Mark Nichols - Video Transcript
This recording was part of an event hosted by the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine titled "disAbilities at Work: Thriving in an Abled World" held on October 11, 2022. Use the links below to visit the event page, or the recordings and transcripts of the other two speakers, Dr. David Hartman and Carrie Knopf.
>> [Vianne Greek]: Hello everyone and welcome to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Tonight we are hosting a presentation in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month and we name this presentation “disability at work, thriving in abled world”. And one of the reasons I chose this title was because we always talk about accommodations for people with disabilities, but if you really think about it, they've had to accommodate to us for their entire lives and so I wanted them to share their experience on what the accommodations are that they've had to make and why they asked for their accommodations from us because really that's just to get them on the same playing field as we are.
My name is Vianne Greek, I'm the web manager and social media manager for the School of Medicine and our three speakers tonight are Mark Nichols with the assistive technologies group at Virginia Tech. We have Dr. David Hartman, who's a psychiatrist at Carilion Clinic and we have Carrie Knopf, who is our liaison to our [services for students with disabilities at Virginia Tech and she worked for the School of Medicine here. And so Mark will talk about what Virginia Tech is doing to expand digital inclusivity , and Dr. Hartman will talk about his experience being blind psychiatrists and doctor in a very thriving practice for the last 40-odd years, and Carrie will talk about what it's like to be a deaf person in an office environment and also within her own personal life as well.
[1:40] So I guess we're going to talk about accessibility tonight. So currently we have a screen being shared and the captions that are happening right now are coming from Google Slides. There is also the live transcript that should be turned on for Zoom. And you may want to leave that off for right now because they might conflict with what's on the screen so that's your choice. After Mark is finished speaking, we will stop sharing the screen, but the live transcript will continue to run for Zoom, of course and the in-person transcript will keep running on the slideshow. But we wanted you to have a chance to see the speakers rather than worry about seeing a big screen with few words on it. And so at this point we will introduce Mark Nichols.
[2:29] Mark Nichols is the Senior Director for Universal Design and Accessible Technologies at Virginia Tech. He works with the technology enhanced learning and online strategies. The TLOS unit out of Virginia Tech's a division of IT. And he's passionate about creating inclusive and accessible learning environments. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech in 2017, Mark spent 15 years working within a K-12 school division supporting the development and expansion of assistive technology services and accessible materials. He's an active member of the National AEM Advisory Committee, I'm going to let him tell you what that spells and outgoing chair for the Virginia Higher Education Accessibility Partners, and he's secretary and treasurer for the Universal Design for Learning Higher Education network. On a personal level, he is a scout master with a Blacksburg scout troop, and enjoys a variety of outdoor sports and recreational adventures with his family. The scout motto, be prepared is a vital component for both professional and personal endeavors and other interests include photography, music, racing cars, traveling to islands, and managing day-to-day responsibility on a hobby farm. Mark, take it away.
[3:59] >> [Mark Nichols]: Great, thank you all very much for being here today. Thank you to the folks that are online and thank you to the folks that are perhaps coming in later and watching the recording for this. It's truly a pleasure to be here. Accessibility is a lifelong passion of mine and I'm going to take you a little bit on that journey here in just a moment and share with you some of the proactive accessibility measures that we've been taking across the university to help expand access to tools and training and resources to help build accessible educational materials and environments. So on the slide is a tiny URL. That's tinyurl.com/vtcat22. My presentation, I did have a slide deck here. There is lots of hyperlinks to resources and opportunities here at Virginia Tech so you have access to that as we move forward.
[5:00] So Simon Sinek is a visionary thinker and New York Times bestselling author. And he's written several different books around the concept of finding your why to inspire leadership and action. Simon believes that we are here to inspire people, to do the things that inspire them. So that together each of us can change our world for the better. If you've never read Simon Sinek and/or watched his TED Talks, I can attest it's definitely time well-spent.
[5:44] So I thought I'd start my presentation today by sharing insight into my own personal why. And I'd like to introduce you to my sister, Alison Elizabeth Nichols, who inspired my accessibility journey. So Alison was born with severe and profound physical, visual, and intellectual disability due to a lack of oxygen at birth. She was in fact a medical marvel. Doctors had predicted that she would not live past two years of age. And you know what? She ended up proving every single one of them wrong. Alison's cognitive growth plateaued around 4-5 years of age. She was very tiny. As a middle-school student, she weighed 19 pounds. And her highest weight was about 30 pounds in her early twenties. On the screen is a photograph of Alison on the right-hand side of Alison in a purple outfit sitting on a couch and my daughter Natalie, who was about seven weeks old, is positioned next to her to give you a size reference as to how tiny Alison was.
