessibility in U.S. Higher Education Institutions

Terrill Thompson
Dan Comden
Scott Ferguson, M.A.
Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.
Elizabeth J. Moore, Ph.D.
University of Washington

In the current study, researchers conducted a comprehensive semi-automated web search for web or IT accessibility policies in all higher education institutions in the United States. At the same time, automated data was collected to measure the accessibility of institutional websites and frequency of results found when searching for "web accessibility" or "technology accessibility" on the websites of each institution (a measure we refer to as "conversation"). It was found that website accessibility varied considerably across the different measures used in the study. The measures with the highest accessibility were headings and alternate text on images. Other accessibility features (labels on form fields, language identified, and tagged PDF) were much less likely to be present, with ARIA landmark roles the least likely to be present. Overall, Doctorate-granting Universities had the highest web accessibility ratings of all Carnegie classifications; however their ratings were lowest for PDF accessibility. Nearly one-tenth (8.4%) of the institutions had web or technology accessibility policies. The web pages of these institutions had higher overall accessibility ratings, and were especially higher on alt text with images and labeled input fields. However, institutions with a policy were less likely to have tagged PDFs. These effects were significant but small due to the large amount of variance within groups. Institutions with a policy also had significantly more "conversation," most dramatically when institutions did not have an accessibility link on their site template. Together, amount of conversation and having a policy accounted for more variance than either factor alone, though the total variance accounted for was very small. Post-hoc analysis showed that institutions with formal, stand alone policies had significantly higher accessibility ratings than institutions with other types of policies. An exploratory stepwise multiple regression analysis revealed that having an accessibility policy in place, being a master’s or doctoral-granting institution, and being in the state of California account for about 3% of the variance in overall accessibility. Though statistically significant, the remaining 97% of the variance that is not accounted for indicates that the best predictors of overall accessibility are not available to the model. Further research is warranted in order to identify other factors that may contribute to institutions’ success at implementing accessible websites.

KY Math Etext Project- A Case Study: Math Curriculum Digital Conversion and Implementation

Preston Lewis
University of Kentucky
Linnie Lee
Bluegrass Technology Center
Steve Noble
University of Louisville
Brent Garrett
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation

This study utilized a case-study approach to examine the different facets involved in attempting to digitize and deliver as many elements as possible of a 7th-grade math curriculum. This was intended to improve accessibility to learning for students with print-related disabilities, identified on their IEPs as needing reading accommodations. A unique combination of assistive technologies was employed that enabled students to electronically read aloud not just the plain math text (words), but also complex math symbols. Assessments indicated target students’ math performance improved beyond that of their peers, even though student interest in use of the technology diminished over time. It was found that students were more likely to use the technology to read when the instructional math content was more complex or the amount of the text being read was greater.

Accessible Voting in 2012

Whitney Quesenbery
WQusability and Usability in Civic Life

After ten years and two national elections after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), this article will look at how well it has worked. Are elections – polling places and voting systems – now accessible?