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College teaches Web access


Pellissippi State Technical Community College is reaching out to those seeking to learn how to create their own Web site accessible to those with hearing or visual impairments.

Beginning in August, PSTCC will offer WEB 2401 Accessible Web Design and Compliance, a new online class that will help consumers open up access to their Web site by applying universal design.

Universal design is an approach that makes products, services and environments accessible to as many users as

possible.

“Creating a site that is usable by people who are blind, hearing impaired or learning disabled can only increase an institution’s or company’s customer base,” Don Amos, course instructor, said.

Amos, who will teach the new Web Technology course, is technical services coordinator for Services for Students With Disabilities. Web Technology is a concentration in the college’s Media Technologies program.

“If customers have limited sight access, they need to hear it,” said Michael Tomlinson, a Web Technology instructor who worked with Amos in preparing the course. “If they have limited hearing, they need to see it.”

Gay Bryant, Web Technology program coordinator, said she has seen no course like this offered by other schools in the region.

“Until now, we had not made accessibility a major focus in the Web curriculum,” Bryant said. “But Michael had the idea of developing a course here, nnd when Don accepted my invitation to teach it, I was very excited. Both the college and the community will gain from his expertise. This will be a strong, pertinent course.”

“Most businesses and most government-sponsored institutions that are used by citizens and paid for by tax dollars have to be accessible for those with handicaps,” Tomlinson said.

“Target has been sued by the National Federation of the Blind because the Web site wasn’t accessible to blind users,” Amos said. “Amazon, on the other hand, has joined forces with the NFB to make its site more

accessible.”



In fact, Tomlinson says, becoming compliant is a trend in business.



“It all comes down to the bottom line for business,” said Amos. “Becoming more accessible is either going to save them money or make them money.”



Accessible Web Design and Compliance, says Bryant, is suited to people who are already familiar with creating Web pages with HTML and have knowledge of Adobe Acrobat. The college offers WEB 2200 and 2703 for beginners.



“This course is a nuts-and-bolts class for people who work on Web sites,” Tomlinson said. “Many times someone is given the responsibility, sometimes by default, for maintaining and updating a Web site. This course is aimed at helping them.”



Questions such as “Are we in compliance?” and “Is our Web site accessible?” and “How do we make our site accessible?” all will be answered in the class.



Participants will become familiar with accommodations such as a screen reader (a computerized voice that reads the words to a blind person), a screen magnifier and voice recognition software. They also will learn how to caption video similar to the text that scrolls across the bottom of cable news channels.



“Captioning helps the deaf and hearing-impaired access what is being said,” Amos said. “Participants will learn how to improve the access of PDF files. We’ll cover how to add markup to make the files readily usable to people with various disabilities. If the content isn’t text, it’s not exposed to a screen reader and must have accompanying alternative text.



“If you have a PowerPoint presentation with voice-over and don’t have a transcript to accompany the presentation, a deaf person can’t understand the slide content,” Amos said. “That person will miss a lot of material, and, really, it’s not fair, because all content needs to be accessible to all people.”



Amos, who is a quadriplegic, uses a track ball instead of a mouse because of difficulty in using his fingers. He also relies on voice recognition software. Constant changes in computer technology, he says, keep him up to speed.



“I research and try stuff out,” he said. “Technology is advancing so much. You go into Podcasts now and find that AJAX (the much-anticipated next generation of online interactivity) is a big thing. A lot of video, like You Tube and such, if you’re blind, deaf or hearing impaired, you just can’t get any meaning from.”



“WEB 2401 will help people who will be working on these problems for their business or institution,” Tomlinson said. “It’s the right thing to do, of course, but it’s also great for business when you reach 10 percent more customers.”



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