[6:57] Alison required 100% care with all self-help in life tasks. She made a few different types of vocalizations to indicate happiness, disapproval, or pain, but possessed no verbal speech. She had a variety of surgeries throughout her life. She had hip surgery, she had cataract surgery. She had an emergency tracheotomy due to extreme and unrecognized gastroesophageal reflux that inflamed and closed her airway.
[7:28] In her teens, she required a gastro-intestinal feeding tube due to malnutrition, even though she loved to eat and especially loved ice cream. All of Alison's food had to be a pureed because she couldn't chew. And the process of eating took around two hours per meal using a very tiny and extremely durable spoon to address her persistent and extensive oral fixation and bite reflexes. Alison was also very sensitive to fluorescent lighting and experienced extreme body hyperextension. As a reaction, she often wore these cool sunglasses to help mitigate the effects of that fluorescent lighting.
[8:14] But who was Alison? So Alison was a fun-loving, strong-willed girl who enjoyed baking with our family, of course, because she did love to eat, watching Disney movies, dressing in the latest fashions of the 1980s, which were pretty rad at the time. Wearing rings and her absolute favorite was going to look at Christmas lights during the holiday season. She also had a very devilish personality and a contagious smile, and she laughed whenever anybody in the family stubbed their toe or when the dog peed on the carpet.
[8:52] The early '80s was quite a different time when it came to caring for individuals with severe and profound disabilities. However, my family never wavered on advocacy and inclusion. We involved Alison as much as possible in almost everything that we did. Alison came to my sporting events, to my scouting ceremonies, to my roller skating parties and on and on. The photos on the screen on the left depicts Alison riding a sled with me holding her out in the snow. Also in one of her early first wheelchairs, picking flowers with me in the garden on Easter, and a photograph of Alison sitting on my dad's lap riding a carousel during a local carnival.
[9:47]My family was a very tight unit in under no circumstances, was that unit going to be divided by societal pressures around the segregation of medically fragile and severely disabled community member, or unsolicited suggestions around institutionalization.
My parents instilled in me that diversity and inclusion is beautiful.
[10:16] As I grew up, I became more and more involved with Alison's caregiving and helping to design and improve access to create engaging, and meaningful learning experiences both within and outside of the classroom. The photograph on the left side of my slide shows two rehabilitation engineers at Cayuga Medical Center in Charlottesville, sitting next to Alison and her state of the art customized wheelchair they designed in 1993. In order for Alison to successfully engage in the learning process, she needed a pain free and form fitting chair. That mission was accomplished.
[10:56] Alison had no consistent or controlled movements, which proved extraordinarily challenging in helping her to understand basic cause and effect relationships. This became an underlying goal within her individualized education program in school. Many young children have access to toys to help establish cause and effect.
[11:22] Alison could not access any toys available commercially off the shelf. So my family started creating our own homemade solutions to help Alison engage. And that help came from RadioShack, which is the second photograph on the right of my screen. Do you remember these stores? Do you remember? A few head nods here in the room. So those stores had tons of little drawers and racks filled with electrical parts and accessories. It was like a maker's dream comes through.
[12:01] My parents and I designed mechanical switches out of plastic, kitchen spatulas, ice buckets, a radio shack pressure switch, speaker wire, phono plugs and hot glue. We then made battery interrupters out of copper wafers, speaker wire, and solder that could be placed within the battery compartment of my toys that allowed us to teach Alison to independently activate and engage the lights and sounds from these toys. The lava lamps and Christmas lights surrounding her bed were a favorite pass time of her switch work.
[12:44]Unbeknownst to me, I had already begun my career path in assistive technology, which wasn't even a field in the 1980s. Through all the years, helping Alison achieve small victories around independence, one thing became apparent, something I've carried into practice throughout my professional career, including here at Virginia Tech. That in order to create inclusive teaching and learning experiences, I believe that everything we create should be accessible.
[13:20] There are no average learners, so we must design and leverage digital content that supports learner variability. The photograph on the screen shows a concrete curb cut from the road to a walking path. And I like to ask those in the room, who benefits from curb cuts? Can you say a little louder?
