Kara Zirkle, Coordinator, IT Accessibility, George Mason University
Disability Area: Topic Area:
Length of Session (in hours): 1
Expertise Level: Beginner
Type of session: General Conference
Summary of Session
This lecture encourages attendee participation as we share our history, current processes and personal experiences in providing accessible text and media to current and future students. We allow for group discussion to share ideas, solutions, problems, etc. involving accessible text and media.
Our office currently serves approximately 150 students who are eligible for accessible text services and have witnessed exponential growth in the need for accessible text throughout the last school year with record numbers of requests. We are sure this demand is similar at other higher education institutions and sure it will continue. These numbers only increase as we dive into accessible media production as well, with students in need of captioning and video description. We will highlight some examples of how various Assistive Technology (AT) and alternative formats have enabled students with specific disabilities to have access to their required course materials. Our office creates a limited amount of Braille, tactile and large print materials for students, and we will provide an overview of the equipment, software and resources that assist us in that process. Most of our clients use electronic text; therefore, we will focus much of our production discussion on resources used in scanning and Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Included in this discussion will be resources students may use with the electronic text we produce and resources that allow students to work with text more independently. Online repositories of public domain works and commercial sites where students may obtain texts in electronic format are multiplying rapidly. However, depending on the needs of the student, these may or may not be accessible. Organizations such as Learning Ally and Bookshare currently provide individual and organizational memberships to eligible students. In the midst of expanding options and resources, requests for accessible text are growing. Publisher resources such as AccessText currently provide quick access to PDF files for many titles. While the files may not be accessible for all students, these resources allow accessible text providers a streamlined format for contacting and obtaining permissions from publishers. The files may then be converted to accessible formats using OCR software, saving time from physical scanning and money for institutions which may not be able to afford high speed scanners. For the past year, we have also been involved in accessible media production, so we will spend time covering the hurdles and successes in that process, as well. We'll cover how and why we began this project and what processes are currently in place for providing services to the campus community.
Overview of assistive technology for accessible text and media
Various solutions for alternative text including various assistive technology and how it is provided on campus and to students at home.
Some challenges and solutions involved in providing access to media for students and the campus community.
Mr. Kramer has worked in assistive technology, disability, information systems and accessible media for more than 25 years. From 1997-2012 he worked with Disability Services at CU-Boulder, establishing the Assistive Technology Lab, which serves students with disabilities needing specialized access. He is founder and coordinator for the Accessing Higher Ground Conference: Accessible Media, Web & Technology, and teaches courses on Universal Design at CU-Boulder.
Kara Zirkle has worked at George Mason University as the IT Accessibility Coordinator for 4+ years. She works to ensure that the electronic and information technology (E&IT) is accessible to faculty, staff, students and public both with and without disabilities. She specifically looks at Section 508 compliance for the University as a whole which includes but not limited to: web and document accessibility, captioning of videos, transcript for audio and purchasing and procurement of applications.