first_imgPodcast: Play in new window | DownloadYour weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Top 10 Classroom Digital Accessibility Tips – Dr Harriett Spiegel – Educational Technologist and Instructional Specialist at U of Tennessee at MartinWashington set to swear in 1st blind lieutenant governor Speech Recognition vs Dragon NaturallySpeaking (shootout) Kinsa |——————————If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email [email protected] out our web site: https://www.eastersealstech.comFollow us on Twitter: @INDATAprojectLike us on Facebook:——-transcript follows ——HARRIETTE SPIEGEL:  Hi. This is Harriette L. Spiegel, and I am an educational technologist at the University of Tennessee at Martin, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Welcome to episode number 294 of assistive technology update. It’s scheduled to be released on January 30 of 2017.Today my guest is Dr. Harriette Spiegel and we are going to talk about the top ten digital classroom accessibility tips that education providers or educators should be thinking about when it comes to making that digital information more accessible.Also the folks over at BridgingApps talk about  Kenzo which is fascinating and we’ve got a shoot out between  Windows speech recognition and Dragon NaturallySpeaking for those speech to text into theists. We hope you’ll check out our website at, sent us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or call our listener line  at  317-721-7124.***And now, in politics — no, no, no. We’re not going there. However, We did find a story about the nation’s first blind lieutenant governor. Cyrus Habib has been a legislature there in Washington but was recently inaugurated as the Lieutenant Governor, totally blind and an assistive technology user. They had to retrofit the chamber so that when lawmakers raise their hand to get the attention of the lieutenant governor who serves as the president of the Senate, they had some technology to do that. They rigged up a touchscreen so that legislatures can push a button and it indicates on a braille display which person is trying to get the lieutenant governor’s attention. Pretty cool assistive technology. I’ll pop a link in the show notes over to the Concord Monitor  where you can see some photographs and read some technical details about what’s happening with Lieutenant Governor in Washington. Check our show notes.We love when we get feedback from our listeners. Over the holiday season we recently ran our three-part episode of iPad high school. That resulted in this call..SPEAKER:  This is Mary.  I’m an assistive technology consultant for public schools in Kentucky.  I just want to leave a comment about how we’re using iPads in school. I know there will be a show after Christmas  about that. We are using them in a lot of ways.. We have students with vision impairments. All of them have iPads, and they are using apps like Notability to  work paper loosely. Then there is the onboard camera with the ability to spread and make things bigger as well as the Retina display makes the iPad work wonderfully for them. It’s the only tool they appear to need these days. Also students with learning disabilities and reading and writing in our schools need iPads to read and write everything for them. Apps that produce OCR quickly are a huge help to those students. I especially love the ability for notetaking for the students because it synchronizes with their written notes and that is really important for students who have trouble taking notes. Students who need a communication device in our schools often use iPads effectively where they might not use other things as effectively sometimes. The communication apps are so easy to edit. That seems to be part of what’s making them work so well for us because anyone on a team can maintain and make real-time changes to their communication system.The efficacy of our students using communication systems in our classroom seems to really increase for many of them, not all but many with the use of the iPad. I love switch control on the iPad because that makes them useful to my students maybe for example with  cerebral palsy who never could use them before. It opens a whole new world of educational things they can do and also communication. IPads are just one of the many tools we use in our school every day, but for sure they have become an indispensable tool for us for many students. Thanks a lot for your show. I sure learn from it and listen to it every week.***WADE WINGLER:  Are speech recognition systems part of the world?Things like Windows speech recognition and Dragon NaturallySpeaking?  Over at a which is a blog about tech, politics, music, and more, LaMotte Woud  is doing and expose comparing Dragon versus Windows speech recognition. Because it issued out. What he did is use the built-in speech recognition program in Windows and Dragon NaturallySpeaking. He dictated the Gettysburg address. He goes into a whole lot of detail about  the difference  kinds of value that each one of those programs bring to users of speech dictation systems. Then he gets into the details about accuracy and speed and all that kind of stuff. Not to spoil all of it, but in general when using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, he did the Gettysburg address in 159 seconds which was a rate of 126 words per minute with only two recognition errors which is a 99 percent accuracy rate. Windows speech recognition took him a little bit longer, 164 seconds, which was a rate of 150 words a minute, and the error rate was seven errors which was 97.8 percent accurate. In his test in this situation, Dragon did better than Windows speech recognition. Honestly  if you are like me and have been using Windows speech mechanism for 20+ years, that’s pretty good accuracy and pretty good speed, especially for low cost systems. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes so you can go over and read his  full article and all the details that go with this chewed out between Windows speech engine and Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I’ll put a link in our show notes.***WADE WINGLER:  Each week one of our partners tells us what’s happening in the ever-changing world of apps, so here’s an app worth mentioning.AMY BARRY:  This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps and this is an app worth mentioning.  