[13:51] Everyone. The perfect answer. You're not a plant. Thank you very much for responding. Everyone benefits from curb cuts. Individuals with disabilities, with wheeled mobility, individuals who are pushing a stroller, pulling a cart. On campus, I can attest, a number of students who are riding one wheels or other types of wheeled mobility that are traversing from one threshold to another, benefit from curb cuts. Everyone can benefit from a curb cut. And so you've probably heard the phrase "The curb cut effect before." Which essentially means that the design of a disability friendly features being used and appreciated by a larger group beyond the intention of the initial design.
[14:35] Other examples of the curb cut effect that we see on a daily basis. Within your cell phone, you have word prediction. That is a great example of a way of reducing physical keystrokes for an individual with a physical disability that now we all probably use on a daily basis.
[14:55] Closed captioning is another example, making it universally available.
[15:00] Having text to speech content that's on a digital screen that can be read aloud and perhaps even visually highlighted and tracked as it reads sentence by sentence or word by word.
[15:12] Home automation tools and voice controls. Think about in the last 15 years how those have exploded. How for some individuals, those tools are a requirement to access. But most of us have these types of tools now in our homes.
[15:28] Even accessibility features built into computer operating systems. We've got magnifiers, we've got color modes, we've got keyboard shortcuts. These are all universally baked into the operating system.
[15:40] Now, I recognize and admit that making sure that all digital content is accessible can be challenging, but it is not impossible. That's where my team here at Virginia Tech, the accessible technologies team comes into play. Our mission involves supporting teaching and learning by promoting universal design for learning.
TLOS: Accessible Technologies
- Promoting Universal Design for Learning
- Expanding accessible web & application design
- Supporting Assistive Technology
- Growing communities of practice
- Providing training and outreach
- Deploying tools to support teaching and learning
- Showcasing Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)
[16:05] So universal design for learning is a foundational pillar of our operations as a team. And this framework focuses on presenting content in different ways, providing opportunities for learners to demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. And motivating people to learn in different ways, thus promoting a growth mindset.
[16:31] We focus on expanding accessible web and application designs for not only the tools that we are creating as a university, but also for the web content, and applications we acquire to help facilitate university operations.
[16:48] We also support a variety of assistive technology. We work very closely with our friends in services for students with disabilities office, as well as the ADA and accessibility services. The accessible technologies team manages a lab within Newman library to help support students with assistive technology and accommodation needs.
[17:10] Growing communities of practice. We have a number of communities of practice. I've dedicated slide that will highlight all of these coming up here in just a moment. But our focus is on expanding and growth of the opportunities both for students, faculty and staff with these communities of practice.
[17:27] Teaching and outreach, being able to have on-demand just-in-time training on digital accessibility that is scaffolded and available via multiple modalities. And I'm going to speak more to that here in just a moment as well.
[17:41] Deploying tools to support teaching and learning. So after tonight, you will learn about seven tools that my team is responsible for maintaining and providing training on across the university. And these are tools that just about every student or faculty member can access.
[18:01] And of course, showcasing Accessible Educational Materials. This presentation that was developed was checked using an accessibility compliance checker in the Google Workspace. And I'm going to highlight that specific tool here in just a few moments.
Choosing Accessible Learning Methods Campaign
[18:17] So in 2018, our team quickly realized that in order to scale digital accessibility at Virginia Tech, we needed a way to connect with faculty and staff to build a sense of individual ownership around the creation of accessible materials. So if you will, a way of franchising digital accessibility. That's where the idea of CALM originated. CALM is an acronym for choose accessible learning materials. We started off with two specific campaigns. On the screen are four images of posters for our CALM campaigns. We have the Keep CALM and Caption On campaign, the Keep CALM and check contrast campaign, which was our first year of campaigns. These campaigns provide guidance, resources, and tools to implement and improve learning materials on that particular topic. We now have five total campaigns connected to the Web Accessibility Content Guidelines known as WCAG. This is the backend so that when faculty and staff participate and join these campaigns, they're actually joining campaigns that have a back-end legal requirement for creating accessible content. Missing on this particular slide is our fifth campaign just due to spacing. The other two posters that are on this slide are Keep CALM and Use Ally, Keep CALM and Simplify Slides, which is our current campaign this year. The missing campaign is Keep CALM and Use Meaningful Links. We produced a variety of posters and stickers to help us continue to market these bite-sized campaigns across the university. I had a whole stack of them set out next to my desk in Torgesen Hall on campus. And I completely left them behind. So we will make sure I will work with Vianne. If anybody would like a poster or a sticker, I would be happy to send those to you.
