From Policy To Practice: Achieving Equitable Access To Educational Technology
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 empowers individuals with disabilities to be employed and included in society and prohibits discrimination. In 1998 the act was amended and strengthened by adding provisions covering access to electronic and information technology. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires access to the Federal governments electronic and information technology. (Architectural and Transportation Compliance Board, 2001, The Law: Section 508, para. 2) Section 508 also details standards for accessibility of technology and technology-based products. Although these standards were originally designed for federal government agencies, some state legislatures and local agencies have subsequently required compliance with Section 508. Specifically, this federal legislation has prompted education agencies to consider access within the educational environment. For example, Maryland passed legislation that would provide the same access to technology-based instructional materials for students with disabilities as those their peers use. MAR*TEC was asked by the state of Maryland to assist in the implementation of its forward-looking decision. Specifically, MAR*TEC considered the evaluation of instructional software. This article describes the adoption at the federal and state levels of Section 508 and summarizes the legislative background and responses of a number of states. It surveys K12 implementation and takes an in-depth look at Marylands approach to educational technology access. Special attention is paid to MAR*TECs response to Marylands challengethe development of an online toolkit for instructional software evaluations. A concluding section provides the rationale for a cohesive national approach to implementation of Section 508.
SECTION 508 - FEDERAL ADOPTION
Section 508 requires government agencies to follow principles of accessibility in their procurement of electronic and information technology. Waddell explains this marketplace incentive: By using the power of the federal purse, Section 508 seeks to drive accessibility into the design of the electronic and information technology. (Waddell, 2003, webcast) Section 508 requires that vendors design access features or compatibility with assistive technology in their computers, software, copier machines, fax machines, and other information technology equipment in order to sell products to the federal government. Section 508 provides specific incentives to accessible or universal design such as mandates for federal agencies, technical assistance to aid compliance, and clear standards of what constitutes compliance with respect to all major categories of electronic and information technology (E&IT).
Examples of what Section 508 means to Americans with disabilities include finding accessible information kiosks at national parks, purchasing stamps online from the United States Postal Service, and finding accessible tax information online at http://www.irs.gov.
The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 called on the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (commonly referred to as the 'Access Board') to confer with all appropriate federal agencies, the electronic and information technology industry, and other public or nonprofit agencies or organizations, including organizations representing individuals with disabilities to issue and publish standards. The standards are highly detailed and can be found at http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/508standards.htm. The standards summarize accessibility requirements and are useful to those creating technology as well as those purchasing it. For instance Section 508 requires that:
Software shall not use flashing or blinking text, objects, or other elements having a flash or blink frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.
Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.
When products provide auditory output, the audio signal shall be provided at a standard signal level through an industry standard connector that will allow for private listening. The product must provide the ability to interrupt, pause, and restart the audio at anytime.
(Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, 2001, Subpart B Technical Standards)
SECTION 508 STATE ADOPTION
States are subject to federal law and are required to comply with Section 508. Additionally, states are concerned that all their citizens have access to state government information and resources. Its important to remember that every state has its own state statues prohibiting discrimination (Waddell, 2003, webcast). At the state level, there are two mechanisms that are driving compliance with Section 508. The first is a set of assurances that each state signed when they applied for Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act) funding. The second mechanism is legislation or policy adopted by individual states to enforce all or some of the Section 508 provisions. In fact, some states including Connecticut, Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin, New York, and Washington adopted standards related to information technology even before Section 508 guidelines were created (Patterson, 2002, Leading the Way, para. 1). This second avenue has had greater impact on education.
Tech Act funds required states to submit an assurance that the state, or any recipient of funds made available to the state, would comply with guidelines established under Section 508. In 2000, the U.S. Department of Education provided notice to states that since they received funds under the Assistive Technology Act State Grant Program (AT Act, successor to the Tech Act) they were also required to comply with Section 508 (RESNA, 2002).
At the state level, the greatest impact of Section 508 has been on the design of all state agency websites, on the purchase of new information technology to be used by the public, and on selected entities within the state (Association of Tech Act Projects).
K12 EDUCATION ADOPTION
Educators as well as state governments are concerned with meeting the needs of all their constituents. In addition, IDEA mandates that all students have access to the general education curriculum. This includes access to instructional materials. Some states have specifically included K12 education when theyve adopted Section 508 accessibility standards (Table 1).
