About Accessibility

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Accessibility, in its initial legal context, addressed physical access to the built environment.  It clarified how people with impairments should be able to enter the environments of education, employment, and work.  Today, the definition is more inclusive – reflecting the environment of ubiquitous information – an environment we all inhabit.

The Wikipedia page on Accessibility is a good starting point for definitions both in terms of modifications made to environments and the assistive technologies that enable full access.  < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessibility>

Throughout the interconnected world people refer to Information and Communications Technologies as ICT.  Indeed, telephone and the Internet, as they have merged, have transformed the world in the last few decades. 

This Wiki is designed to provide:

  • Basic conceptual information for everyone;
  • Focused information for specific audiences by role:
    • Administrator
    • Architect / Designer
    • Developer
    • Content Manager / Editor
    • Procurement
  • Links to specific resources with practical value


Assistive Technology & ICT Concepts

According to Wikipedia, Assistive Technology  (AT) is:

"an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. AT promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks."

At a simpler level, Assistive Technology (AT) is a tool – albeit a tool initially designed for someone with a specific disability.  However, people without disabilities use many forms of Assistive Technology.



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Placing a high value on diversity is now common in both the workplace and in education.  The full implications of universal access encompass and transcend these definitions.  Indeed, accessibility is the demonstration that an inclusive view of the diverse citizens of a state has been implemented.  A demonstration of the recognition of the value of each citizen’s worth.

Given the key role of accessibility in the information systems within the state’s education institutions – both primary and secondary – the following aspect of universal design in accommodation for all students is relevant.

Universal Design for Learning Series

One vital aspect of accessibility is to understand diversity / variability of the human condition.  An extraordinary analogy in terms of music develops an understanding of the uniqueness of our brains and, consequently, a set of multiple representations of information.

The site itself does a good job of demonstrating its points.  An extraordinary video entertains and enlightens.

From Bach to Lady Gaga: Music Lessons for Special Education http://udlseries.udlcenter.org/presentations/bach_to_gaga.html?plist=lead#
Excellent example of video, captioning and integration of slides. (Part of CAST: http://www.cast.org/about/index.html)


At the level of international law, the UN has articulated the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Although un-ratified by the United States, this convention has been signed by the majority of the nations of the world.

The clear understanding of the needs of people with disabilities and the quick ratification of the Convention indicates the depth of the need and the responsiveness of governments throughout the world.

Despite the refusal of the U.S. Senate to ratify the UN Convention, the U.S. can feel legitimate self-esteem at both the ADA and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act – both of which predate and influence the UN Convention.


International | National

At the level of international law, the UN has articulated the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Although un-ratified by the United States, this convention has been signed by the majority of the nations of the world.

The existence of this document indicates universal commitment to both an ideal of access and many specifics of implementation.

Part of the challenge of any law is enforcement.  And, without broad education and understanding, there can be no enforcement.

To achieve the goals of promoting education and understanding of its law / Convention, the UN sponsored a non-profit organization: G3ict.org


G3ict.org               http://www.g3ict.org/

What this organization is:

“G3ict – the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies – is an Advocacy Initiative of the UN GAID, the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, launched in December 2006 in cooperation with the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at UN DESA. Its mission is to facilitate and support the implementation of the dispositions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the accessibility of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and assistive technologies. G3ict relies on an international network of ICT accessibility experts to develop and promote good practices, technical resources and benchmarks for ICT accessibility advocates around the world.  It is incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the State of Georgia, USA, and headquartered in Atlanta.”

As residents of Georgia, we have a local organization with global scope.


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Enforcement (Build / Purchase)

Both ADA and Section 508 address both aspects of purchased software and software built by the US Government, private industry, and – now – thanks to the US Departmetn of Justice, State Governments.

The purchase of software by the US Government (core thrust of Section 508) was largely intended to address foundational IT functions: operating systems, API conventions, work processing software, spreadsheet software, web browsers, etc.

The “build” aspect is intended to address the structure and content of websites and applications.

The U.S. General Services Administration is the enforcement arm of Section 508 and has provided great clarity in an overview sense:



The Section 508 site itself is a source of both the standards and implementation guidance:




As mentioned above, the combination of core functionality of software (operating system for both traditional computers and smart phone) and the content built by organizations has significantly improved the overall accessibility for people with disabilities.

However, two challenges remain:

  • Older (inaccessible) software still exists;
  • Continual increases in interface software (e.g. gesture recognition) pose new obstacles.

ADA – 1990 – 2013

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act was drafted before the age of the Internet, the intent of this legislation was clear.  Many implications have enabled interpretations to encompass access to all forms of electronic information and communications.

Core ADA site: http://www.ada.gov/


Of primary concern to state governments is the current Department of Justice Revised Final Title II Rule: A Compilation of Regulatory Provisions and Guidance -- Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services:





Also valuable on a national level is Disability.Gov: https://www.disability.gov/

Especially, the technology area: https://www.disability.gov/technology


Existing Georgia Resources



Given the critical value of educational interaction in the 21st Century, the accessibility resources of the Georgia education system are crucial:

University System of Georgia – Accessibility:


“Accessibility is a high priority issue for the Board of Regents (BoR) of the University System of Georgia (USG). By endorsing Web accessibility guidelines established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), USG enables full access to institutional information, programs and activities offered through the Web. To this end:

Resources for creating 508-compliant content:




Other States

National Resource for Education

The National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE)


“NCDAE works on policy, research, training and technical assistance, and dissemination of information. NCDAE accomplishes its purpose through an affiliate network of over 500 national and international partners in education, business and industry, and government.”

Excellent Summary Page:

Leading the Charge: Ensuring Your Institution’s Web Presence Works for Everyone


“Students, staff, faculty, and alumni alike use the institutional web for everything from online teaching and learning to critical administrative functions. In 2009, almost 12 million students took some or all of their classes online and this growth is exponential, with estimates of over 22 million by 2014.”



Following is a link to the State of Minnesota’s IT accessibility information website. It includes some interesting features, including a toolkit for state agencies. It might serve as a model project.


Great Introductory video:




Emergency Managers are often asked about their social media….is it accessible? For many people, the word “accessible” means “available,” but for the disability community it means can I have equal access to the information that people without disabilities have. Accessible Social Media requires design features that make it accessible to a variety of people with disabilities. The Emergency 2.) Wiki Accessibility Toolkit offers a crowdsourcing site that pools resources on helping emergency managers and homeland security professionals learn how to make their information/resources accessible to everyone.

The Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Toolkit was developed to empower people with disabilities to use social media for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. This toolkit was developed in response to the fact that not all people with a disability are able to access life saving messages delivered through social media due to the accessibility challenges that the tools currently pose.


California State University: http://teachingcommons.cdl.edu/access/index.html

“The mission of the ATI is for the CSU university system to excel and provide national leadership in using technology that is fully accessible through universal design to its students, faculty, staff and the general public.”

Accessible Technology Initiative: http://calstate.edu/accessibility/

“The Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI) reflects the California State University's (CSU) ongoing commitment to provide access to information resources and technologies to individuals with disabilities.”



Pennsylvania State University (responding to litigation…):


Contains Penn State’s summary of Section 508 Summary Requirements.


  • within Summary Requirements:
    • Accessibility in Common Tools
    • Events List
    • News Blog
    • Target Audiences
    • Testing Accessibility
    • Web Page Accessibility
    • What to Fix
    • Video Captioning