This week I am sharing Kinsa Smart thermometer  and health tracker, a must have medical gadget and app for families and caregivers to track health. Kinsa sells three digital thermometers, one called Smart stick, a smart ear thermometer, and a Sesame Street themed thermometer. All three  connect to a mobile device using the headphone jack and no batteries are needed for the thermometer because your mobile device powers it. Once you have the thermometer,  simply download the app which is available for iOS and android. although the app is mostly used to get and store digital temperature readouts, it also can be used to keep track of other symptoms and medication. Kinsa Remembers details such as when symptoms began, how high the fever got, or when to give another dose of medication and share it with another caregiver or your doctor. During our trial with Kinsa, we found that the monitor and app to be super user-friendly, fun for kids, and an accurate way to keep track and store  healthcare information for every household member. As a mom of five children between the ages of seven and 18, I wish this super handy gadget had been available years ago. I’m really thankful for it now.  The system makes my life so much easier especially when the kids are sick. When the app is taking a temperature, little bubbles float around on the mobile device screen that can pop with their finger. This keeps them still and distracted long enough to get an accurate read. If you need a Christmas or baby shower gift for new parents, I highly recommend Kinsa. Kinsa Digital thermometer starts at $19.99  and are available for purchase from Amazon, Apple stores, bye-bye baby, CVS, and target. The app is free to download at the iTunes and Google play stores. For more information on the app  and others like it,  visit***WADE WINGLER:  I find myself this time of year looking at things like syllabi and grading papers. I know that there are a lot of folks who are educators and students who are starting to settle back into their semesters and classwork.  It’s pretty hard to be in the world of education these days and not have to encounter material in a digital format. When we think about students, at least our audience especially is thinking about students with disabilities and we need to be thinking about accessibility. I’m so excited and happy today to have Doctor Harriet Spiegel who is an educational technologist and an instructional specialist at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is going to talk with us today about some things that will help us with digital accessibility in the classroom. Before I ramble on too much, Doctor Spiegel, welcometo the show.HARRIETTE SPIEGEL:  Thank you so much for the opportunity.WADE WINGLER:  I’m so excited to be with you today. Digital accessibility is a passion of mine. As someone who deals with assistive technology and someone who teaches adjunct, I’m always trying to make sure that my courses are as accessible as possible. I’m excited to talk with you about digital accessibility. But before we jump into the topic at hand,  tell folks a little bit about you, your background, and what kind of journey led you to the point where you are interested in digital accessibility like you are.HARRIETTE SPIEGEL: I’ll never forget the first time I heard a screen reader, which your listeners know is an assistive technology device that reads out the text of a digital document to the listener with visual disabilities.I was teaching educational technology at a community college around the year 2000. One of my students, who was visually disabled, demonstrated the screen reader, JAWS, that she was using on the lab computer. The particular document that the student was reading was a web site, and that web site had not been created with accessibility in mind. For instance, instead of a clear reading of the contents structured by well-defined headings, the result was a gibberish of a confusing, jumbled and chaotic rendition of every letter, digit and tag on the web page’s background code. It was the digital equivalent of trying to carry on a conversation amidst a loud and noisy Tower of Babel.That particular experience started off my learning about Web Accessibility, and through the years, my work in educational technology led to my choosing the topic for my doctoral dissertation at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For that project, I observed three individuals with varying degrees of visual disabilities as they worked on the Internet. I also volunteered with the East Tennessee Technology Access Center, which by the way sounds like some of the effort to do, with the then-director and my mentor, Dr. Lois Symington.At the same time, more and more attention was being given to making all computer products, not just commercial products such as web sites, accessible.So, most pertinent to my efforts as an instructional designer and technologist are the state laws that are requiring educational institutions to comply with guidelines put forth by the federal government to make all digital content accessible.A brief and very non-technical description of these guidelines would be that they evolved from the Section 508 amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and require that electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities so that the technology and its products are easy for everyone to use, with or without a particular disability.WADE WINGLER:  It sounds like your  academic preparation and passion has really kind of led you down this road to where digital accessibility is in the forefront. You and I have used the term already in this interview a lot, digital accessibility. There may be some folks in my audience who might not be totally clear about what we are talking about or might need  background on that. Can you tell us a little bit about what is digital accessibility in this context?HARRIETTE SPIEGEL:  I would love to, because obviously accessibility is a whole umbrella term, but Digital Accessibility means that the guidelines I mentioned briefly have been used in creating digital content. The amount of information on this topic is huge. Because so much of