5 top tools for web accessibility

March 31, 2014 by Sue Reeves

By Jared Smith

Jared and keyboard

Jared Smith displays his #1 tool for web accessibility.

Even though web accessibility can be a complex thing, there are some basic tools you can use to help ensure your web content is usable by people with disabilities.


Many users rely on keyboard or keyboard-like (such as eye tracking, voice control, switch device, etc.) interactions for web content. Many of the most significant accessibility issues on the web are caused by lack of keyboard support. Fortunately, keyboard testing is very easy – just put away the mouse and use the Tab and Shift + Tab keyboard keys to navigate through links and form controls. The Enter key will activate or select items. Make sure you can efficiently accomplish all functions on the page, with primary focus on forms and menus. See this WebAIM article on keyboard accessibility for more information.


WAVE is a free web accessibility evaluation tool. No tool can tell you if your site is accessible, but WAVE can help you identify accessibility issues on your site. Simply type in the web page address to view the page with injected icons and indicators that give feedback on accessibility. A Firefox toolbar is also available.

Alternative Text

Alternative text is presented to blind users in place of an image. Appropriate alternative text concisely conveys the content and function of the image. While there are many nuances to authoring appropriate and efficient alternative text (see these alternative text guidelines for more details), doing so is probably the most important accessibility technique for users with visual disabilities.

Web Accessibility Checklists

A checklist of web accessibility guidelines can help you provide a highly accessible web page. We recommend using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It is easy to overlook important aspects of web accessibility, but authoring and evaluating the page while regularly reviewing such a checklist will better ensure you are addressing vital areas of accessibility.

Common Sense

It is easy to focus on accessibility techniques and guidelines, and thus lose sight of the broader user experience. A web page or application can be made technically accessible, while still being functionally inaccessible. It’s helpful to take a step back and consider the entire user experience to ensure that what you are providing is useful, efficiently navigated, clearly presented, usable, and accessible to all users.


Jared Smith is associate director of WebAIM, a nonprofit organization dedicated making websites accessible to people with disabilities everywhere. Check out the new WebAIM website for an example of good-looking, accessible web design. This post first appeared on the EEJ EdNotes blog.

BIAU receives Community Investment Award

March 27, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of award presentation

Members of the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah’s board of directors receive the Community Investment Award from CPD director Bryce Fifield (second from right).

The Brain Injury Alliance of Utah was recently named the recipient of the Community Investment Award, given by the Consumer Advisory Council of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

The CAC consists of 15 members: five family members of persons with disabilities, five members of state agencies or service providers who work with persons with disabilities, and five self-advocates. The CAC meets twice a year for feedback and guidance on CPD programs.

BIAU was nominated by CAC member Adina Zahradnikova, executive director of the Disability Law Center. In her nomination letter, Zahradnikova said, “BIAU is an amazing resource for those who have been affected by brain injury. They have an enormous library of information and connections that can help people with Traumatic Brain Injury find the right answers, from emergency care to finding resources and advocates for their situation.

“Currently, there is no cure for brain injury. Since the 1990s there has been a heightened awareness of this critical problem. Gifts of all sizes are needed to help provide information and resources to survivors, family members, and support awareness and prevention programs. Through community support, the path can be paved for a higher quality of life for people with brain injury and their families.”

According to CPD director Bryce Fifield, the Community Investment Award is an opportunity to acknowledge agencies that serve the disability community. Twice a year, the council goes through the nomination and voting process, and the self-advocates choose the winner.

“They learn to negotiate, make challenging decisions and good choices,” Fifield said. “This go-round we had eight nominations, and the self-advocates got together to dicker and decide who’s doing the best job.”

The BIAU was established in 1984 and is the only non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to education and support for the issues of prevention and recovery of brain injury in the state of Utah.

BIAU has coalitions with major hospitals, governmental agencies, and rehabilitation centers to provide a network of support, information and help.

“We are highly honored for being selected by the CAC,” said BIAU executive director George Gehling. “We want to express our appreciation. It is a great honor, and we are proud to have received the award.”

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Vazquez honored with USU Diversity Award

March 24, 2014 by Sue Reeves

image of JC vazquez

JC Vazquez

JC Vazquez, multicultural coordinator at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, was recognized by the university as part of its 20th annual Diversity Awards. The awards recognize individuals and organizations on campus and in communities served by USU who have made significant contributions to affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity.

Vazquez, who is also a project coordinator for the CPD’s Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education, was recognized in the Staff category for his development of programs to encourage high school students of ethnic minority backgrounds to come to USU and for providing effective support to them while they are at USU. He has also developed a program called Diversity and Cultural Awareness, which is a training program for various educational organizations.

He has developed and facilitated programs to support multicultural students through the application, admission and transition process at USU. He also oversees scholarships, housing waivers and has helped to create work-study opportunities for multicultural students. He served as the advisor of the Utah State University Hispanic Student Union promoting Latino culture with events on and off campus. He promoted higher education through Cache Valley’s K-12 parent associations, multicultural clubs and organizations.

“It is a very humbling experience to be recognized and awarded for doing the work I love and am passionate about,” Vazquez said. “Diversity is all around us… it is who we are as individuals, a community and a nation. However, with such great diversity there are some challenges we face—challenges of equity, respect and understanding. I am very privileged to do my part in the work I have been entrusted with to provide awareness to individuals at various levels and collaborate with others to embrace the concept of diversity and see it as an asset in society rather than a burden.”

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CPD employees recognized for service

March 21, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of CPD window sign.Congratulations to the following CPD staff who were recognized for their years of service at the annual USU Employee Recognition Luncheon on Wednesday!


10 Years

Kathryn Bezzant, clinician for Up to 3.

Clint Field, psychologist for the Medical/Specialty Clinics.

Joy Gines, business assistant for Admin.

Heather Mariger, project coordinator for Project GOALS (Gaining Online Accessible Learning through Self-Study) and researcher for the StartSmark K-3 Plus program.

Jon Whiting, director of training and evaluation for WebAIM.


15 Years

Wayne Ball, program specialist for TAESE.

Vonda Jump, research scientist in the Research & Evaluation division.

Carol Massanari, technical assistance provider for TAESE.

Tyler Monson, network/IT services for TAESE.

Ed O’Leary, program assistance consultant for TAESE.

Ron Torres, director of the Biomedical Lab.


20 Years

Sherry Joy, clinician for Up to 3.

Denise Knight, project assistant for Start Smart and WebAIM.

Lois Summers, business assistant for Utah Assistive Technology Foundation.


25 Years

Sharon Weston, assistant to the CPD director.


Pavithran elected vice-chair of the U.S. Access Board

March 19, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Sachin Pavithran

Sachin Pavithran

The U.S. Access Board elected Sachin Dev Pavithran to a one-year term as its new vice-chair on March 12. Pavithran, director of the Utah Assistive Technology Program at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, was appointed to the Board in late 2012 by President Barack Obama.

There are 25 members on the Access Board, said Pavithran, consisting of 13 appointed members and 12 representatives from federal agencies such as the Departments of Commerce, Education, Labor, Defense, Transportation and Health and Human Services.

This year a federal member, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services Michael K. Yudin from the Department of Education, was elected chair. Next year, an appointed member will be elected chair. The vice-chair does not automatically become chair the following year, Pavithran said.

Since his appointment, Pavithran has been chair of several Access Board committees, but now he will have to attend each of the 16 or 18 committee meetings and fill in as chair if Yudin is absent. He will also work with the executive board on budget matters and prioritizing issues among the member agencies.

“Everything we do is working on rulemaking and regulatory assessments,” Pavithran said. “The Access Board brings agencies together.”

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