Table 1: Educational Implementation of Section 508
Legislation (SB 315, KRS 61.982) requires state and state-assisted entities to provide access to individuals with disabilities. School systems must comply with Section 508 access standards.
The Accessible Information Technology in Schools (AITIS) program is being formed to develop accessibility guidelines and checklists and other technical assistance materials for schools. AITIS is a collaboration between the Kentucky Assistive Technology Service Network and the Kentucky Department of Education.
SB 105, adopted in September 2002, requires school districts to comply with the accessibility requirements of Section 508. However, current school district technology plans are not necessarily being written with this type of language.
Education Code EC 60060 requires that publishers provide electronic versions of each state-adopted literary title as well as the right to transcribe, reproduce, modify, and distribute the material in Braille, large print (if the publisher does not offer a large print edition), recordings, American Sign Language videos for the deaf, or other specialized accessible media exclusively for use by pupils whose disabilities prevent their use of standard instructional materials.
A legislative bill pending will require developers of electronic educational resources to incorporate some principles of universal design including control over size, speed, and volume.
Act 1227 passed in 1999 requires technology-purchased with funds provided by the state to be accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
Maryland has enacted regulations and legislation to achieve equitable access to technology for all students. In December 2001, the Maryland State Board of Education (MSDE) passed Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 13A.05.02.13H. The COMAR requires that a "public agency shall ensure that a request for bid, request for proposal, and local public agency guidelines for the selection and evaluation of technology-based instructional products used by students include the requirements governing equivalent access consistent with Subpart B, Technical Standards, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended." In 2002, the Maryland legislature passed Education Article, 7-910, Annotated Code of Maryland. The legislation expands the regulation to include all contracts and grants. Additionally, teacher-developed materials will need to be accessible by the year 2004.
Marylands legislature has allowed three exceptions to purchasing accessible technology-based instructional products. The COMAR states, A public agency shall ensure that technology-based instructional products provide students with disabilities equivalent access unless doing so would:
(a) Fundamentally alter the nature of the instructional activity;
(b) Result in undue financial and administrative burdens on the public agency; or
(c) Not meet all other specifications (Annotated Code of Maryland, 2001, Maryland State Department of Education, 1999).
If the educational agency invokes one of these exceptions, they must detail how they will provide an alternative method of instruction designed to enable a student with a disability to access the general curriculum and meet the student's IEP goals and objectives as specified in COMAR 13A.05.01.09A (Annotated Code of Maryland, 2001).
Both MSDE and Marylands local education agencies (LEAs) are affected by this legislation and regulations. MSDEs role is fourfold. First, they must provide training and technical assistance to the 24 districts within the state of Maryland. Second, they must evaluate the products they purchase for accessibility. Third, they must develop accessibility requirements for all grant applications and, finally, they must report progress to the Maryland legislature.
The LEAs responsibilities are threefold. First, they must incorporate accessibility criteria into their evaluation process for technology based instructional materials. Second, they must train teachers and administrators about accessibility requirements and alternative methods of instruction; third, they must document their process and report progress to MSDE.
MSDE has prepared four questions to guide local implementation:
- Has the LEA altered purchasing policy and procedures, so accessibility is now part of the internal process?
- Does the LEA have a recording process to document that products were evaluated for accessibility?
- Is the LEA providing alternative methods of instruction for products that dont meet all the accessibility standards?
- Has the LEA established self-evaluation policies and procedures to address the acquisition of products that meet the equivalent access exceptions?
Implementation at the local level is diverse across the state of Maryland. Prince Georges County School District developed a turnkey training program for staff members within their district. This program, titled Technology Inclusion For All (TIFA), was implemented in Spring 2002. Three teachers from each of the 193 schools within the district attended professional development sessions where they learned about the accessibility issues for hardware, software, and online resources. These three teachers then provided 2-hour professional development sessions for their home schools. Additionally, every school building principal participated in a 1-hour session regarding the accessibility regulations.
Other districts within the state reflect the states definition of the purpose and intent of COMAR 13A.05.02.13H and Education Article 7-910 but are still developing implementation plans. District administrators are concerned about the reporting process, timelines, and the supporting documentation that will be required. MSDE and the LEAs are still defining and detailing this process. Ultimately the compliance reporting for these accessibility regulations will become part of the larger reports prepared for special education. Documentation of compliance will also become part of all technology grants funded through MSDE.