the digital scene is visual, we emphasize these issues, such as how a screen reader interprets material that is accessible – or not. But I urge the listener to explore issues that affect other disability-related difficulties in computing; think of the user with low mobility who cannot grab a mouse to click a link, or move items in a matching question on a quiz, for instance.So back to the case of my student who demonstrated her use of JAWS for me with the website: she, as a user with visual disabilities, was unable to use the information on that website as easily as someone without visual disabilities could have, because that web site was not created following the guidelines, one of which is to use properly-formatted headings to lend clear structure to a document. And, if there had been any images on the inaccessible web site, she would have totally missed them, because the screen reader ignores images without alt-text.By following guidelines in the creation of computer products, Digital Accessibility can be assured. Digital Accessibility has been called ‘electronic curb cuts’. Think about it: everyone benefits from having those curb cuts, not just those with mobility impairments. Another instance is the use of captions in videos. You don’t have to have an auditory disability to appreciate having captions or subtitles, in, say, a noisy room.So I am going to talk about the guidelines to assuring Digital Accessibility.WADE WINGLER:  The reason you and I got into contact with one another is I read a tutorial that you did on the journal, the subtitle transforming  Education through technology.  I was fascinated  with the things you had put together and I thought when the be nice to take that and try to bundle it up into sort of a top 10 list of things that people should consider, educators  should consider when they are thinking about digital accessibility. Do we want to jump into our list and start working through them one at a time?HARRIETTE SPIEGEL:  I would be delighted. There are hundreds of issues obviously, but what I think the number one consideration is administrative support. The challenges to achieving full Digital Accessibility are budget-related, time-related, and attitude-related! And therefore, the administration of an institution should advocate for the targeted training of faculty and staff (and even students) in how to create accessible course content. Life gets busy, and training must be purposeful to be effective, and the administration can make it happen.Number two is to be aware of how Accessible a given product really is – be aware that a program may say it is “accessible,” such as the learning management system, but, if outside documents are brought in, they need to be accessibly created. So everyone needs to know why we should worry about accessibility to all users. Include in the training what a screen reader sounds like, or let the learners experience a video with no sound or with their eyes closed.WADE WINGLER:  That one rings true to me as well. I know a lot of instructors get hung up on learning  the management system and are overwhelmed enough with that that thinking about accessibility sometimes is a bit of a challenge. I’m glad to drop that one in there.HARRIETTE SPIEGEL:  Number three is built-in  tools in computer applications. Be aware of the built-in tools in the various applications. Microsoft includes the Accessibility Checker in its Word, PowerPoint and Excel applications. The tools are there to create with accessibility in mind from the beginning, rather than have to go back and retrofit. So, for instance, if an image is used, the creator is given a prompt to add alt-text. Fortunately, companies continue to develop accessibility tools, both for the everyday user and the technical user. Use your favorite search engine on the Internet for Digital Accessibility and the particular program.Number four is Universal Design for Learning. I have resources for you on all these. Universal Design for Learning is the consideration of the how, what and why of learning when designing content so all can use it. I’ve provided a link to CAST at the end. One of these “what’s” is to avoid confusing content. Use chunking to set thoughts apart in easily understood portions.Number five — and now I start my formal instruction — is Accessible Headings, one of the most common issues. Bost applications have tools for providing clear heading structure. How often do we merely highlight the words in a title, for instance, and use the formatting buttons at the top to bold or underline something? It looks fine, but for the user listening to the screen reader, such formatting is not translated. Or do you ever skim a document, scanning visually through the headings? But the screen reader can only interpret headings if they have been formatted accessibly. For instance, if the title is to be emphasized or set apart by something like Bold or Underline, there is a better way to do this so that the screen reader will tell the listener about the status of that content.  So in the Ribbon toolbar in your applications, you will notice the Styles items. You can assign your desired formatting, and a title will be defined as a title; your first major heading will be defined as a major heading, and so forth. Yet, to provide the visual structure, each Style can be modified to look the way you want it to look, but the background code that the screen reader reads out will reflect the overall structure. Imagine, otherwise, reading a document with no defining bold, italics, underline, or font size: it would be a dull document, indeed! This is easy to take care of with the Styles feature in word-processing. We can compare this to ignoring punctuation in a well-written sentence!For Headings in PowerPoint presentations, structure is automatically taken care of by the slide layout feature. So rather than use a blank slide to build text boxes, use the provided slide layout. The title of each slide will be the Heading for each piece of content. If the creator does not want a title to show on a given slide, visually, there is a feature for turning off the visual title, but leaving the structure to be interpreted by the screen reader. So the listener will know that the next thought is coming along, but a redundant title