Accessible Educational Materials All the Way Through Postsecondary

Presented at 9:15am in Standley II Lab on Wednesday, November 14, 2018.



  • Sam Johnston, Director of Postsecondary and Workforce Development, CAST Inc.
  • Cynthia Curry, Director National Center on Accessible Educational Materials, CAST Inc.

Session Details

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


Increases in digital materials has helped students who struggle with print-based materials. However, digital materials and technologies are not always designed to be accessible from the start. We will address how higher education institutions can better meet their legal obligation to provide students with accessible educational materials.


This presentation will address how higher education institutions can provide students with accessible educational materials. We will introduce the Quality Indicators of Accessible Educational Materials in Postsecondary Education developed by the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials. Quality indicators allow an institution to understand what departments and people need to be engaged in the provision of accessible educational materials throughout the procurement process. Also, we will discuss ways to have more stakeholders build their capacity to select and/or develop accessible educational materials. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. provide a strong voluntary standard for web accessibility. However, there is a need to translate knowledge about creating and procuring accessible educational materials into lay person terms so more stakeholders can be active in solving the problem that many students face of inconsistent access to accessible educational materials.


  1. Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) are responsible for providing accessible educational materials (AEM)
  2. Quality Indicators of Accessible Educational Materials can help system wide AEM practices
  3. Accessibility guidance must be translated into lay language so all stakeholders involved in AEM

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Administrative/Campus Policy, Legal, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Sam Johnston

Sam Catherine Johnston is the Director of Postsecondary Education and Workforce Development at CAST, which is the primary research and development organization for Universal Design for Learning. Sam’s primary research focus is on social learning processes and the use of online and blended learning to support peer-to-peer knowledge transfer.  She has conducted design-based research in the fields of mental health care, human services, criminal justice and education. Sam is co-principal investigator for two National Science Foundation research studies. The first grant focuses on stereotype threat, which, refers to being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one's group (Steele & Aronson, 1995). The goal of this grant is to understand how stereotype threat impacts learning processes in middle school classrooms that use inquiry science pedagogy, and, how to reduce negative impacts on learning that are the result of students experiencing stereotype threat. The second grant focuses on the design and research of an online STEM career exploration and readiness environment for youth between the ages of 16 and 24 that are disconnected from both school and the workforce. She served as the CAST Project Director for a Gates-funded project with Creative Commons and Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative to integrate UDL and case-based learning into the design of community and technical college courses. This grant also produced UDL On Campus ( collection of online resources to aid postsecondary educators in implementing UDL. Sam also currently works on the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) focusing on postsecondary and workforce take up of AEM.

Cynthia Curry

Cynthia Curry is Director of the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials for Learning (AEM Center). She is responsible for ensuring that the Center meets its goal to increase the use of accessible educational materials and accessible technologies by learners with disabilities across preK-12, higher education, and workforce development. To that end, Cynthia collaborates with state leaders and AEM Center partners to lead the development of AEM and accessible technology provision systems.

Cynthia was a practicing engineer for five years before pursuing her interest in science teaching, which sparked a passion for access to learning through technology. During her two-decade career in education, she has worked across K-12 schools, universities, non-profit organizations, and state agencies to improve outcomes for learners with disabilities. At the University of Southern Maine, she was a leader in three U.S. Department of Education funded projects to better prepare teachers to use technology to improve curriculum access by learners with disabilities. Additionally, she participated in two NSF-funded projects to increase the number of students with disabilities who pursue STEM in college and careers. For the Maine Department of Education, she delivered in-person and online professional development on teaching all learners in 1:1 computer classrooms across the state. Just prior to joining CAST, she was the coordinator of the Office for Students with Disabilities at the University of New England.