Accessibility Resources for Faculty, Staff, and Students
- Grackle Suite for Google Workspace
- Read & Write
- PREP PDF Remediation Platform
- Ally for Canvas
Grackle Suite for Google Workplace
[20:24] So I mentioned about this presentation being checked using an accessibility checker. So one of the tools I just want to increase your awareness of is the Grackle Suite for Google's workspace. Grackle is an accessibility checker that is available to everyone with a VT email account. So that's students, employees, and alumni. What Grackle does is check for accessibility within Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. It's aligned to international accessibility standards, the web content accessibility guidelines I just referenced and it also allows you to create unlimited accessible PDFs from Google Docs. And by accessible PDFs I mean PDFs that are properly tagged with headings, with alternative text for images. So this is a tool that does require users to login to their Chrome browser using their VT email account. We have a premium subscription. You can access Grackle for free, but in order to access the premium features, you do need to log in and authenticate with your VT email account.
[21:37] Read and Write, OrbitNote, and EquatIO are three tools that are available from Texthelp. These are tools that we deployed across the university that any VT student and employee can access. These are tools that help support accommodations, but do not require students to disclose and self-identify in order to have access to these resources. Anybody can use these three tools. The images, they're actually videos. There we go, the videos on this slide. I'm not going to play these videos. You have access to them in the slide deck if you'd like to come back. I'm just going to briefly highlight what these three tools do.
Read & Write
[22:25] Read and Write is a text. The premise of this tool is text-to-speech. Any content that appears on your screen in a PDF document, in a Word document, on a webpage can be read aloud with highlighting behind that. And you can choose the voice, the pitch, the rate. You have a whole bunch of customization in order to customize that experience for each individual user. You can convert text into audio. One of my favorite things to do with this is take let's say a ten-page PDF. I convert it to an audio file and I drop it on my phone. And now I can listen to it while I'm washing the dishes or while I'm walking the dog. It's a way of consuming the information in a format that is preferred by me, not because I require it, I just prefer to consume that content in that manner. Sometimes I get migraines. I look at a computer screen a lot during the day. And so I'll frequently hop into Read and Write and have that content read aloud to me because I see auras and haze by looking at a computer screen. This is a quick and easy way for me to continue working. So I might say, Mark, why don't you go home if you have a migraine? But that's a different story. So Read and Write, fantastic tool.
[23:41] OrbitNote is a newer tool that we were just able to release this academic year. It's a cloud-based platform to allow users to interact and engage with a PDF. So not only does it offer text-to-speech with highlighting, but you can create notes, you can create audio notes inside of the PDF. You can highlight using different colored highlighters and extract that text out of the PDF into a new document, you can screen mask the PDF. So if there are visual distractions in the PDF, you can mask it. Think about a window that's either a single line or a paragraph in width, and the rest of the screen is blacked out except for that window as you read. It offers that functionality, it offers translation tools so if there's an unfamiliar word or term in the PDF, you can immediately access multiple language translation for that particular word. There's even a tool that lets you do Optical Character Recognition, OCR on the fly, which means if you have a PDF that's been scanned from a scanner, it's an image file. It's not an editable text file. While using OrbitNote, you can essentially in real time convert that image into a text file that can then be read aloud and you can interact with that.
[25:03] Last but not least, on the screen is EquatIO. This is the third item from the family from Texthelp, the vendor. EquatIO supports math and stem classes in creating accessible equations and formulas. So you can not only type, but you can hand-write and you can use your voice and EquatIO will convert that content into an accessible onscreen formula. So I could say Pythagorean theorem and the entire Pythagorean theorem would appear on the screen. And then I could use text-to-speech to read the Pythagorean Theorem out loud to me and make changes in the Pythagorean theorem. This is a game changer. When we find students that are not familiar with this in STEM courses, they're like, I wish I knew about this sooner. And we always say, I wish we had more avenues for sharing this information with students. Go on to my next slide here. Bear with me just a second.
