In broad terms, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessibility can be defined as technology being accessed by individuals with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. ICT accessibility is closely aligned with the principles of universal design, allowing individuals to interact with technology and electronic information in ways that work best for their needs and abilities.
The Importance of ICT Accessibility for All
A number of factors have contributed to the increased demand for greater understanding and inclusion of ICT accessibility within industry, government, and education. Compliance has driven much of this demand. In recent years, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has weighed in on several high-profile cases that include well-known institutions and businesses such as Harvard, MIT, and Greyhound Bus Lines. The DOJ has sent a strong message through these and other settlements that accessible ICT is to be considered a critical civil rights issue for individuals with disabilities, and that it falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The DOJ makes the following statement on its website, acknowledging both the ubiquity and relevance of ICT in virtually every aspect of all our lives:
"As more and more of our social infrastructure is made available on the Internet-in some cases, exclusively online-access to information and electronic technologies is increasingly becoming the gateway civil rights issue for individuals with disabilities." (Justice News-Department of Justice)
Individuals with disabilities also represent a substantial, and largely untapped, market for businesses. The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than one billion individuals in the world today with disabilities. Achieving greater production in the workplace and expanding the target audience of any company or organization benefits its bottom line, as well as its increasingly diverse consumers.
Meeting the ICT Accessibility Need
Recognizing the increased demand for a greater understanding and wider implementation of ICT accessibility, AMAC Accessibility Solutions and Research Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology devoted their time and expertise to develop a massive open online course (MOOC) specifically on ICT accessibility. In collaboration with the United Nations Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs and Georgia Tech, AMAC launched the appropriately titled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Accessibility course using the edX platform.
If You Build It, They Will Come
To date, enrollment in the course includes students in more than 160 countries, with approximately 3,500 total participants. These numbers suggest the growing need, nationally and internationally, for continued awareness and implementation of ICT accessibility.
AMAC Alignment with ICT Accessibility
AMAC specializes in services to government, education, non-profit, and industry that include e-text, braille production, tactile maps, captioning, audio description, assistive technology assessment and training, web accessibility audits, and procurement. AMAC relied on its background, highly skilled staff, and extensive expertise to create and develop the ICT Accessibility MOOC. AMAC also invited national and international subject matter experts as contributors to the MOOC, and included interviews of individuals with disabilities who themselves rely on assistive technology and accessibility solutions on a daily basis.
Overview of the ICT Accessibility MOOC
The ICT Accessibility MOOC provides a high-level perspective to agencies and institutions about how to measure their current ICT accessibility and assess the importance of maintaining an inclusive workplace for both employees and customers with disabilities. No previous knowledge is required for this course, although participants are expected to have a working knowledge of common computer-based applications such as the Microsoft Office Suite.
Participants in the ICT Accessibility MOOC can expect to learn about the fundamentals of accessibility concepts, design, and implementation in the ICT field. Participants will learn how to be able to identify, evaluate, and apply strategies and techniques for making electronic information and communication technology services and products more accessible in corporate, governmental, educational, and not-for-profit organizations. By the end of the course, participants are expected to have a fundamental understanding of the following:
The foundations of ICT accessibility
The principles of accessible ICT design
The uses of assistive technology
How to create accessible documents and multimedia
How to evaluate and repair websites for accessibility
The components of ICT accessibility operations
Intended Target Audience of the ICT Accessibility MOOC
The ICT Accessibility MOOC has been designed to benefit individuals serving in a number of roles, including administrators of agencies and educational institutions; individuals involved with the procurement of technology hardware and software for their particular organization or educational institution; marketing and communications departments; IT departments; parents, family members, and colleagues of individuals with disabilities; service professionals; educators; and students. The content of the MOOC has been designed to be scalable in scope, so that it can be applied to agencies and institutions of different sizes and compositions.
The ICT Accessibility MOOC is divided into six modules, each containing associated activities and quizzes. Although the course itself is considered introductory in nature, the modules contain a considerable amount of detail. Each of the modules also contains videos that have been made fully accessible by AMAC's captioning department, and include links to additional tools and resources are also provided.
Module 1: ICT Accessibility
Background information on ICT accessibility and the future of electronic information accessibility.
Module 2: ICT Accessibility Design
The importance of design in accessibility, the value of container and content, and the evaluation of compliance.
Module 3: Assistive Technology
Impact of assistive technology on individuals with disabilities, federal laws related to assistive technology, definition of mainstream technology, and assistive technology demonstrations.
Module 4: Accessible Documents and Multimedia
Elements of an accessible document, accessibility standards, tools to check accessibility, multimedia captioning and audio description demonstration, audio description standards, guidelines, and resources.
Module 5: Web Accessibility Evaluation and Design
Web accessibility definition and overview, understanding interaction of web and users with accessibility needs, evaluating accessibility issues via online tools, remediation of code in order to achieve website accessibility, and contribution of HTML5 and ARIA to website accessibility.
Module 6: ICT Accessibility Operations
The influence of market forces on the development of enterprise ICT accessibility operations, challenges faced by these enterprises, Enterprise ICT accessibility operational model and how it can sustain enterprise accessibility operations.
The six modules are designed to build upon, and reinforce, one another. Although it is recommended that participants review all of the modules contained within the course, some of the modules may be more specifically applicable to a particular agency or organization depending on its specific needs and accessibility roadmap. For instance, if an agency is particularly interested in policy and design, Modules 1 and 2 may be of particular interest. If a better understanding of assistive technology solutions and the creation of accessible documents for individuals with disabilities is required, Modules 3 and 4 may be especially beneficial. If the topic of web accessibility and implementation of an ICT accessibility roadmap is of greater relevance and importance, Modules 5 and 6 would be especially valuable.
On completion of the ICT Accessibility MOOC, edX offers a verified certificate of completion for $49.00. However, such a certificate is completely optional. Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) also provides CEUs to participants for an additional $50.00.
The Larger ICT Accessibility Roadmap Before Us
Several converging trends provide us with encouragement for a more hopeful and optimistic forecast for individuals with disabilities. The need for compliance driven by legislation, businesses' increasing pursuit of individuals with disabilities as a financially profitable market share, advancements in technology, and the number of under-utilized individuals with disabilities in the job market all point to a more accessible and equitable engagement with individuals of all abilities in the future. As we age, most of us will experience one "disability" or another, whether it's hearing loss, vision loss, compromised fine motor skills, or reduced cognitive abilities. Georgia Tech's ICT Accessibility MOOC can be considered a stepping stone for many corporations, agencies, and educational institutions to begin implementing an effective accessibility roadmap in order to plan for the foreseeable and distant future.
Register for the ICT Accessibility MOOC
To enroll in Georgia Tech's ICT Accessibility MOOC, visit the edX registration page: ICT Accessibility MOOC.