As LEAs consider implementation of the accessibility legislation, the first question they must ask themselves is, Who has purchasing power for technology based instructional products? There are multiple strategies and models for evaluating technology-based instructional products within educational agencies. These strategies range along a continuum with a centralized purchasing policy on one end and distributed purchasing policy on the other.
Centralized polices require school-based teachers and staff members to submit purchase requests to the central administration (usually a technology coordinator or director) for approval, thus centralizing the purchasing power within the district office. This strategy precludes individual teachers from purchasing products that are incompatible with existing hardware and networks. It also allows for centralized review of curriculum goals and alignment with district and state standards. Another advantage of this strategy is that software licenses can be efficiently managed and controlled. This strategy, however, takes curriculum decisions away from teachers and may lead to limited or ineffective integration of technology into the classroom.
Distributed policies, on the other hand, allow teachers to make purchasing decisions for their own classrooms. When teachers make the decision to purchase a specific piece of technology, they usually take personal responsibility for integrating it into their classroom practice in an effective manner. However, this strategy may result in purchasing products that are incompatible with systems, networks, or curriculum standards. It also places the legal responsibility for installation and license management with individual teachers. This strategy could result in inequitable technology opportunities across the school and district and would be problematic if the district were selected for a software audit. Therefore, many districts have adapted purchasing strategies that are centralized with some elements of distributed purchasing. For example, Prince Georges County in Maryland selects a review committee composed of teaching staff to consider new technologies. Each year, they publish a compendium of approved products. Classroom teachers within this district must make their own purchasing decisions from the preapproved list.
Implementing the new accessibility regulations requires Maryland educators to review their purchasing process and consider who needs professional development on accessibility. Districts that have centralized purchasing strategies can incorporate new evaluation criteria into an existing process. However, districts with distributed purchasing policies have more complex professional development needs.
Evaluating technology-based instructional products for accessibility is a complex issue. It requires educators to have a sophisticated understanding of curriculum and a comfort level with technology. Can general education teachers learn the complexities of accessibility so that they can make effective evaluations for the district? If not, who should be involved in the evaluation team? Large school districts are concerned with the professional development implications of training their staff. For instance, Baltimore County Public School District administrators are currently discussing the following issues: Who will need information and training about this Statute and COMAR? Does implementation require that all educational staff be trained, or should training be limited to district curriculum leaders? Is it necessary for building principals to receive training? What are the needs of general education and special education teachers? (T. Jones & M. Kaplan, personal communication January 15, 2003). Breadth and depth is also a consideration. Given the tight budgets that LEAs are currently experiencing, should limited training be conducted across the district, or should in depth training be offered to a few select personnel.
Smaller districts in Maryland also face implementation concerns. Small districts typically have a very small number of students with physical challenges. Therefore, their attention is focused on more pressing issues. Professional development for all staff is a hard sell because most teachers in a small district will not encounter a student with physical disabilities.
All educators within Maryland agree that a major implementation problem is finding accessible products. Vendors must play a role in this process. However, Maryland educators find that while some vendors and sales representatives are becoming more sophisticated in their understanding of accessibility requirements, a large portion of the technology producers are still uninformed or erroneously claim that their products are accessible. If vendors incorporated universal design specifications into product development, technology would be accessible and educators would not have to become sophisticated accessibility evaluators.
MAR*TEC ACCESSIBILITY TOOLKIT
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Technology in Education Consortium (MAR*TEC), in conjunction with the MSDE, has developed an accessibility checklist to help educators review instructional software. The checklist corresponds to the software standards detailed in Section 508. It is accompanied by an online tutorial designed to help educators understand the inherent accessibility issues and includes a hypertext glossary of terms specific to Section 508 and technology related terms such as electronic form, magnifier, operating system, slow keys, 55Hz.
The checklist is housed within a database of instructional software. It is a collaborative repository that prevents educators from recreating the wheel. LEAs can use the accessibility checklist to evaluate a specific piece of instructional software, or they can review other educators evaluations. Because this toolkit is online, it is available to educators anytime and anywhere. Most important, the MAR*TEC database is built on educators reviews rather than vendor promises. (See Appendix)
Whereas previous federal and state efforts have focused on productivity tools such as word processing, spreadsheets, and databases (Golden, 2001, Buy It Accessible database), this toolkit focuses exclusively on instructional software. Therefore, it is both timely and unique.
