A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
November 9, 2006 Volume 37 / Number 3

 

Academic Senate Chair

Accessible Technology Initiative

Years ago, Todd (pseudonym) showed up to my class prepared for a new semester. When he got to the door, he had trouble maneuvering to the front of the class where he liked to sit. The wheels of his electric wheelchair kept bumping into desks that were arranged in narrow rows. You see, Todd had cerebral palsy (CP), a disability that affected his voluntary movements. With a little help from those of us in the room, Todd wheeled his way to his favorite spot. I learned a great deal from Todd that semester, mostly because he was comfortable in communicating his needs and asking for course content in alternative forms. He also was patient with me as I learned how best to work with him. Back then when computers were not savvy, and classrooms not smart, Todd and I traded cassette tapes. I would give him tapes of course lectures, and he would tape his answers to assignments. On exam days, Todd would bring a scribe to record his test answers. Todd did well in my course, and went on to graduate from the University. Seventeen years later, I know better how to invite students with disabilities to work with me as I gather the resources and strategies necessary to meet their needs as well as the needs of everyone in my classes.

According to the Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (2000), the number of individuals with disabling conditions increases each year. There are numerous reasons why; some of those reasons are the results of improved methods for diagnosing and identifying people with disabilities. When we look at the individuals in our classes, we may not know that a student has a disability. That is because disabilities are not always obvious. For instance, a student may have a physical disability, intellectual impairment, learning disability, chronic illness, or disease. Currently, there are more than 10,000 students with disabilities enrolled in the CSU (CSU, 2004). The important point here is that we work to create learning environments where all students have access to quality education, services and activities.

The CSU academic mission strongly embraces support for individuals with disabilities. In December 2004, the CSU Board of Trustees issued a policy on “Disability Support and Accommodations – Executive Order (EO) 926.” The policy charged the CSU to “document and make explicit the system- wide policies for the disability support and accommodation program and to engender monitoring and full compliance with all of the disability support and accommodations elements noted herein.”

In January 2006, the Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI) was launched by the CSU in an effort to develop a work plan, implementation process, and resources to help campuses carry out the accessible technology provisions described in EO 926. A coded memorandum, “Access to Electronic and Information Technology for Persons with Disabilities,” from the Chancellor’s Office was sent to all CSU campuses on September 26, 2006 (http://www.calstate.edu/AcadAff/codedmemos/AA-2006-41.pdf ). The memorandum provides CSU campuses with a three-year guide focused on the following three accessibility priorities: Web, instructional materials, and electronic and information technology procurement.

An ATI Steering Committee recently appointed and led by Bill Post, vice provost for Information Resources, will guide the efforts of our campus teams, each charged with one of the priorities listed above. There will be opportunity for campus input through Senate and other public forums. Watch for announcements. In the meantime, there are several ways that you can begin to improve accessibility for students with disabilities in your learning communities:

  • Become familiar with EO 926 and AA-2006-41.
  • Learn more about federal rights legislation through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1973).
  • Order textbooks long before the start of a semester.
  • Provide instructional materials in a timely manner.
  • Explore inclusive instructional strategies.
  • Consult with Disabilities Support Services (DSS) and other resources..

 

—Gayle Hutchinson, chair, Academic Senate