Designing Accessible Websites

June 29, 2009 by cpehrson

Life without the use of a computer?  What about not having access to the internet?  Hard to imagine isn’t it?  Most people have 24 hour access to  internet news, emails, online shopping, youtube, etc.  “Now, at the click of a mouse, the world can be ‘at your fingertips’—that is, if you can use a mouse… and see the screen… and hear the audio—in other words, if you don’t have a disability of any kind. ”  (WebAIM: Introduction to Accessibility)

Did you realize that “the internet is one of the best things that ever happened to people with disabilities…?”  (WebAIM Introduction to Accessibility). Many would be unable to use a computer or the internet without the software programs that have been developed to help them gain access. Individuals with disabilities today have the full potential of the Web.  They can use screen readers to hear text, if they cannot see it; use other assistive technologies to emulate the functions of a computer keyboard and mouse, if they have limited motor movements; and read fully captioned transcripts of multimedia content, if they are deaf.

Have you ever considered whether your website is accessible to the nearly 50 million people (18.5%) in the United States with disabilities? Businesses may be excluding 5, 10, or even 20 percent of their potential customers from their web sites. Schools, universities, and government entities may even be breaking the law for not having accessible web sites.  Although technology has opened the door for most, if websites are not fully accessible, that door remains shut to those with disabilities.

The CPD houses an important project on web accessibility, and they offer help that is sought after nationally, and internationally. WebAIM (Keeping Web Accessibility in Mind) works with web developers and other technical folks to give them the knowledge, skills, and tools to make web content accessible to people with disabilities.  Their resources are free (albeit for a more technical audience), and they have a great tool (WAVE.WebAIM.org) that can help individuals determine if their web content is a barrier to someone with a disability.  The WAVE tool is also available in Spanish.

I would recommend that everyone spend a few minutes reading their “Introduction to Web Accessibility”.  It will help you understand how people with disabilities use the web, the frustrations they feel when they cannot access the web, and what you can do to make your sites more accessible. Most accessibility principles can be implemented very easily and will not impact the overall ‘look and feel’ of your web site.”

Here are a few other resources you might find interesting or want to pass along to those who create web content:

•    Introduction to Web Accessibility (recommended to all)
•    Design considerations for individuals with disabilities (recommended to technical staff)
•    List of technical tutorials on “How to” accomplish web accessibility (recommended to technical staff)
•    Creating accessible PDFs (recommended for anyone who cvreates PDF documents)
•    Creating accessible Word (recommended for anyone who creates Word documents)
•    Creating accessible PowerPoint. This resource is slightly out of date and will be updated in the near future. (recommended for anyone who creates PowerPoint documents

CPD staff can find further tips about making their web content more accessible on the CPD Intranet link,  “Accessible Web Design.”

Making web content accessible is doable and takes only a little extra time when creating most pages.  However, your efforts will be highly rewarded, as they will allow people with a variety of disabilities access to your content for years to come.

Besides, it’s the right  thing to do.

CPD’s NewsFlash for June

June 24, 2009 by JoLynne Lyon

Robert Cook

Robert Cook

Check out this month’s newsletter, featuring Clinical Services Coordinator Robert Cook’s determination to make psychological services accessible to people in rural Utah. Also featured are former employees Troy and Tracy Justesen, who went on from the CPD to influencing national policy at the highest levels. They will soon jointly receive the CPD’s 2009 Trainee of the Year award.

The Best of Both Worlds!

June 23, 2009 by cpehrson

Mother helping her child during an art activity.

Mother helping her child during an art activity.

Sherry Joy loves working with young children and their families!  She has been a Service Coordinator for the Up to 3 Early Intervention program at the CPD for over 15 years, and in that time has served hundreds of children with developmental delays/disabilities and their families.

This past year, as Sherry’s case load grew, she knew that it would be harder to visit each of the families as much as she would like to and give them the help that she knew they needed.  So, in order to provide more opportunities to work with the children and their families, Sherry decided to offer small weekly classes at the CPD for the parents to attend with their children.

Each month, “Miss Sherry”classes are planned around a different theme and learning experiences are provided in all the developmental areas.  These activities are planned to meet the needs and goals outlined in each child’s Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP).  She uses books and learning activities to work on such things as increasing attention span, learning to take turns, and socializing with peers.

During the class time, parents can observe Miss Sherry using techniques and activities that they can use at home to help improve their child’s developmental skills.  Each  week, every child makes a book about their classroom experiences to take home with them, and parents can choose an additional activity to do with their child at home.

Not only do Miss Sherry’s children and families get the benefit of her expertise at home, in an intimate setting, but they have the opportunity to socialize with other children and families in a fun, interactive atmosphere in the classroom.

Between home visits and Miss Sherry’s classes, these children get the best of both worlds!

Taking Inclusion One Step Further

June 22, 2009 by cpehrson

The term “inclusion” has been a long, hard-fought battle for those who care for and provide services to children, youth and adults with disabilities. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA),  enacted in 1975, mandated a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for children and youth ages 5 to 21 with disabilities. The EHA opened a door that had long been shut, giving new hope and direction for how these students should be served.

In 1986, the door opened even wider, when Public Law-99 (part B) extended the school’s responsibility to include the education of children ages 3 to 5, and was flung wide open as part H established programs for infants and toddlers with special needs.

In 1990, when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reauthorized these provisions and added the clause “in the least restrictive environment” and “to the maximum extent appropriate,” the door was torn away, as educators recognized that inclusion would now take place in natural environments, including home and community.

Although bringing many challenges with it, the IDEA mandated that wherever children and youth without disabilities are, children and youth with disabilities will be playing, developing and learning right along with them.

Today, inclusion takes many different forms. There are still questions about the exact meaning of inclusion and its implications for policy, practice, and outcomes for children with disabilities and their families. The Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) have addressed this issue of a “shared national definition” of inclusion by issuing a joint Position Statement on Inclusion (April, 2009).

In their words, they offer a definition of early childhood inclusion that “was designed not as a litmus test for determining whether a program can be considered inclusive, but rather, as a blueprint for identifying the key components of high quality inclusive programs.”

The DEC/NAEYC updated Position Statement on Inclusion lays out the steps needed to ensure that “inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential.”

Accessible Housing

June 22, 2009 by cpehrson

Affordable, accessible housing is not always easy to find for older people or people with disabilities who want to live independently. The last affordable senior apartments in Cache Valley were built almost ten years ago.   A new accessible/senior housing complex will become available in Cache Valley on July 1, 2009.

The River Park Senior Housing complex, located at 784 River Walk Parkway, Logan, Utah, offers affordable 1-2 bedroom units for under $500 per month, including utilities. The Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation, in collaboration with the Utah Housing Corporation, was able to provide this community with an extra 40 affordable rental units. This beautiful river-front location, complete with garden areas and covered parking, will fill a great need for seniors and adults with disabilities living in Cache Valley.

For more information, call Sandra at 435-753-1112 x 0, or Chris at 801-942-6300 x 203.