[26:08] Another tool that we have available is glean. And glean is an audio recording application to help simplify annotating, filtering and reviewing notes. This started as a tool that was only available for individuals that chose to self-disclose with SSD. Where we moved from that is that we recognized that this tool has great benefit and value to any student that struggles with the process of note-taking. And so in collaboration with SSD, we have acquired licensing so that every student receiving services from SSD can have access to glean, but we also have a limited licensing model for any students outside of SSD that would like to have access to this software. I'm not going to say the specific amount of licensing that we have available, but I will say we still have a lot of licenses available. So this is a tool that might be something of interest to you. I would highly recommend visiting the URL on the screen and asking for registration for the licensing. It is a Cloud based app that supports designed to chunk and tag audio content that's captured on the machine, and it even provides a transcript of that audio content on the screen in the notes. Helping to build that independence and self confidence of students in the note-taking process.
PREP PDF Remediation Tool
[27:35] Another tool that we're super excited to launch this year, it's been about three years coming is the PREP PDF remediation platform. So this is a platform that's available to any VT faculty or staff member, any employee here at Virginia Tech. It's a Cloud-based tool and it helps simplify and automate the remediation of PDFs. Some people are familiar with Adobe Acrobat Professional. Adobe Acrobat Professional can be very cumbersome and complex to learn if you're not familiar with PDF remediation. The prep remediation tool is a way of simplifying that process to make it a little bit more manageable, it also leverages AI with image descriptions inside the PDF so it will generate AI generated alt text for images that it finds inside of the PDF. It also has a built-in optical character recognition mode. So you could upload a fully scanned PDF from a scanner, use OCR and turn it into an accessible PDF that is tagged with heading structures that has selectable texts, there's the right word, and a slew of other different accessibility features. Virginia Tech does have a limited licensing model of this. We have not even gotten close to the end of our potential licensing model. We're piloting this tool for a period of two years to determine its efficacy and whether or not it aligns with the workflows of everybody on campus who is creating PDFs. That's not just faculty creating content for use in the classroom, that's university relations and campus communicators, and anybody who has a role in producing publications or information that's being shared with the public via PDF. This tool can help make sure that that content is accessible.
[29:40] I'll also say just to piggyback on this, if you're not familiar with PDF remediation and a lot of people aren't, we designed this summer a self-paced PDF course that any faculty or student can take. It is a three-credit course within the professional development catalog, and I'm going to talk about that here in just a second. But it is one that walks through why PDF, why you need an accessible PDF, and what are some of the base strategies that you need to take into consideration in creating an accessible PDF.
Ally for Canvas
[30:10] Ally for Canvas. Ally for Canvas is one of my absolute favorite tools. This was a tool that was piloted before the pandemic. And when the pandemic hit in 2020, the university made a bold commitment and said, this is a tool that we need to make universally available to every single faculty member and every single student across the university. So by end of April, Ally had been deployed across the entire Canvas environment. Ally allows students to go in to uploaded content that's been placed in Canvas by the professor and download that content in a preferred alternative format. So you can download content as an audio file. You can download content as a digital Braille, a BRF file. You can download content in an accessible PDF, or maybe you want the HTML version because you're accessing that content on a smaller screen size and it resizes better on a smaller screen, perhaps a mobile device, very powerful tool. Again, any student regardless of ability can go in and access those alternative formats. The other powerful thing with this tool is that it provides instructor feedback. So on the screen are four colored gauge indicators that indicate a degree of accessibility of the content that's been uploaded into the Canvas course. These gauges are only visible to the instructor. Students do not see these gauges. There is a red gauge that indicates the accessibility of that file is low. It needs help. It's 0-36% accessible. There's a yellowish orange color gauge which is medium accessibility, which means it's a little better but still needs work. It's 34-66% accessible. There's a gauge which indicates high accessibility, from 67-99 and a gauge that's 100% all full of dark green and colored perfect accessibility. The goal is to go green. Makes sure that your content is accessible. And last but not least, Ally provided us a look into the Canvas environment that we've never had before and enabled us to take a look at every course and look at the degree of inaccessible content across the university. So with that, we realized that the Number 1 most inaccessible file format at Virginia Tech are scanned PDFs. So that data lead the work that brought the prep PDF remediation tool to Virginia Tech.