The MAR*TEC accessibility checklist solves many problems for educators. One major hurdle in evaluating software for accessibility is the language of the 508 standards. For instance, Standard 1 states When software is designed to run on a system that has a keyboard, product functions shall be executable from a keyboard where the function itself or the result of performing a function can be discerned textually (Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (2001b).
This language is very hard for educators to understand. Many teachers arent sure what this standard means and, consequently, cant make a determination if the software is or isnt compliant.
The accessibility checklist uses common language. For instance, in the MAR*TEC Accessibility checklist gives the reviewer the following options to select in judging how well the software complies with the standard.
Executing Function from Keyboard: (choose one)
- The student can successfully operate this software without a mouse, by using only a keyboard. This means that the student can navigate through the software, select options, and give the software commands such as "print" and "save" without using a mouse.
- The student may navigate through the software and make selections using only the keyboard, but the student may not give the software commands such as "print" or save" without using the mouse.
- The student must use the mouse to navigate through the software, select options and give the software commands such as "print" or "save."
Teachers might be able to decipher functions that are discerned textually, but this would take additional time and training. It is much easier for them to understand the standard when it is worded in simple language.
Additional problems with evaluating instructional software for accessibility include organization of the standards and placing the standards in context. MAR*TEC has organized the accessibility checklist topically, that is, all the navigation questions are bundled together as are the personal operating system questions, the image and sound questions, and the compatibility questions. This allows educators to focus on one specific accessibility issue at a time. Furthermore, each question within the checklist is hyperlinked to the actual language of the comparable standard. The MAR*TEC checklist also provides a context or explanation for each of the standards.
The MAR*TEC toolkit also includes an online tutorial that illustrates six accessibility questions accompanied by examples from instructional software. Figure 1 is an example from the MAR*TEC Tutorial: Accessibility of Educational Software, illustrating the first question: Can the software be assessed and used with a keyboard alone, without the use of other input devices (i.e., a mouse)?
The software Cognitive Tutor Algebra I provides a comprehensive and integrated approach to algebra in which students work with multiple representations (tables, graphs, algebraic formulas, and written text) of a linear function. However, a mouse is required to go from frame to frame, even though keyboard navigation can be used within each frame. Software that is accessible will provide a keyboard alternative to navigate through the program.
Figure 1: Example from the Cognitive Tutor Algebra I
Note. Adapted from Cognitive Tutor Algebra I, Carnegie Learning, Inc. Retrieved January 2003, from http://www.carnegielearning.com
In addition to allowing educators to evaluate a specific piece of instructional software for accessibility, the database tabulates and summarizes all the reviews for each piece of software. This summary is organized by standards that use the exact language and order of the standards. For example, the screenshot (Figure 2) reveals that, for this specific piece of software, the database contains three independent reviews. The standards are listed along the left column. The two center columns document whether the software meet the criteria within the standard. The far right column summarizes the reviewers comments.
Figure 2: Reviewer Sample
The MAR*TEC accessibility checklist is an open tool built on an empowerment model. The underlying premise is that while educators are best suited for making curriculum decisions for their classroom, they generally dont have the experience and sophisticated understanding of accessibility to make accurate evaluations. This toolkit was designed to scaffold and expand educators knowledge and experience so that they could effectively evaluate instructional software for accessibility. However, because the accessibility evaluations are stored and recorded, the tool has an additional benefit of enabling educators to analyze the evaluation data. A preliminary analysis of 177 independent accessibility evaluations challenges some of developers underlying assumptions and may shed light on Baltimore County Public Schools questions regarding who should be trained to evaluate technology-based instructional products.
In order for the database of practitioner reviews to be useful to the other practitioners, it must contain a critical mass of reviews or it must vet or verify the reviewers. For instance, in the previous example, one reviewer thought that the piece of software being evaluated met the navigation criteria, whereas another reviewer disagreed. Without knowing the credentials of the two reviewers, this information isnt useful. Otherwise, practitioners must evaluate this software for themselves to determine whether they think it meets the 508 criteria or not.
