March 2009
Volume 3 Issue 2
We offer Technical Assistance and Training on Accessible Technology
For more information, call 800-949-4232 (V/TTY)

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

Technology Trainings & Events
(Central Standard Time)

Technology-Supported Writing Interventions
March 17, 2009
On-line Course
This session will explore technologies that have been developed in the last 15 years with the potential to serve as scaffolds to support and improve the writing skills of students who are low achieving or have learning, behavioral or cognitive disabilities. Session is free: For more information go to
Barrier-free Information Technology. Revised and Enriched
January 9, 2009
Barrier-free Information Technology has been revised and enriched with several new multimedia modules. The course is designed to guide an institution in making both its computer and information technology systems fully accessible to its users with disabilities. The course will describe several different format options and give tips on creating in formats such as Word, PDF, PowerPoint, Web pages and DAISY. For more information go to
Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age: Best Practices.
March 18 20, 2009
Detroit, MI
Conference participants will learn about innovative, technology-related programs and have access to an extensive exhibit area which highlights hardware, software, computer-related materials, and other educational technology. There is a strand on assistive technology. There is a registration fee. For more information go to
Assistive Technology and the Aging Population
March 20, 2009
Indianapolis, IN
Assistive Technology can play an important role in aging. The full day workshop will include a keynote speaker from the University of Indianapolis and expert panel discussions to highlight innovative technology use for seniors. Session is free, more information at
Council of Exceptional Children 2009 Convention and Expo
April 1 - 4, 2009
Seattle, WA
The CEC conference offers teaching strategies, the latest special education legislation and trends, and 900 educational sessions, There is strand on special education technology to provide participants with a vast array of evidence-based strategies for using technology in all forms. There is a fee for the conference, more information at www.cec.sped.org
Creating Accessible Worksheets and Forms in Microsoft Excel
April 7, 2009
Did you know you can create very accessible worksheets, including forms in Excel? Authors of workbooks using the Microsoft spreadsheet program Excel can use the Input Message feature of Excel to provide outstanding feedback and instructions for users of screen reading software and screen magnification software. Hyperlinks can be used to expedite navigation within the worksheet or the form. This Webinar teaches techniques in both Excel 2003 and 2007. More information at
International Conference on Web Accessibility
April 20 - April 21, 2009
Madrid, Spain
The focus of this year's international cross-disciplinary conference on web accessibility is the web for older users. Including topics on social, employment, and health care. The conference will explore adoption patterns for Web access by older people vary across cultures. There is a fee for the conference, more information at www.w4a.info
Charting the Cs Cross Categorical Conference.
April 26-28, 2009
Alexandria, MN
The conference targets DCD, DB, and AT special education professionals. Pre-conference by Jane Korsten and Every Move Counts method. There is a fee, more information at www.cec.sped.org
Multiple Perspectives On Access, Inclusion & Disability
April 28-29, 2009
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 a fee. More information at

Can Mobile Devices be Accessible?

There has been a proliferation of mobile devices, such as cell phones or personal digital assistants, in the last several years. Mobile technologies have also played an ever-increasing role in the lives of people with disabilities as they search for ways to keep connected both for personal and professional reasons.

However, all this power, integration, and portability has paradoxically made some devices less usable for people, particularly individuals with disabilities. Cell phones that have only touch screen input, for example, make it impossible for blind, visually-impaired, cognitively challenged and amputee consumers with disabilities to use.

Manufacturers are required through Section 255 of the Telecommunication Act to create accessible products, if readily achievable. If accessibility is not readily achievable, the manufacturer must make the equipment compatible with assistive technology commonly used by people with disabilities, if that is readily achievable.

AT&T as an example, offers add-on software by Code Factory to enhance the accessibility of mobile technology for the blind and visually impaired. Mobile Speak screen reader that automatically detects information that the blind user should know, just as a sighted user would easily find highlighted items or key areas of the screen at a glance. The speech feedback is intuitive and the Braille support can be used with or without speech. AT&T also uses Mobile Magnifier to enlarge screen contents, display high-definition text, and include navigation functions to zoom on any area of the screen. The screen magnifier can be used in conjunction with screen readers so that information displayed on the screen is also rendered in synthesized speech output generated using text-to-speech (TTS) technology and routed through the device's speaker or a headset.

