Several people from Swarthmore attended a week long conference entitled Accessing Higher Ground in Denver, Colorado. This conference is open to anyone at Swarthmore and is one of the best conferences I have ever attended. If you want to learn about accessibility, especially in relation to higher education this is the conference to attend.
Here are a couple of highlights from the conference:
Collaborative Procurement: Many higher ed institutions buy the same software and interact with the same vendors. The thought is to share software reviews and negotiate with vendors for accessibility fixes as a group.
Microsoft’s Accessibility Initiatives: Microsoft is doing some very interesting stuff around access. The big surprise was how much Microsoft touted the accessibility features of iOS devices and integrating their apps with iOS
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of Civil Rights (OCR) have made it clear in numerous settlements, that the purchaser is responsible for the level of accessibility of websites or applications it requires members of its community to interact with.
Swarthmore’s list might include the websites we use to choose benefits, purchase products, schedule/register campus events, as well as websites associated with textbooks and the textbooks themselves, and other applications we require students, community members, and visitors, to interact with.
Many schools are banding together to develop more effective ways of evaluating third party software. The group hopes to work with vendors to develop roadmaps and make fixes when barriers are found.
This group is in the formative stages and currently consists of large universities, small colleges like Swarthmore and community colleges located throughout the country.
Microsoft’s Accessibility Initiatives
The biggest surprise at the conference was how much Microsoft was touting the built-in accessibility features of iOS devices. In addition, they are doing some really interesting stuff around accessibility. Here are a few of the apps I learned about:
- Device which tracks eye movement on screen to allow interactivity with PC
- requires Windows 10 or above (not sure about iOS).
- “PC-eye” is suggested tool to do the physical eye tracking
- Helps with color blindness or visual preferences
- Learning Tools in Edge allows users to read books in browser (think Kindle)
- Pocket Optical Character Recognition scanner
- Works with iOS and Android
- Point iOS device to person, document, currency, product QR codes or scenery and narrates what it sees
- App for sharing ppt, docs etc in accessible manner
If you interested in joining us for next year’s conference, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. The conference is held every year in Denver, Colorado and usually the week before Thanksgiving.