Furthermore, a preliminary analysis of the accessibility reviews challenges the open tool assumption. MAR*TEC analyzed the quality of raters responses using a sample (N=13) of a subset of the software within the database. The MAR*TEC staff responses were compared with those from the independent reviewers. In all, only 35.7% of the ratings from the independent reviews were correct based on the MAR*TEC scale. When raters erred, they were too generous in their evaluations (they rated the software more accessible than was the case). The technology coordinators were more apt to be incorrect (66.7%) than those directly involved in special education (61.5%). Those with paraprofessional or provisional certifications were more apt to be wrong (71.4%) than those with regular certifications (61.1%). This data uncovers the importance of expertise in special education and the need for specific accessibility training.
On the basis of this preliminary data, MAR*TEC is currently developing a method of refereeing the testing conditions and the evaluators expertise. Future evaluations will require evaluators to detail the following:
- whether the software was installed and reviewed on a computer or reviewed by reading the vendor documentation;
- type of installation (custom vs. regular);
- type of software used for the evaluation (demo package downloaded from Web, demo package with limited functionality, etc.);
- types of hardware and operating system used during the evaluation;
- types and version of assistive devices used during the evaluation;
- evaluators previous experience with Section 508;
- evaluators previous expertise with assistive devices;
- evaluators previous experience with the specific piece of instructional software;
- amount of time the evaluator spent in reviewing the software;
- evaluators expertise and comfort with technology-based instructional products;
- evaluators previous experience in curriculum;
- evaluators gender; and
- evaluators position in LEA.
MAR*TEC recommends that LEAs carefully choose a team for evaluating accessibility of instructional software. This team should be composed of at least four individuals: someone experienced in using screen readers; someone with sophisticated knowledge of curriculum, standards, and teaching and learning issues; an educator experienced in working with students who have hearing impairments; and someone with sophistication and knowledge of computer-based learning environments. Prior to conducting accessibility reviews, MAR*TEC recommends holding accessibility training sessions for the team. Furthermore, MAR*TEC recommends that the team meet together for a norming session before they complete independent reviews. The group should discuss each question on the accessibility checklist while collaboratively reviewing two or three pieces of instructional software. This will allow the group to understand the opinions and assumptions of each member and will allow for higher quality reviews from each member.
The federal government developed Section 508 to guide technology producers development of accessible products and to aid technology consumers in purchasing decisions. Training for the purchasing authorities within government and the creation of informational resources logically followed for employees, employers, vendors, and manufacturers. States that have passed laws requiring adherence to Section 508 regulations are following a fairly similar process.
Marylands adoption of Section 508 ensures that all students have access to classroom instructional products and materials that will help them achieve academic success. The Maryland legislation and regulations, while essential for students with physical disabilities, will ultimately benefit all Maryland students. Just as curb cuts benefit many people with motor disabilities, they also convenience parents with strollers, cyclists, travelers pulling luggage, and others. Likewise, accessible technology will help all students, not just those with physical disabilities or students who use assistive devices. For example, a student learning English as a second language (ESOL) will also benefit from technology applications that provide voice to text and text to voice.
Currently, only a few states have passed educational adoptions of Section 508. This state-by-state approach provides patchwork remedies that are inconsistent and will not produce sufficient pressure on the vendor community to produce a significant number of accessible products. Diane Golden states, efforts aimed at encouraging schools to buy accessible products will be ineffective if accessible products are not readily available to buy. The instructional software industry must begin producing sufficient numbers of accessible products to allow schools realistic options for choosing to buy accessible (Golden, 2001).
The purpose of No Child Left Behinds Title I: Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education No Child Left Behind Act 2001 (2002). This legislation embraces the idea that each child is unique and important. Hence, each child learns differently and needs flexible instructional materials that are well designed and compatible with their abilities. Without instructional products that can be accessed by all students NCLBs purpose will not be met. The U.S. Department of Education should consider the federal standards that have been developed to guide the development and procurement of technology-based products and the diverse implementation of these standards within state and local education agencies. They should provide leadership to ensure that state and local education agencies are aware of, and encouraged to adopt the technology standards of Section 508.
