Online Education from DAIS

Building In (Not Adding On)
Technology Access
an online course from
Disability Access Information and Support (DAIS)
Instructor: David Sweeny

Discussion of the Section 508 regulations (regarding accessible technology), letters of agreement with the Office for Civil Rights, and ongoing concern about institutional obligations for full accessibility seem to be pointing us in the same direction each time — WE MUST MAKE OUR INSTITUTIONAL WEBSITES ACCESSIBLE. The problem isn’t just fancy graphics on the institutional homepage or online applications that are inaccessible to people with disabilities using assistive technology. The problem is the dozens of webpages that get posted to the institutional website daily by faculty members conducting class discussion online, or requiring students to access course materials online, or making assignments and communicating through your (institutional) online presence. There are a number of good websites available that will direct your institutional technology folks on the fine points of accessible web design — but they aren’t any good in assuring institutional compliance if your tech people don’t read them and don’t insist on adherence. Most DSS providers understand the importance of website accessibility to institutional compliance, but few can “speak html” long enough to capture and hold the attention of the tech folks on campus, even if you did have the clout to make them listen!

Here is a chance to spend someone else’s money. Find an ally in upper administration (the ADA compliance officer?) or, perhaps, in the technology department, and get someone to assign responsibility for web access to someone whose job it is to develop the institutional web presence; then get that person (and his/her friends?!) signed up for the newest course offering from DAIS!

This course is still under development. Plans are expected to be in place by the end of July, 1999. We already know that: (1) this course is not meant for DSS providers — it is directed to technology people who know how to build a website, whose job it is to make that happen, and who need to understand both how and why that website must be accessible; (2) cleaning up existing access problems is something your tech people can do themselves, once they have been pointed in the right direction; (3) this course is designed to provide basic information and format on how to assure that your accessibility problems are not compounded while current access problems are being resolved — how to “do it right” from the start.

Meetcher Teacher!
David Sweeney is currently coordinator of Adaptive Technology Services at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Mr. Sweeney founded the Texas Text Exchange; an online digital library of text material for use exclusively by students with disabilities. Mr. Sweeney is also president-elect of the Texas Association of Higher Education and Disability, and has been involved in that organization as well as National AHEAD for some time.

Mr. Sweeney is invited to speak each year at numerous regional and national conferences on the subject of disability services, information and adaptive technology. Recently, Mr. Sweeney has been consulting with institutions of higher education on the subject of information accessibility and offers numerous presentations and training curriculae.

The course will be available on demand after August 15, 1999. There will be an estimated 4-5 hours of direct instruction, plus the availability of ongoing participation in a listserv developed exclusively to serve as the class participation mechanism for this course.