Feature Articles

Accessibility Newsletters

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With today's digital technology and inclusive practices rapidly evolving, staying informed about the latest advancements in accessibility can be both crucial and challenging. Accessibility newsletters serve as invaluable resources, delivering curated content and updates directly to your inbox, catering to a diverse audience interested in fostering inclusivity in education, the workplace, and digital spaces. By providing insights into emerging trends, best practices, and legislative developments, these publications empower individuals and organizations to create environments and materials that accommodate everyone. Here, we will look at five newsletters from the accessibility community.

Job Accommodation Network

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) newsletter is a valuable resource for individuals and organizations seeking insights into workplace accommodations and accessibility. As a service of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, the JAN newsletter offers a wealth of information on accommodating employees with disabilities, navigating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and promoting an inclusive work environment. Subscribers can expect...

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Mobile Apps for Accessibility

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It’s very rare nowadays to be far from a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device, and we use them for just about everything – staying in touch with others, taking photos and notes, looking up directions, checking the hours of operation of our favorite restaurants, playing games, and catching up on social media, to name just a few. One of the biggest bolsters to the mobile device experience is applications (apps), which can add features or enhance existing ones. This goes for accessibility, too! Here, we’ve gathered a list of some mobile apps that make the day-to-day world more accessible by providing valuable assistance to people with disabilities, many of which may be helpful for your disabled students and/or employees (and maybe even you, too). All of the apps below are free, though some offer additional in-app purchases.

Envision

Envision is an app for iOS and Android is designed for those who are blind or visually impaired. It’s a straightforward app that uses a smartphone or tablet’s camera to articulate visual information to speech. But it’s not just limited to text – it can read handwriting and even recognize different objects. Envision is broken out into three main...

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Featured Resources from DeafTEC

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DeafTEC, or the Technical Education Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, is an AccessATE partner and ATE grantee. DeafTEC, as their name suggests, strives to make STEM fields more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing (HH) people, and to increase the number of deaf/HH individuals in highly-skilled technician jobs. DeafTEC also serves as a resource on STEM programming for schools and educators with deaf/HH students, and for potential and current employers. While their focus is very clearly on deaf/HH people, many of the materials provided by DeafTEC can be easily adapted for other disabilities, or even utilized to simply accommodate various learning or work styles. Here, we will highlight a few of their many resources.

Universal Design for Instruction

Universal design is defined as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” It is one of DeafTEC’s favorite principles on which to build accessible materials, classrooms, and workplaces. Their Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) resource discusses the application of these principles to various aspects of...

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Resources for Advocating for Dyslexic Students

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Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects an individual’s ability to read due to difficulty identifying speech sounds and their relation to written letters and words. It is one of the most common learning disorders - estimated by some as affecting 20% of the population - yet often goes undiagnosed and unaddressed, especially in teens and adults. However, dyslexia is considered a disability under the ADA that should receive reasonable accommodations. Here, we’ve assembled some resources that advocate for people with dyslexia and that can help you and your dyslexic students get the accommodations they need.

International Dyslexia Association

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is a non-profit organization devoted to serving individuals with dyslexia, their families, and professionals. The IDA offers a wealth of information about dyslexia, including handy fact sheets, infographics, and success stories. They offer a free dyslexia handbook that, though geared primarily toward families, contains a great deal of useful information for educators. The IDA also has a directory of providers throughout the country, resources for teacher preparation and CERI (Center for Effective...

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Feature Tools from CAST

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CAST logo

One of AccessATE’s primary partners is CAST, the Center for Applied Special Technology, an education research and development nonprofit working to expand learning opportunities for all. CAST is perhaps best known for being instrumental in developing and promoting Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an educational framework supporting the development of flexible learning environments. However, CAST also offers other valuable resources beyond UDL. Here we will highlight a few of CAST’s other online tools that you might utilize to make your curriculum, classroom, lab, or other learning environment more accessible.

Clusive

Clusive is a web-based reader that helps students in grades 5 through 12 engage in independent reading, bolstered by a number of features to make reading accessible. Clusive has flexible display options, including adjustable text size, spacing, font, color, and contrast. For students with visual impairments, there is text-to-speech software, for which students can select their preferred reading speed and voice. Clusive also features built-in prompts that support note-taking and highlighting, check comprehension, provide a glossary and language translation, and...

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Best Practices for Accessible Education

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A team of three educators work together to develop an accessible curriculum.