Annotated Code of Maryland, COMAR 13A.05.01 (2001). Retrieved March 2003, from https://constmail.gov.state.md.us/comar/13a/13a.05.02.13.htm
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. (2001a). Electronic and information technology accessibility standard. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/summary.htm
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. (2001b). Electronic and information technology accessibility standard. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/508standards.htm
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. (2001c). Software applications and operating systems. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/guide/1194.21.htm
Arkansas General Assembly. (1999). Act 1227 of 1999. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/ftproot/acts/1999/htm/act1227.htm
Association of Tech Act Projects. (ATAP). Summary of state information technology access laws and policies. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.ataporg.org/summary.htm
California State Senate. (2002). S.B. No. 105. Retrieved March 2003, from http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/01-02/bill/sen/sb_0101-0150/sb_105_bill_20020929_chaptered.pdf
Golden, D. C. (2001). Instructional software accessibility: A status report. Association of Tech Act Projects (ATAP). Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.ataporg.org/software%20accessibility%20survey.htm
Information Technology Technical Assistance Training Center. (2003). Promoting accessibility through training and assistance. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.ittatc.org/
Kentucky Assistance Technology Service. (2003). Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.katsnet.org/
Kentucky Legislature. (2000). 61.982 Access requirements for state information technology and equipment. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/krs/061%2D00/982.pdf
Maryland State Department of Education. (1999). 13A.05.02 Administration of services for students with disabilities. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.msde.state.md.us/technology/comar13a.htm
National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education. (2002). Oregon state university hardware access guidelines. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.washington.edu/accessit/index.php
Official California Legislative Information. (2003). Education code section 6006060062. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=60001-61000&file=60060-60062
Patterson, D. (2002). Along the disability divide: States begin journey to develop accessible web sites. Government Technology 3(1), 813. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.govtech.net/magazine/sup_story.phtml?magid=5&id=7997&issue=3:2002
Patterson, D. (2002). Along the disability divide: States begin journey to develop accessible web sites. Government Technology 3(1), 813. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.govtech.net/magazine/sup_story.phtml?magid=5&id=7997&issue=3:2002
Presidents Commission on Excellence in Special Education. (2003). Executive order 13227The president's commission on excellence in special education. Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.ed.gov/inits/commissionsboards/whspecialeducation/about.html
RESNA Technical Assistance Project. (2002). Assistive Technology Act of 1998 P.L. 105-394 (Summary). Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.resna.org/taproject/library/laws/ata98sum.html
Waddell, Cynthia (2003). Accessibility Forum 6th Webcast Meeting (WebCast).
Retrieved September 2003, from http://www.tvworldwide.com/event_030224_access_forum.cfm
Workforce Investment Act of 1998, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 794 (d). Retrieved March 2003, from http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/508/508law.html
The MAR*TEC Accessibility Checklist sits within the MAR*TEC Preview Center.
The Preview Center is a physical collection of instructional software and an online database of educators reviews. After selecting Educational Software Catalogue users see a blank search screen. Users can search for a specific piece of software or view all products within the database.
Currently the database contains two distinct tools for evaluating instructional software. The first survey assesses the educational usability of each piece of software. The second tool is an accessibility checklist.
After selecting view all products the user receives a descriptive list of software (five titles are delivered in each window. Users may page forward by selecting next at the bottom of the screen). By clicking on the name of the software, the user will see a detailed description of that product.
The user may select Add a Review to add their own review (right side of navigation bar) or may view other practitioner reviews by selecting view reviews of usability or view reviews of accessibility.
The accessibility checklist is organized topically and uses natural language when possible to evaluate the softwares accessibility.
**Please note: users must register before adding their review.
The accessibility checklist is based on Federal 508 software standards. It is designed to allow educators to assess softwares compliance with these guidelines.
Each question within the Accessibility Checklist is hyperlinked to the actual words of the 508 software standards. The checklist is organized topically. However, each question is mapped to the corresponding standard.
Each question is also placed in context. The user may view some explanation of why that standard is valid or of concern to students with disabilities.
A hypertext glossary is also included for technical terms and terms specific to the 508 standards. Words within the questions that may pose problems for general educators are defined in this glossary.
This database also delivers a detailed description of practitioner reviews. The accessibility reviews are presented using the precise language of the standards. It details how many reviewers suggested that this software meets the criteria, and how many reviewers suggested that the software did not meet the criteria.
An online tutorial helps educators understand the issues of evaluating instructional softwares accessibility compliance.