The very popular iPhone by Apple has many accessibility challenges due to the unique design, but does have tools (sold separately) and some build-in functions to increase the usability for people with disabilities. More information can be found at Apples Accessibility iPhone site

Creating a more usable mobile device can also be a competitive advantage, to reach more people including the aging population. "It is absolutely a business opportunity," says HP's Michael Takemura, director of the company's accessibility program, which develops products for people with disabilities and age-related limitations. (2009 SenCARE Conference

People with disabilities embrace the progress made on mobile technology accessibility to eliminate communications barriers and offer a more equal opportunity professionally with non-disabled peers. The hope and desire is the universal design features are built-in to all mobile devices to be usable, accessible, and affordable to people with disabilities.

The article "Cell phones Are Important for People with Disabilities" was consulted.

Accesible Technology Webinar May 11th

The next session of the Accessible Technology Webinar Series is "An update of the 508 Accessibility Standards" to be held on May 11, 2009 1 2:30 CST. To learn more about the session and registration, information is available online.

The presentation will discuss the ongoing update or refresh of the Accessibility standards for electronic and information technology of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the telecommunications accessibility guidelines of Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. The Access Board convened an advisory committee, the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee TEITAC, which prepared and submitted a report of recommendations to the Access Board in April 2008. Since then, staff of the Access Board has been working on draft text for revised regulations. The webinar will review the process and the expected results of these refreshed standards. The new 508 standards have great impact on the rights of people with disabilities and the design of information and communications technology.

The purpose of the refresh is to ensure people with disabilities, whether Federal employees or the general public, can be confident in their ability to access telecommunications and federal information. Federal agency compliance will encourage and give incentives to manufactures to meet or exceed the requirements, fostering innovation and improved accessibility.

The final report is a set of recommendations from the Advisory Committee to the Access Board. Any proposed revisions to the Section 508 standards or the Section 255 accessibility guidelines will be made through the Federal rulemaking process; therefore the report is not a regulation.

Picture of speaker: Timothy Creagan Update of the 508 Accessibility Standards
Monday May 11, 2009
Speaker : Timothy Creagan

Mr. Creagan is the Senior Accessibility Specialist with the U.S. Access Board. He recently served as the Designated Federal Officer for the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC) which prepared and submitted a report of recommendations to the Access Board concerning the refresh of the Section 508 standards and the Section 255 guidelines. He was formerly the Director of Consumer Training for ITTATC, and before that he was the Director of Public Policy for Hearing Loss Association of America (formerly SHHH). Mr. Creagan is a nationally recognized expert on accessible electronic and information technology and telecommunications.

He has spoken and written extensively on disability rights, digital wireless telephones, Internet relay services, and IVR systems. Mr. Creagan has testified before state legislatures and multiple federal agencies on the importance of assistive technology to people with disabilities. Mr. Creagan received his J.D. from the Catholic University of America.

What Website Fonts are Accessible?

A question that comes to Great Lakes ADA Center quite often is: "What size should I make my web font to be accessible?" or "Which font types are the most accessible for users with disabilities?"

There is not an absolute answer either for a correct size or type. There are guidelines and suggestions, but each user will interact and view your website differently, therefore the important factor as a web developer is to allow flexibility for user preference.

The only way you can absolutely be sure your visitors will see the font you choose is to make your text an image. There are many reasons though why this isn't a good idea and you should limit the amount of images you use to display text. If you use pictures of text, do so only for brief segments and like other pictures on the website, you must have appropriate alternate text.

One of the most important things to understand about fonts is that not everyone has the same fonts installed on their computer. Also, depending on the browser the web design and font may render differently for the end user. Therefore select basic, simple, easily-readable fonts and specify a generic font family via style sheets, so, if visitor has none of the fonts you specify the browser con substitute its own default.

Beyond that, though, there are no immediate accessibility issues in type selection. If coded properly, visually-impaired visitors and those with learning disabilities can override your choices. Totally blind visitors use a screen reader and are impartial to your font selection.

The most common font size is 14px, which works well for many people, but not everyone. It is best to use a relative measurement like 'em' when specifying the size of your font. Using a relative measurement will allow visitors to more easily adjust the size to whatever works best for them.

Relative measurements may have implications for your design, so code your site to account for the possibility of your font size being displayed at sizes other than the default you set. Most of the time this isn't too difficult to deal with if you plan for the issue.

In conclusion, adhering to the following nine principles offered by WebAim are more important to accessibility than a particular size or type of website font.

  • Use real text rather than text within graphics.
  • Select basic, simple, easily-readable fonts.
  • Use a limited number of fonts.
  • Ensure sufficient contrast between the text and the background.
  • Avoid small font sizes.
  • Use relative units for font size.
  • Limit the use of font variations such as bold, italics, and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
  • Don't rely only on the appearance of the font (color, shape, font variation, placement, etc.) to convey meaning.
  • Avoid blinking or moving text.

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