For many around the country, the school year has come to a close, and preparations for next year have already begun! AccessATE has published a number of articles and tip sheets about making education accessible for a wide variety of people and disabilities, but here we will take a higher-level perspective and review some best practices for making education accessible for students with disabilities. You might use this as a means of brushing up on the subject or a jumping-off point for ideas on how to expand or improve your existing accessibility efforts, so you can go into the next school year with confidence in your curriculum’s ability to reach everyone effectively.

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people. This is achieved by ensuring that all educational materials, activities, and assessments accommodate diverse learning needs, which involves providing multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement. UDL allows students to access information and demonstrate their knowledge in various ways. For more details, we recommend our partner CAST’s page about...

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Recommended Listening: Five More Disability Podcasts

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A woman in a wheelchair and a man sit together at a table and record a podcast together.

Per our previous post on disability podcasts, there are a wide variety of podcasts about life with disabilities, by people with disabilities. An important step in understanding how to mentor, employ, or otherwise assist a person with a disability is to understand their perspective and their needs. The podcasts below offer just that – accounts from people with disabilities that describe their experiences with work, education, social situations, and other aspects of their daily lives.

Disability Matters with Joyce Bender

Hosted by disability rights advocate Joyce Bender, Disability Matters covers a wide range of disability-related topics, including employment, technology, and advocacy. Bender interviews guests with disabilities and experts in the field to provide insights into disability issues and solutions. The podcast seeks to increase awareness and promote a more inclusive and accessible world for people with disabilities, recently covering topics such as disability employment policy, accessible transportation, and disability in the arts. In addition to being available on Bender’s website, Disability Matters is also available Apple Podcasts, VoiceAmerica, Spotify, Audible,...

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Job-Seeking Resources for Graduating Students with Disabilities

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JAN logo

College graduation always feels like it sneaks up faster than we all expect, and for many colleges and universities throughout the U.S., it’s just a few months away! Graduating and transitioning from school to the workplace can be an intimidating experience for students with disabilities, and the first step in that transition – job-seeking – can feel especially daunting. Here, we’ll review some of the job-seeking resources available through the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), which you can share with your graduating student(s) with disabilities if they feel like they may need some additional help in kicking off the process of starting their careers.

Beginning to look for a job can get overwhelming – there are so many different companies, job listings, locations, and minute details to sort through. To ease some of this stress, JAN suggests starting with their simple list of Do’s and Don’ts of Looking for a Job. Some of the items in the list may seem obvious when you look at them, but they’re the sorts of tips that can get lost under the mountain of listings and applications we often find ourselves sorting through while job-hunting. JAN also has much more detailed guidance in the...

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Recommended Reading: Blogs About Being Blind/Low Vision

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A woman with sunglasses and a cane smiles and waves as she walks.

AccessATE and DeafTEC have published a few tip sheets and blog posts on accommodating blind and low vision employees, which have largely been broad overviews of topics like safety, communication, equipment, etc. However, there is much information to consider and many stories to learn from if one wants to fully understand how to make blind/low vision people feel truly welcome in classrooms, labs, workplaces, and beyond. Naturally, these stories are best told by blind/low vision people themselves. Here, we recommend a few blogs about life as someone who is blind/low vision.

 

Life of a Blind Girl

Life of a Blind Girl is run by Holly, a woman from Yorkshire, UK, who lives with a condition called retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, which causes her to only distinguish light from dark, leaving her with no useful vision. Holly’s blog includes posts about vision impairment and disability, employment, assistive technologies, and education, with lifestyle entries interspersed throughout. Readers can browse her blog posts by topic: Disability, Concerts, and Life. The Disability category in particular contains a great deal of professional and personal accounts and opinions on subjects...

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Recommended Resources: Assistive Technology Training for Educators

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ATIA logo

Educators strive to provide an equitable and inclusive learning experience for all students, but some educator training doesn’t provide as much information on how to do so as one might like. Many teachers are familiar with the idea of accommodations like assistive technology (AT), but few receive detail about what options are out there, let alone how to utilize them, as part of their core education as a teacher. Below are three organizations that offer training on assistive technology for educators.

Assistive Technology Industry Association

The Assistive Technology Industry Association, or ATIA, is a leader in assistive technology education and research with the aim of ensuring that the best AT products and services are delivered to people with disabilities. ATIA as a robust Learning Center, where you can sign up for one of their many courses – some of which are free – or sign up for one of their webinars. ATIA’s educational materials feature a wide breadth of topics, from vision and hearing technologies, to physical access and participation, to web accessibility, and more. ATIA also hosts an annual conference with both in-person and virtual components, so educators have...

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