A new level of digital equity now possible for AT users – and easier AT deployment for IT departments

Handouts Media

Presented at 2:15pm in Mattie Silks on Wednesday, November 8, 2023.



  • Gregg Vanderheiden, Professor, University of Maryland

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


We are on the cusp of a breakthrough in digital equity for assistive technology users. It will solve several problems/barriers that we have not been able to solve until now such as allowing AT users to easily access any and all shared computer on campus, or in libraries, while reducing work for IT department personnel. This free and open-source utility is being offered free by Raising the Floor, a non-profit in Washington DC. and is now in wide, and spreading adoption at major universities and libraries.


In the past students and others who used AT were limited to one or two computers in one room in a library (if there were ANY computers with AT at all). Similarly, in labs or open spaces on campus with computers, all students were able to use any of the computers in any of the spaces EXCEPT students who needed AT. They either have no computers, or, in some locations there may be 1 or 2 computers with 1 or 2 types of Assistive technology on them. Note that even on these computers, the AT will not be set up for the individual.

This is a particular problem for students who do not have their own computers. But even for those individuals who have their own laptops, students sometime are required to use the computers in a lab, or their computer may be temporarily unusable (breakage, infection, loss, and other causes). In these situations the student is at a distinct disadvantage to their peers in being able to participate, compete, and succeed.

AT students who do not have a computer are unable to use the resources in their community (libraries, community centers, tutors, relatives) that their peers can to do homework or even participate in class.

A new FREE service called Assistive Technology on Demand (AT on Demand) allows a student (or anyone) to have their AT show up on any computer with Morphic on it. (Morphic is a free and open-source that has been available for over a year and is installed on over 8000 computers on major University Campuses and libraries across the US.) Morphic and AT on Demand allow a user to sit down to any computer and have that user's AT instantly download to that computer – and be set up with that person's settings. When they are done the AT disappears.

NOTE: All AT software is installed from the University's own servers from packages that are pre-scanned for security by the IT department saving them time and effort. In fact, IT departments can now make ANY AT needed, available EVERYWHERE, without IT having to install it ANYWHERE.


  1. AT users are currently at a moderate to severe disadvantage to no AT users.
  2. New free and open-source utilities and services can now allow AT users to have equal access to computers.
  3. This increased support for AT needed can be done without increasing (in fact decreasing) effort by IT departments.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Assistive Technology, Other, Procurement, Uncategorized, Universal Design for Learning

Speaker Bio(s)

Gregg Vanderheiden

Dr. Vanderheiden is founder of the Trace R&D Center and Professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. He has been active in the field of technology and disability for 50 years and was a pioneer in the field of Augmentative Communication (a term originating from his writings), assistive technology and computer access. Access features developed by Dr. Vanderheiden and Trace can be found in every computer and mobile device internationally (Windows, MacOS, iOS and Linux), in the Library of Congress’s talking book player, Kiosks, and worked with over 50 companies on increasing the accessibility of their products. He wrote the first Web Guideline in 1995 and co-chaired WCAG 1.0 and 2.0. Dr. Vanderheiden is a past President and Fellow of RESNA, a Founding Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and Fellow in the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.