April 2008
Volume 2 Issue 3
We offer Technical Assistance and Training on Accessible Technology
For more information, call 800-949-4232 (V/TTY)

Welcome to the DBTAC: Great Lakes ADA Center's quarterly Accessible Technology Bulletin

Technology Trainings & Events
(Central Standard Time)

The Assistive Technology Planner: A Guide for Implementing AT
April 14th at 10:00 am
April 29th at 2:00 pm
This session explores the AT Planner, a comprehensive set of guides for administrators, teachers, and families full of checklists, resources, and recommendations. Based on the research of the National Assistive Technology Research Institute. For more information visit:
Web 2.0 Accessibility Course using the W3C ARIA Specifications
April 15 - May 8, 2008
Tuesdays and Thursdays
3:00-4:00 pm
The on-line course is designed for web developers. Participants will learn about accessibility issues faced by people with disabilities in using the web, and how web 2.0 resources can be designed to improve accessibility using the ARIA technologies. Register at:
Multiple Perspectives On Access, Inclusion & Disability
April 21 - 23, 2008
Columbus, OH
This conference, sponsored by Ohio State University, offers a unique opportunity for professionals, scholars and advocates to discuss the full spectrum of disability issues and experiences. There is special pre-conference and concurrent session track dedicated to assistive technology. Register at:
Making Accessible Online Surveys
April 23, 2008 1:00 - 2:00 pm
Survey and polls can be detailed and complex and if they are not created with accessibility in mind, many with assistive technology are unable to participate. There are a number of online solutions to creating accessible surveys and polls introduced in this session. Register at:
Charting the Cs Assistive Technology Leadership Conference
April 28 - 29, 2008
Alexandria, MN
Sponsored in the Minnesota Department of Education. The conference focuses on innovative and effective strategies in assistive technology. This year's conference theme is Differentiating Classroom Instruction With Technology: The Amazing Race...AYP and Beyond. For more information e-mail:
2008 Accessible Technology On-line Seminar Series: Accessible Computer Applications in Employment
May 19, 2008 1 - 2 pm
Many jobs now require interaction with various computer applications, such as record keeping and database systems. Inaccessibility of these applications can seriously hinder job performance for individuals with disabilities. This seminar will discuss accessibility issues with common workplace computer applications and how to make them accessible. To register please contact Janet Peters on-line or call (312) 413-5931.
Web Accessibility Training
June 11 - 12, 2008
Logan, UT
This hands-on training session, sponsored by Webaim, will teach basic web accessibility principles and to advanced accessibility techniques. For more information:
Rehabilitation, Engineering, and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA)
June 26 - 30, 2008
Arlington, VA
RESNA 2008 is an interdisciplinary gathering of individuals and companies who share a common interest in technology and disability. For more information:
National Educational Computing Conference (NECC)
June 29- July 2, 2008
San Antonio, TX
NECC is an education technology conference with a strand on technology for special populations. For more information:

Accessible Computer Applications

No type of information technology is more prevalent in the modern workplace than software. Software applications include word processors, spreadsheets, database management, or groupware that enables colleagues to work in a networked environment.

Despite improvements in assistive technology and accessible design many of these applications still pose barriers to people with disabilities. Among the communities most likely to face significant barriers are those who are blind, those with low vision, and those with multiple disabilities. People who cannot use a computer mouse, including those with disabilities limiting manual dexterity or reach can also find it difficult to use mainstream software applications.

When procuring workplace software, especially enterprise systems, it is important to include accessibility in the decision making process. IBM offers a checklist to help determine accessibility for software products and applications that have a user interface.

In general, the basic principles of software accessibility are:

  • Flexibility. A flexible, customizable user interface can accommodate the user's needs and preferences. For example, the software should allow the user to choose font sizes, reduce visual complexity, and customize the arrangement of menus.
  • Choice of input methods. Software should offer a user's choice of input methods by providing keyboard access to all features tasks using mouse operations.
  • Choice of output modalities. The application should support the user's choice of output methods through the use of sound and visuals and of visual text and graphics. These output methods can be used redundantly or allow the user to choose his or her preferred output method.
  • Compatibility with assistive technology. The application should integrate and be compatible with assistive technology, such as screen readers, screen magnification, and voice input utilities.
  • Consistency. The software application should behavior consistently with other Windows-based applications and system standards. For example, accessibility options in the operating system for font sizes and or keyboard feedback.

