Q: By law, which learning materials need to be accessible to people with disabilities?

A: All of them.

In 2009, a group of institutions including Arizona State University lost a lawsuit because the universities had selected an e-reader for their textbooks that was (at that time) inaccessible by screen reading software (commonly used by blind and print-disabled individuals). As a result, the technology vendor updated their product, which is now accessible.

Since then, numerous cases have been argued and won against large and small universities (e.g., Louisana Tech, Penn State, U. California, Berkely, U. Montana)  in the favor of legalized accessibility.  All of these cases have involved either the institution’s technological infrastructure, actual course content, or physical environment.

Now, even the MOOCS are under scrutiny. MOOCS (massive, open, online, courses) typically are provided for free, have thousands of students, are open to anyone willing to register, and are non credit-bearing. Harvard and MIT are known for their high quality MOOCS, which are often podcast or video-lecture based. Advocates for the deaf are suing for closed captioning of these materials.

The moral of the story: consider inclusive design a necessary, cost-effective, and strategic part of developing tools and content for online learning.



Type notes faster with Fleksy

One of the hurdles people often face when starting to use an iPhone or other touch-screen device is dealing with a slower typing speed. Instead of knowing where each individual key is on the keyboard by touch, you need to do  a little more guess work with the iPhone. As someone who tends to write lengthy text messages and comes up with ideas while out and about, this was one of my concerns when using a touch-screen phone.
A bluetooth keyboard can certainly help, but there are times when it’s easier not to carry a separate device or you’ve just forgotten it. Cases with bluetooth keyboards built-in are understandably a bit more bulky than  the iPhone on its own. Enter Fleksy, a new app aimed to help you type faster. Instead of having to find each key   then either lift your finger or split tap as is done with VoiceOver, with Fleksy, just aim a finger at where you think a  key might be. The system will do its best to figure out what you were typing. More often then not, it will be correct. If it isn’t right, simply swipe down to hear a list of suggestions. The team has even improved the entering of punctuation; you don’t have to switch to a new keyboard just to enter  a comma.
The only drawback to this innovative app is that you need to copy the text you’ve written into other apps, as iOS doesn’t allow the keyboard to be used system-wide. In other words, your keyboard is a separate app, and you need to paste the text you’ve written into apps like Safari or Notes. However, Fleksy makes it easy to copy text, and you can set up favorite email addresses and numbers you frequently text right within the app.
The majority of this post was written using Fleksy, and while I had to correct the system’s guesses approximately  15 times, the word I was looking for was usually the first or second suggestion. I find the words that are most difficult to type are short words whose letters are close together on the keyboard. For example: it, is, if.
Next time you have an idea for a paper, or need to write a quick note about a class, Fleksy might just be able to help you get it done a bit more speedily.
Fleksy costs 14.99 in the App store.

Echoes Instructional Joins the NYS CBVH Summer Pre-College Program

Echoes Instructional Design, Inc. is pleased to join the NYS Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped’s Sumer 2013 Pre- College Program!  In this four week residential program, participants will experience college life first hand as they develop research, writing, technology, and independent living skills.  Echoes Instructional Design’s Developmental Writing Seminar (DWS) has been incorporated into the program to provide challenging academic and technological instruction.

The DWS program uses the framework of a Freshman English class to  introduce writing techniques and new technologies via online learning with real-time discussion.   Our goal is to help students develop fluency with mainstream, accessible tools and applications to facilitate college academics. Our Writing Professors, Technology Specialists, and Distinguished Guests will work closely with participants to challenge, guide, and inspire.

Dates: Saturday July 13, 2013 through Friday, August 9, 2013

Where: Choice of two campuses

  1. LeMoyne College (www.lemoyne.edu) in Syracuse, NY, facilitated by Aurora of Central NY
  2. Manhattanville College (www.mville.edu) in Purchase, NY, facilitated by Visions of NYC

Who: To be eligible, students must be NYS residents who are legally blind and going into their senior year of high school in the fall of 2013. The program is strongly recommended for students requesting CBVH college sponsorship.

Contact: Your NYS CBVH Counselor

July- New Rules for TV Audio Description

In case you don’t browse the FCC website for accessibility information (as we do), here’s some good news.

Video description is audio-narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements. These descriptions are inserted into natural pauses in the program’s dialogue. Video description makes TV programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. 

 As of July 1, 2012, FCC rules require local TV station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC located in the top 25 TV markets (NY included) to provide 50 hours per calendar quarter (about 4 hours per week) of video-described prime time and/or children’s programming.

Read more: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/video-description