Getting Started With Accessibility

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University is required by law to provide programs and services that are accessible to all qualified participants, including those with disabilities.  But what does that mean for you? What do you need to know? The following sections will help answer some of these questions.


WHERE DO I GET HELP?

CSB/SJU has an active accessible technology community, and its members are eager to help and support one another. Please contact the respective department for your specific needs related to providing accessible technology.

STUDENT ACCESSIBILITY SERVICES

Student Accessibility Services is responsible for developing appropriate accommodations for individuals with documented disabilities. Academic accommodations are made on an individualized and flexible basis. The primary goal of our office is to ensure that all students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in both academic and non-academic campus activities.

INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY

Instructional Technology is committed to helping promote the principles of universal design and accessible technology by providing our faculty & students with training materials.

I.T. SERVICES

CSB/SJU I.T. Services department strives to ensure that people with disabilities have access to all services and content, including those delivered using information technology. If you experience a barrier that affects your ability to access websites, videos, on-line forms, or other information, please send a detailed message to helpdesk@csbsju.edu.


HOW DO I MAKE MY TECHNOLOGY ACCESSIBLE?

As part of an initiative with I.T. Services and Student Accessibility Services, Instructional Technology is working to provide a growing number of resources, tools and step-by-step guides for making particular types of content accessible. To learn more about the accessibility of particular technologies, consult our Accessible Technology pages on this website, or review our Accessible Technology Canvas Course.


WHAT IS ACCESSIBILITY?

Accessibility is the degree to which a product, device, program, service, resource, or environment is available to a given user.  If a building on campus has a wheelchair ramp leading to its main entrance, that entrance is accessible to wheelchair users. If a lecture includes sign language interpreters, that lecture is accessible to attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing and who understand sign language. The Instructional Technology department focuses on the "technology" aspect of accessibility specifically.


WHAT IS ACCESSIBILE TECHNOLOGY?

Accessible technology is technology that has been designed in a way so that it can be accessed by all users. This includes electronic documents, websites, software, hardware, video, audio, and other technologies. People who interact with technology are extremely diverse. They have a wide variety of characteristics, and we cannot assume that they’re all using a traditional monitor for output, or keyboard and mouse for input. Consider these users:

  • Most individuals who are blind use either audible output (products called  screen readers that read web content using synthesized speech), or tactile output (a refreshable Braille device).
  • Individuals with learning disabilities such as dyslexia may also use audible output. This is often referred to as Text-to-Speech (TTS).
  • Individuals with low vision may use screen magnification software that allows them to zoom into a portion of the visual screen.
  • Many others with less-than-perfect eyesight may enlarge the font on websites using standard browser functions, such as Ctrl + in Windows or Command + in Mac OS X.
  • Individuals with fine motor impairments may be unable to use a mouse, and instead rely exclusively on keyboard commands, or use assistive technologies such as speech recognition, head pointers, mouth sticks, or eye-gaze tracking systems.
  • Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are unable to access audio content, so video needs to be captioned and audio needs be transcribed.
  • Individuals may be using mobile devices including phones, tablets, or other devices, which means they’re using a variety of screen sizes and a variety of gestures or other user interfaces for interacting with their devices and accessing content.

Accessible technology works for  all of these users, and countless others not mentioned.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) summarizes web accessibility nicely in their  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG). WCAG 2.0 is organized into the following four key concepts:

  • Web content must be  perceivable
  • Web content must be  operable
  • Web content must be  understandable
  • Web content must be  robust

Although written specifically for web content, these principles apply to other technologies as well. There are many possible approaches to attaining accessibility as defined by these four concepts.