The Great Lakes ADA Center is hosting an Online Seminar Series on Accessible Technology topics, including Accessible Computer Applications for Employment. The series is free. Please e-mail jpete@uic.edu to register for a session or for more information.

Join Us for the the 2008 Accessible Technology On-line Seminar Series

The Great Lakes ADA Center is hosting a free on-line seminar on Accessible Computer Applications in Employment May 19, 2008 at 1 - 2 pm (Central Standard Time)

Guest Speaker: Anthony Tusler
Anthony Tusler is a writer, consultant, trainer, and advocate on disability issues. He has written curricula for the World Institute on Disability and taught Disability in America at Sonoma State University. He is the author of the book, How to Create Disability Access to Technology: Best Practices in Electronic and Information Companies. His web site AboutDisability.com is the home for The New Paradigm of Disability Bibliography. He also writes and lectures about disability arts and culture.
To register please contact Janet Peters on-line or call (312) 413-5931. Please indicate if you will need an accommodation.

Accessibility of Online Student Services in Community College

By William A. Erickson, Sara VanLooy, Cornell University

Community colleges play a vital role in educating students with disabilities and are a crucial link to better employment. Technology can open doors to education for students with disabilities, but inaccessible web sites can pose significant barriers to people who are visually impaired, deaf, or have learning disabilities. The Employment and Disability Institute (EDI) at Cornell was funded by the U.S. Department of Education to study internet-based student services at community colleges. EDI worked in collaboration with the Institute for Community College Development (ICCD) at Cornell University.

As is shown in the chart below, the majority of the 700 community colleges surveyed said that they use the Internet to provide Bursar billing services (60%), course registration (81%), financial aid applications (84%), admissions (85%) class schedules (94%), and course catalogs (95%). Some colleges have made a few of these services available only on the web, with serious implications for students with disabilities, who will encounter potentially insurmountable barriers if web pages are not well designed.

Figure 1: Graph of percent of community colleges offering online services Bursar billing services (60%), course registration (81%), financial aid applications (84%), admissions (85%) class schedules (94%), and course catalogs (95%)

Accessibility and usability testing of a sample of college web pages found many problems. Both disabled and non-disabled users were frustrated by inaccessible pages, unclear instructions, confusing navigation, and unfamiliar terminology. Many required assistance to complete the application form, and the majority reported confusion with the entire process.

Virtually all of the websites examined performed poorly on both the accessibility evaluations and the usability testing. Barriers existed on many college websites that could prevent users from being able to complete an admissions application. Figure 2 shows the results of our testing of two typical community college online admissions applications. Many testers, regardless of disability status, required assistance to complete the application. Due to usability and/or accessibility issues, a number of testers with learning disabilities or visual impairments (screen reader or screen magnifier users) were unable to complete the application even with assistance. Four of five of the control testers without disabilities required assistance with the online application on College 2's site. Our usability testing illustrates how critical user testing is in web design for all users, not just users with disabilities.

Figure 2: Graph of percentage of testers able to complete task at each site. College 1: Reading LD, 29% without assistance, 43% with assistance, 28% unable to complete task. Screen magnifier, 75% with assistance, 25% unable to complete task. Screen reader, 25% without assistance, 75% with assistance. Controls, 80% without assistance, 20% with assistance. College 2: 33% without assistance, 67% with assistance. Screen magnifier, 67% with assistance, 33% unable to complete task. Screen Reader 50% with assistance, 50% unable to complete task. Controls 20% without assistance, 80% with assistance.

This study led to the development of a tool to help college administrators and others who wish to address the broader issues of web accessibility to improve the accessibility and usability of their websites. The Web Access Toolkit (www.webaccesstoolkit.org) provides resources and a process for achieving long-term web accessibility and enhanced usability for all users, disabled and non disabled alike.

On March 3, 2008 Great Lakes ADA Center hosted a webinar seminar on this topic. An archived version is available (toward the bottom of the page). There is no password necessary. For more information on this project, contact Bill Erickson at wae1@cornell.edu, or call Cornell University at 607-255-7727.


The Great Lakes ADA Center provides expert assistance via a national toll-free information line 800-949-4232 (V/TTY) or Online via Contact Us and presents customized trainings for employers, businesses, government, and individuals with disabilities regarding accessible technology and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

Great Lakes ADA and Accessible IT Center
University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Disability and Human Development (MC 728)
1640 West Roosevelt Road, Room 405
Chicago, IL 60608-6904

Last Updated on:
Wed Jul 3, 2013