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Able Tech

E and IT Brochure

Answers for State Government and Educational Institutions PDF

WHAT IS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT)? IT includes products that store, process, transmit, convert, duplicate, or receive electronic information. Examples of IT: software applications, operating systems; web-based information and applications such as distance learning; telephones & other telecommunications products; video equipment and multimedia products that may be distributed on videotapes, CDs, DVDs, email, or the World Wide Web; office products such as photocopiers and fax machines; calculators; and computer hardware.

IT may be inaccessible to people with disabilities if it provides only one way for users to gain access to information. For example, people with visual impairments cannot read instructions presented only in a visual format; people who are deaf cannot understand content that is only presented aurally; people who have limited use of their hands or arms may not use a computer mouse; and people who use wheelchairs may not be able to operate a fax machine if the controls are impossible to reach. Many of these barriers can be lowered or eliminated when technology environments are developed using an approach called "universal design."

Universal Design - developing products that are usable to all people, to the greatest extent possible, without adaptation or specialized design. These products accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. Universal design principles reduces the need for assistive technology, results in products compatible with assistive technology, and creates a product that works better for everyone, not just people with disabilities.

WHAT IS ACCESSIBLE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY? Accessible IT means that users are able to interact with the technology in the ways that work best for them. Accessible IT provides information in more than one way such as: auditory feedback from a computer for a person who is blind; closed captioning on a video for a person who is deaf. Accessible IT may also be compatible with the assistive technology used by an individual with a disability.

WHAT IS ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY (AT)? Assistive technology refers to products that people with disabilities use to access environments and activities that would otherwise be difficult or impossible for them to access. It enables individuals to accomplish daily living tasks, such as dressing or eating; it assists in communication, and provides greater access to education, employment, and recreation. Examples of assistive technology include wheelchairs, hand controls for cars, communications aids, and hearing aids. Specific to IT are assistive technology products that help people with disabilities use computers, software, the Internet, telephones and other IT. Examples: a keyboard with large keys, an adapted mouse, a screen reader for people who are blind, screen enlargement software, or a device that speaks out loud for people with speech impairments.

WHY CREATE ACCESSIBLE IT? Just as buildings that have ramps and elevators are more accessible to wheelchair users, accessible IT is more usable by people with a wide variety of abilities and disabilities. Accessible IT makes good economic sense. Creating accessible information systems used in facilities and programs requires planning ahead. By applying universal design principles, we can make sure that all individuals can participate. Accessible IT environments allow all members of the community to participate and share information; it reduces workers compensation costs; in education it lowers the need for special accommodations, and it reduces or eliminates the risk of complaints and potentially costly legal actions.

Accessible information is critical in this era of reliance on information technology. -In 2000, about 24 million Americans used the Internet. -About 54 million Americans have some type of disability.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that people with disabilities (federal employees and members of the public) have the same or comparable access to Federal government information and services as federal employees or members of the public without disabilities. Section 508 standards serve as a yardstick for access under the ADA and Section 504.

Assistive Technology Act of 1998 - the U.S. Department of Education requires that states which receive Federal funding under the Assistive Technology Act give assurances of compliance with Section 508's technical standards. Oklahoma receives this funding, as do all states and territories.

Section 255 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 - requires telecommunications manufacturers and service providers to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities. Where it is not readily achievable to provide access, it requires manufacturers and providers to make their devices and services compatible with peripheral devices and specialized customer premises equipment that are commonly used by people with disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities, requires program accessibility and reasonable accommodations for qualified persons with disabilities. The ADA can be interpreted to apply to information technology and Web accessibility.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act - indicates recipients of federal funds (e.g., educational programs, online services, library and registration services) may not discriminate against people with disabilities based on their disability status.

Assistive Technology Project, Oklahoma ABLE Tech, (800) 257-1705
Oklahoma Legislative Task Force on Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility - for more information contact Oklahoma ABLE Tech, (800) 257-1705  - online tutorial for accessible web design
Access Board and Standards
Federal Section 508 -
Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center
Access IT technical assistance for education.
Disability Law Resource Project - technical support for the Americans with Disabilities Act and educational entities
Web Accessibility Initiative-W3C guidelines for web design
WebAIM - Web Access
Trace Center -
Center for Applied Special Technology
Equal Access to Software and Education -
National Center for Accessible Media -

Publication produced by Oklahoma ABLE Tech at Oklahoma State University and funded by the Disability Law Resource Project, Region IV, in Houston, TX, NIDRR Grant No. H133D010210.

Sections of this document were developed by and reprinted with the permission of the University of Washington and AccessIT (