notes from the accessibility seminar

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Just typing the title- Accessibility Seminar -gives me alternating pangs of anger and gloom. I've been burnt out on the topic for about seven years. Just do it, dammit. Pigeonholing it as a topic separate from web development or design is what really gets me going. I'll go out on a limb and post about a topic that I don't think should be a free standing component. But I didn't start this to gripe- I started it to pass on my take home from the Wednesday morning in Foster auditorium.

Christian Vinten-Johansen gave a solid synopsis of the state of accessibility at Penn State. Christian is knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate; Penn State's best.

Reading. Writing. Communicating
with each other.
Who knew?
Two of the presenters are experts from Rochester Institute of Technology; they mentioned Norm Coombs, their colleague from Rochester, who taught the first online Barrier Free Web Design course that I ever took. They mentioned developing a piece of software called C-Print Pro, software that allows captionists to provide captions in real time and add live captions to an Adobe Connect pod. Most interesting to me, though, was a metric they've developed that allows them to rank courses by the number of communications per person. They simply take the number of asynchronous communications that happen for a given course (measured solely within their CourseMS) and divide it by the number of students, plus one (for the teacher.) They survey students regularly and found that 70% of the students agree they learn more in the courses with more asynchronous communication. You can interpret this is many ways, but one unavoidable truth is that students feel they learn better the more they communicate with others about the course. Reading. Writing. Communicating with each other.

Who knew?

Next, David Cunningham gave an eye-opening demo of JAWS screen reading software. A comment that David made really stood out for me- inaccessibility isn't always the webmaster's fault. Often, someone who is blind won't know how to use their screen reading software. You mean that when someone loses their vision, they don't automatically get increased software ability? I always heard that followed.... Needless to say, there were problems when David entered ANGEL. Nothing horrible and universally despised like uncaptioned media- something really simple, like mislabeled text fields. David is an expert JAWS user, can utilize all its hidden features, but was barred from doing course searches. Or section searches. Or, well, I think it will be on line. It was all recorded- so check it out.

Penn State
April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
New content. Symposium 2008.Digital Commons at Penn State. Improve the workplace; hire for variety.

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