Supporting Growth & Communities of Practice
- Accessibility Network at VT
- AT Student Organization (ATSO)
- International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP)
- Accessibility Professionals Certification Grant Program
- PDN workshops (employees and students) Inclusive Practices Track
- Campus Accessibility Working Group (CAWG)
- TLOS Consultations
- Report a barrier (physical and digital)
- Virginia Higher Education Accessibility Partners (VHEAP)
[33:06] Now, so I've just gone through a whole slew of different tools here. We have a variety of opportunities for supporting growth in communities practice related to digital accessibility. And so on the screen are about nine different bullets, they're all hyperlinked to these respective resources and I'm going to briefly just touch on each one of these.
Accessibility Network at Virginia Tech
The very first resource is the Accessibility Network at Virginia Tech. So this includes employees and students who share a passion for digital accessibility. It meets quarterly and it provides voice and guidance around digital accessibility. And honestly, it helps inform my team to guide and prioritize our tools that we're looking at, purchasing and deploying, our training that we offer on a semester basis, and the campaigns that we use, such as the CALM campaigns. Our most recent campaign of keep calm and simplify slides, that was a direct result of input and feedback from the Accessibility Network.
Assistive Technology Student Organization (ATSO)
[34:12] New this year, really excited about this, the Assistive Technology Student Organization, ATSO. So this officially launched within global connect this fall. There's an undergraduate students CS major, Ashley Moire, is the president of this club. The club now has 15 members and their goal is hosting events and bringing awareness to promote accessible technologies.
IAAP Institutional Membership
[34:40] Virginia Tech has a platinum institutional membership to IAAP, the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. This membership offers the ability to connect with a variety of different virtual online communities regarding different digital accessibility topics. It also provides access to live in on-demand webinars about creating accessible content, both in the digital space and creating accessible environments in the physical space. It offers discounts to conferences and much more, and every single Virginia Tech employee has access to the IAAP membership.
Accessibility Professional Certification Grant
[35:30] The Accessibility Professional Certification Grant Program, this is one of our most successful initiatives. This is one of the many things that we're extremely proud of. Over 110 Virginia Tech employees have participated in this program since inception in 2018. That carries one of those employees that has gone through the CPACC, the Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies Program. These are pretty in-depth programs, lasting 12-15 weeks. The CPACC provides guidance around basic accessibility, universal design for learning, universal design, different models of disability. It's a foundational level program. The other program that's offered through the grants is the Web Accessibility Specialist Program. And this helps build the skill set which both Vianne has gone through CPACC and WAS and has the combined credential of the CPWA. The WAS program helps build skills in the area of design and development and web accessibility and application design.
Professional Development Network
[36:43] The PDN workshops, the Professional Development Networks. New this year, this training resource is available to all students at Virginia Tech. Previously, this had only been available to Virginia Tech employees. So by visiting the link for the Professional Development catalog, any VT employee or student can participate in trainings related to how to design accessible slides in PowerPoint or Google, how to create accessible web design, how to leverage the CALM campaigns to build success in the respective environments. We generally offer about 13-15 trainings each semester, and those are available in the Professional Development catalog.
Campus Accessibility Working Group (CAWG)
[37:35] The Campus Accessibility Working Group. This was another group that formed in 2018 and includes stakeholders from across the university: student affairs, office of equity and accessibility, office of inclusion and diversity, university relations, campus planning, facilities, finance, on and on. The point being is that this is a group that collectively identifies solutions to advance university accessibility in a collaborative and coordinated manner.
[38:05] So several things I've shown you: ALLY within Canvas, our centralized captioning services that are available, the PREP PDF software, these are all critical needs requests that have been funded and supported through the Campus Accessibility Working Group.
[38:25] Another resource on the screen are TLOS Consultations. So the consultations are available from TLOS on this website, and there are many individuals within TLOS. TLOS is Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies. That's the parent organization that I belong to, that my accessible technologies team falls under. And so not just AT staff, but many TLOS employees are well-versed in creating accessible materials, web accessibility in UDL, and these are all things that employees and students here at Virginia Tech can request consultations with.
Reporting a physical or digital barrier
[39:00] The report a barrier tool, as we round out our list here on the screen. This is a fantastic collaboration with the university relations that resulted in the universal access widget being built into the vt.edu template. So what does that mean? That was a lot of technical terms.
[39:18] Well, from any VT webpage, a user can either report a physical or a digital barrier by using the universal access widget at the top of the webpage. Physical barriers go directly to the ADA and accessibility team, while digital barrier reports come to my team. My team then reviews that barrier and connects with the individuals responsible for the design or that particular application, that webpage, and we work with those individuals to provide them the training and the resources to remediate that barrier.
