Microsoft Studies AT for Education

PowerPoint logoMicrosoft recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact™ Analysis of Microsoft Accessibility And Assistive Technologies For Education to quantify the benefits of Microsoft accessibility tools for students, teachers and schools.

According to the news release from Microsoft, “Forrester conducted numerous interviews across K-12, Higher Education, and an alternative school.  These schools were using the built-in accessibility tools that are offered with our Microsoft 365 platform, including Office 365 and Windows 10.  These schools represent over 90,000 students and 5000 faculty and staff.”

The research showed the following barriers to implementing Assistive Technology in schools:

  • Existing solutions could not be widely deployed and often had a stigma associated with them
  • Learning experiences could be disjointed and distracting
  • Technology costs and effort were too high.

Microsoft reported that “the study revealed that by deploying and using Microsoft Accessibility and assistive technology tool… schools can improve student learning, reduces costs and effort, and save time and be more effective.”

Read the complete news release from Microsoft…

Assistive Technology Re-authorization Act Introduced in Senate

Casey, Collins Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Assistive Technology for Seniors and People with Disabilities

Legislation Would Help Seniors and People With Disabilities Maintain Independence

US Capitol DomeWashington, D.C. – Today, June 13, 2019, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the Ranking Member and Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, introduced the 21st Century Assistive Technology Act that would increase access to assistive technology—devices or services that help seniors and people with disabilities to maintain their independence and live where they choose.  The bill, which comes following a May 22nd hearing in the Aging Committee on the topic, would also help reduce the low employment and high poverty rates of older adults and people with disabilities by helping them live independently and maintain employment.

“Assistive technology helps millions of people live independently, remain engaged in their community and improves the quality of life for seniors and people with disabilities,” said Senator Casey.  “It is important that we update this bill to support the advances in assistive technology over the last 15 years, so that those who need it can be full participants in every aspect of their lives.”

“As our population ages, the need for care and support is increasing,” said Senator Collins.  “Advances in technology are working to bridge the ‘care gap,’ improving function in activities of daily living, helping to manage multiple chronic conditions, reducing risk of hazards, and making homes safer for seniors.  The 21st Century Assistive Technology Act would help to ensure that seniors continue to have access to these life-changing technologies to help them maintain their independence.”

The 21st Century Assistive Technology Act (S.1835) Act would update the Assistive Technology Act by clarifying that the program serves all people with disabilities, including veterans and older adults who developed disabilities later in life. The Assistive Technology Act would also increase the funding authorized for programs that serve rural areas. Assistive technology refers to any piece of equipment, product or service that helps someone with a disability or functional limitation accomplish their daily needs such as wheelchair ramps, hearing aids, screen readers and even smart phones.

This bill is supported by the Assistive Technology Act Programs, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the American Association of People with Disabilities, The Arc of the United States, the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools and CAST.

Please contact Senator Collins office to receive an accessible version of the proposed 21st Century Assistive Technology Act.

New EdTech Publications Emphasize Inclusion

From State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and National Center for Learning Disabilities:

June 7, 2019 – Eleven national organizations have come together to outline a new vision for education technology in a series of publications that explore conception, design, procurement, use, and continuous improvement of ed tech initiatives.

The collaborative publications build off a central report, “Inclusive Technology in a 21st Century Learning System”, by Ace Parsi, Director of Innovation at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). The report lays out a new inclusive vision for educational technology and considerations to ensure technology closes educational, economic, and civic opportunity gaps for individuals with disabilities.

The complimentary local and state/national briefs were developed in collaboration between the following organizations:

  • Policy and Research Organizations:  The American Institute for Research, Digital Promise, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, and The Learning Accelerator
  • Associations Representing Local Policy Leaders: CoSN – Consortium for School Networking, the School Superintendent Association and Association of School Business Officials International;
  • Associations Representing State Policy Makers:  National Association of State Directors of Special Education, the State Education Technology Directors Association, and the National Association of State Boards of Education;
  • National Policy and Advocacy Organizations: The Alliance for Excellent Education, the Future Ready Schools initiative, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

“Working together with these 10 other organizations sets a prime example of how all decision makers should be working together to ensure the needs of all learners are truly being met,” noted Lindsay Jones, CEO of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

“These publications provide information and guidance to educational leaders to effectively leverage education technology to meet the needs of all learners, particularly those with disabilities,” said Tracy Gray, Managing Director at the American Institute for Research.