can be hidden. There are tools for customizing and standardizing the look of things, leaving the underlying structure to be correctly translated to the listener. Other applications have similar tools.WADE WINGLER:  I don’t like to admit it but I’ve been guilty of using bold and italic and big fonts to the headers before. That is something I have to remind myself to do well. That takes us to number six.HARRIETTE SPIEGEL: Number six is alt-text, short for alternative text, a very common digital accessibility consideration. Alt-text is a description of the image that is added when creating the document. Images or graphics are not read by a screen reader unless “alt-text” has been added. So the content of a given image is lost to the user of the screen reader, especially if no additional description has been added in the body of the document. Recent versions of applications generally provide a prompt to add this alt-text. Sometimes an image or graphic is merely decorative, so alt-text is not necessary if the presence of the decorative image is not pertinent. One is always safe, in a word-processing document, in selecting the image and following the particular path to the alt-text description box.Each application will have it own way of checking the alt-text. To ensure that any such content is communicated to the learner, there are three ways, in any application, to address the issue of content in an image or graphic :you have alt-text; you can provide a caption under the image; or you can describe the image or graphic in your text.Number seven is Meaningful Hyperlinks. How many times have you come across a “click here” link that provides no idea of the target of that link?  The reader has to assume where it is going. The same is true for the screen reader user: The screen reader reads out a hyperlink description such as “click here,” but goes directly to the target web address, and if the hyperlink text that is displayed is not descriptive, or meaningful, the screen reader user is left to wonder beforehand where the hyperlink is going. And, as with headings, if alt-text is present, the user can scan through the links. To create accessible hyperlinks, the target description must be clear in the text displayed, so avoid long link descriptions.  Of course, for information purposes, you may want to provide the entire URL afterwards, but not as a hyperlink.Number eight is the use of color to denote meaning. Do not do this; and when you do use color for visual effect, provide adequate contrast when mixing colors. For a user with color blindness, for instance, the use of color may be meaningless, and for some colors, the text will be invisible. The link in the resources will provide an Accessibility Color Wheel to let the creator try out colors for visibility.Number nine is to avoid repeating spaces for white space. Use the built in Format/ Paragraph/ Format Text, Spacing tools. Similarly, avoid empty cells in tables. The aim is to produce a clear, simple document for all.Number ten is certainly not least  in importance.Captioning and Transcripts. This important issue is to use captions and transcripts for audio and video files. To quote WebAIM — And there is a link in the resources to this wonderful organization  — “captions are text versions of the spoken word presented within multimedia. Transcripts do not have to be verbatim accounts of the spoken word in a video. You can find many resources on the Web that will give you step-by-step instructions for creating captions. You Tube even does it automatically, although a human eye should definitely double-check these. You can also create your own for your own video.WADE WINGLER:  We’ve had experience here relying on you to for the automatic captions. I would agree, checking those out the word is important because it is getting better but is not perfect. We talked about a top 10 list, but I think you have a couple of bonus ones for us  don’t you?HARRIETTE SPIEGEL:  I really wanted to reiterate that there are many other considerations. You want to take care to arrange the content in logical, consistent order. Use appropriate font sizes and styles. Documents like PDF’s, which is Adobe Acrobat’s product, used to be inaccessible. There is now a clear process for making PDFs accessible, and the application is very helpful in that matter.Tables is another consideration that should be used for data display, not page layout, and consider the reading order. Automatic accessibility tools should be double-checked by a human! That is the main point that I’m saying, is humans use computers and they make them work the way the user wants to use it.WADE WINGLER:  That’s right.  We’ve automated a lot of things but we still need people to look them over.  During our conversation, you talk a number of resources. I’m going to drop those into our show notes of the people who are listening to the podcast can either click on the lyrics or show notes tab in the application or just check our website. We are also going to list a link to your article called essentials of digital accessibility so they can get that detail as well.HARRIETTE SPIEGEL:  Wonderful.WADE WINGLER:  If folks wanted to reach out to you and have some conversation — because this has served as a great primer of digital accessibility, what  would you recommend in terms of  contact information?HARRIETTE SPIEGEL:  I would  assume they contact me at my Gmail, [email protected] WINGLER:  I’ll drop that in the show notes as well. Doctor here at Spiegel is an educational technologist and instructional specialist at the University of Tennessee at Martin and has been our guest today. Thank you so much for spending time with us.HARRIETTE SPIEGEL:   Thank you so much and I hope everybody will enjoy computers as much as I do and especially if they are accessible to all.WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question  about assistive technology?   Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update?  Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project,  or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show?  Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at That was your Assistive Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana. 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