Virginia Higher Education Accessibility Partners Group
[39:53] Last but not least on the screen is the Virginia Higher Ed Accessibility Partners Group. So this was a group that formed in 2018. 2018 was a very busy year. Had a focus to encourage, promote, and seek opportunities for collaboration and communication with other institutions of higher ed in the State of Virginia, that then morphed into including state agencies and K-12 institutions, and the goal is really for improving digital and physical accessibility for individuals within the institutions across the Commonwealth of Virginia. It's a free community of practice to join. They offer a variety of training opportunities, webinars, town halls, and even conferences that are freely available to those here in the Commonwealth.
What is your plus one?
[40:41] So on the screen, I have the question, what's your Plus One? I've shared a lot of different tools, resources, community of practices here within the last 25 minutes. What I want you to do is to think about what is your one takeaway from this information? What's one thing that you're going to do to try to implement, to test for the rest of this semester, whether or not it's in one of the software tools that you're going to use, whether or not it's a community of practice that you're going to join. Think about what is your Plus One? I'd love it if you answer. Yes, please feel free.
[41:35] Let us bring you the microphone so the folks online can also hear that.
>> [Audience member Danny Cordova]: Hi. I'm going to use the read and write tool to read PDFs, [Great] so I can concentrate, and hear what's going on.
>> [Danny]: And then I'm going to try to use the closed captioning features in Teams to do presentations.
>> [Mark]: Fantastic. Yes. Excellent. You had a plus two, so even better. [LAUGHTER] Thank you for sharing. Anybody else? You can just do. Yes, please go ahead.
[42:14]>> [Audience member]: Hi everyone. So for my plus one, I don't have a tool in particular, but if I were to have a plus one, I would be able to create a driver retraining course for people with disabilities that have not yet been explored on in real world's driving.
>> [Mark]: Interesting.
>> [Audience member]: Yes. I would say in most driver education programs, I can rethink back into my high school lessons on driving, most of which did not require accommodations but in car driving lessons, that's where accessibility would need to be involved. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 16 years old, and that impacted my ability to become an independent driver and it's all through being able to listen to the instructors the first time and trying to see what kinds of feedback that I would need. I wanted to see how such constructive feedback would help improve driving amongst peoples with disabilities.
>> Yes, I love that. It's a great idea. Thank you for sharing.
>> Let me just do a quick view of the chat to see there's a plus ones here in the chat. I'm not seeing Vianne Am I, are you not? I don't see any other questions unless….
>> [Vianne]: I'm not seeing any questions either.
[44:08]>> Are there any questions that I can answer? And I recognize that was a lot of information coming at you in half an hour or so amount of time, so happy to continue the conversations for any of these tools or resources, my contact information is on the screen. Our main website, www.assist.vt.edu has most of the links and resources that I've mentioned here in the slide deck but you're more than welcome to swing by Torgersen Hall if you're on campus or reach out to me via phone or email to further discuss any of these tools or our opportunities that are available.
[44:48]>>[Vianne]: How often do you offer the certification grants?
>> [Mark] Great question.
>> So the CPACC is offered twice a year in the fall and spring. The last certification grant, which is the web accessibility specialists, is offered only in the fall because the duration of that program is a little more intense. It's about a 17 week program and so we just don't have time to run two programs of the WAS in a year. But we do have an application process that will open in January on our website on assist.vt.edu for the grant. So if that is something that you're interested in for the CPACC, the Certified Professional and Accessibility Core Competencies, we would strongly encourage you to submit your application for that. And we generally select around 25-30 VT employees for each cohort and Christa Miller, who is the Assistant Director within SSD, is the instructor for the CPACC and my staff member, Rob Fentress, who's a senior web accessibility solutions designer, is the instructor for the WAS cohort.
>> [Vianne]: If I'm not mistaken, Christa has a 99% pass rate on that certification so if you feel this is something you'd like to do, I'd definitely recommend it, especially since our course has superseded all expectations.
[46:16] >> [Mark]: Indeed. Awesome. Well, thank you very much for the opportunity. Thank you for the folks online who joined today and we've got some other very exciting presenters to come after me here so I'm happy to answer any questions too after the session is over here. Thank you.
[46:34] >> [Vianne]: Thank you very much, Mark.