Use this link to read the entire news release and learn more about this topic..

New Resource – Captioning Live Video

Closed Captioning symbolWe recently added a new resource to the Accessible Digital Documents page which discusses some new applications and new features to legacy applications that will provide live captioning to presentations and webinars thus making them more accessible. The resource is based upon adaptations of some trade articles and support documentation on the applications’ websites. The three new services, all involving the use of Speech-to-Text technology (S-t-T) with Artificial Intelligence (AI) are:

  • MS-PowerPoint – Presentation Translator
  • Google Slides Translator
  • Otter.ai

Use this link to read more about these new features and services….

Accessible Media and Services for Students

Blind person walking in mall with guide dogThe Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) is a leading national source for accessible educational content, providing services for students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind. Families and school personnel with early learners through Grade 12 students can register for free access to over 6,000 Educational Media titles on-demand and on DVD. DCMP’s Learning Center contains a wealth of information related to education, accessibility, deafness, blindness, and other related topics. DCMP provides Media Accessibility Guidelines through our Captioning Key and Description Key, used by media professionals as well as amateurs around the world.

The Described and Captioned Media Program provides premium media designed for students with disabilities and leads as a resource for families and teachers, supported by the federal Department of Education.

A recent additions to their website, Is Your Student Ready for What Comes Next? provides a set of resources to assist students in the Transition process. Some of the resources include:

  • Map It: What Comes Next is a free, online, interactive training designed for transition-aged students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • The Getting a Job! online training was developed and designed for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and the professionals who work with them.  Focusing on the transition from school to work, the training offers a series of activities, supporting documents and topical videos designed to help the job seeker prepare for the world of work.  All the videos in the modules are presented in ASL, and are also voiced in English and captioned.

Additional videos and resources include:

  • Real Life 101: College Prep – With college just ahead of them, the hosts visit with some people who help students prepare for this milestone.
  • Real Life 101: Vocational Training – In this video a career planner discusses how to find the right career for the right person.
  • Paying Your Way Through College – This video helps viewers understand four-key financial aid sources: scholarships, grants, work-study, and student loans.
  • Biz Kid$ – Public television’s Emmy Award-winning financial education series of 65 videos for teens and preteens. Each video has a lesson guide, and the Biz Kid$ website has many additional ideas for learning activities.

Most of the resources on the website require a FREE DCMP membership which may be applied for on the site.

National AEM Center posts “AEM and the IEP”

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials logo

In March, the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM) hosted a webinar entitled, “AEM in the IEP: Where Do Accessible Materials and Technologies Fit?” Presented by Joy Zabala and Diana Carl, the 60-minute webinar detailed the seven points in the IEP development process at which AEM might reasonably be considered and documented. Participants were also provided with IEP requirements at each point and questions related to consideration of accessible materials.

This webinar has now been archived and posted, available for your viewing. The presentation slides and handout is also available for download.

New Report Providing a Snapshot of Trends in State K12 Instructional Materials

Updated Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS) Online Portal

Student using iPad to readApril 1, 2019 (Washington, D.C.) – SETDA, the principal membership association of the U.S. state and territorial digital learning leaders, today announced the release of a new report, State K12 Instructional Materials Leadership Trends Snapshot and updates to the free, online tool to support the implementation of digital instructional materials, Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS). Educators, policy makers and the private sector will benefit from organized and accessible information highlighting trends regarding the acquisition of digital instructional materials, including state guidance, definitions and policies, procurement practices, review processes, funding options, and digital learning resources for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. New for 2019 is the topic of professional learning, highlighting the opportunities states provide teachers around the selection, creation and implementation of quality, digital instructional materials. This work supports state and district leaders’ understanding of state policies and can impact policy changes related to instructional materials (including non-traditional instructional materials, such as digital content) to best meet the individual needs of all learners.

“The selection and implementation of digital instructional materials is a top priority in K-12 education environments,” shared Candice Dodson, SETDA’s incoming Executive Director. “SETDA’s newest resource for this critical work, State K12 Instructional Materials Leadership Trends Snapshot, summarizes the current state policies and practices of this process utilizing 2019 updates to our powerful Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS) online portal. This portal provides opportunities for collaboration between state and district leaders across the country to bring quality resources to digital teaching and learning for all.”

Both the Snapshots report and DMAPS were developed through the expertise and efforts of state leaders responsible for procurement, instructional materials and educational technology and in collaboration with experts in the field.

For a comprehensive overview, access this recent webinar, Navigating the Digital Shift: Leveraging Quality Instructional Materials for Learning

This work was made possible by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About SETDA

Founded in 2001, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is the principal non-profit membership association representing U.S. state and territorial educational technology leaders. Our mission is to build and increase the capacity of state and national leaders to improve education through technology policy and practice. For more information, please visit: setda.org.

Increasing Accessibility and Fostering Inclusive Classrooms

The following announcement of this free webinar is from edWeb.net…

Tuesday, March 26, 2019
3:00 pm
 – 4:00 pm ET

Accessibility and Inclusive Classrooms. Boy using tablet.

The goal of this edWebinar is to discuss what inclusive classrooms, employing accessibility, look like from the standpoint of reading, writing, math and communication. The presenters will be sharing examples from Microsoft Education’s free accessibility suite of tools and including the stories of teachers who have worked with students of all abilities in an inclusive classroom setting.

Attendees will learn about:

  • The benefits of inclusively designed lessons and classrooms employing assistive technology
  • Improving learning outcomes for all learners powered by assistive technology tools
  • Current updates on Microsoft Education’s reading, writing, math and communication tools
  • The power of built-in assistive technology and its impact on both social and normative constructs of today’s classrooms

This presentation will be of interest to special education teachers, K-5 educators, reading specialists, TESOL or ELL teachers, librarians, speech pathologists, and school leaders. There will be time to get your questions answered at the end of the edWebinar.

Presented by Mike Tholfsen, Principal Product Manager, Microsoft Education; Lauren Pittman, Graduate Assistant, Vanderbilt University, and former special educator teacher; and Beth Dudycha, Senior Manager, Content Development, Insight2Execution, and Former Educator. Hosted by SETDA and Sponsored by Microsoft.

Use this link for more information and to register for this event…

 

Reaching Accessibility Goals for Higher Education

Accessible Information TechnologyA new article in Inside Higher Ed magazine Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals details the fact that many institutions of higher education fail to have “coherent policies around accessibility. ” And, they note that there has been “…a recent uptick in high-profile lawsuits alleging failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act…”

While the reasons for this situation are many, the article suggests “time constraints” make be a factor. Quoting Cynthia Curry from the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM)“Part of the problem is that people don’t have the time to do something systemic around accessibility within their institutions…” Curry said. “Most institutions, of course, aren’t looking proactively at accessibility. They’re looking at it more as a retrofit, or they’re being reactive if something litigious comes up.”

Maine CITE’s own resident digital accessibility resource person is John Brandt. Brandt’s own 25-year experience in web development and accessibility suggest that the perceived high cost to make web content accessible is probably the largest single factor in the equation. “Most organizations look at accessibility as expensive because they are approaching it from a mitigation perspective. They often fail to look at the costs associated with NOT having accessible content – lost student admissions, lack of student retention, etc.”

While most web accessibility experts will talk about the importance of “adding accessibility in at the beginning” of a web design process, colleges and universities are often not able to do this since they were among the first organizations to have websites in the 1990s – they have accumulated lots of content.

But even if an institution is committed to improving accessibility, they often don’t know where to start. To that end, the Inside Higher Education article promotes a new set of quality indicators for accessible educational materials developed by NC-AEM designed to “help institutions ensure, at scale, that all students have the same learning opportunities in face-to-face classrooms and digital learning environments.” The article focuses on the NC-AEM’s recently published  “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies” which promote seven quality indicators (QI), each containing specific criteria needed to achieve each QI.

For colleges and universities just starting out with the process, these quality indicators can provide a blueprint and structure of the thinking process that need to be considered. Tom Tobin, one of the people interviewed in the article, encourages “institutions (to) focus accessibility efforts on the potential impact on student access and learning outcomes, rather than merely on ‘legal-compliance arguments.’”

“While the description of the quality indicators alludes to the broad access benefits for all learners when accessible materials, tools and interface are adopted, the actual indicators and critical components are focused squarely on meeting the needs of learners with disabilities — only a part of the access conversation,” Tobin states in the article.

Read “Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals”

Read/view the NC-AEM – “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies”