Erika Patterson – EDET 735 – J50

Introduction to Accessibility

My topic is accessibility in the post-secondary setting to help support students with disabilities and learning assistance. I will discuss problems new college students with disabilities have in transitioning to the post-secondary setting to determine barriers that could be reduced for their success.

Why do we need accessible documents in college?

Accessibility is necessary on the college campus. Students come to us from various communities and have needs that may or may not be documented from their previous educational experiences. We have students who went through school having difficulties that were never addressed or investigated. For instance, one student I taught was never assessed on his struggles with reading. The student read at a fourth grade level, had no accommodations, and believed he would not be able to have success in college. There was a clear barrier to learning.

Accessibility in a Technical College Setting

College students studying together

The technical college typically has learners from diverse backgrounds. Students come to the technical college setting to begin their careers as a college student, to return to school to better their careers, on GI bills, and to get trained in their current careers. These students can have a variety of needs, even if they do not have a documented disability. The importance of colleges assuring that their online and course content is accessible is important to the success of these students. Therefore, colleges need to make sure their instructors provide web content that is accessible to all students.

  • The technical college setting has diverse learners.
    • Students with documented disabilities
    • Students with undiagnosed disabilities
    • Military veterans with hearing loss
    • Students who find texts difficult to process and understand
    • Students who need multiple presentation styles
    • Students who are online learners
  • The technical college requires that all course materials, published on Desire2Learn, are ADA compliant.
  • Instructors hesitate to publish their lecture notes and PowerPoints for their students because they view it as more work for students that do not have documented disabilities.

Accessible PowerPoint

PostSecondary Accessibility Needs




Banks, J. (2014). Barriers and Supports to Postsecondary Transition: Case Studies of African American Students with Disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 35(1), 28-39.

Bank (2014) researched the perceived supports and barriers that African American students experience in postsecondary education. She addressed their difficulties with transitioning from secondary to post secondary schools. After conducting a case study on three African American students, she found that these students developed their own social networks that benefited them in their transitions to college. She determined that perceptions from teachers in high school impacted these students’ access to coursework in high school. The students’ limited knowledge of their learning led them to wanting disability support services in college. She also determined that the social identities prevented these students from requesting accommodations.

Fichten, C. S., Asuncion, J. V., Barile, M., Ferraro, V., & Wolforth, J. (2009). Accessibility of e-Learning and Computer and Information Technologies for Students with Visual Impairments in Postsecondary Education. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 103(9), 543-557.

Fichten, Asuncion, Barile, Ferraro, and Wolforth (2009) investigated the access to e-learning opportunities for students  who identified as being blind or having low vision. they conducted two studies, the first where they examined adaptive computer technologies used by students and the second where they surveyed students on their perceptions of the e-learning platforms their professors used. The results for the first study found that 100% of the students who were blind and 50% of the students with low vision used screen reading technologies, 90% of the students who were blind and one third of the students with low vision used optical character recognition software, two thirds of the students who were blind and 4% of the students with low vision used refreshable braille displays. They determined that the most popular adaptive software the students used was screen magnification. The second study results determined that the course syllabus, web page, forums, and email were accessible, but that videoconferencing, online tests and quizzes, and Flash supported media proved difficult to access. These results indicated that the online courses were not completely accessible to students who are blind or have low vision.

Koch, L. C., Mamiseishvili, K, & Higgins, K. (2014). Persistence to degree completion: A profile of students with psychiatric disabilities in higher education. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 40(10), 73-82.

Koch, Mamiseishvili, and Higgins (2014) investigated the persistence in college continuance and completion for students with psychiatric disabilities. They found that after six years of the study that over half of the students with psychiatric disabilities persisted in college or had obtained a degree. The students typically attended a two-year college, in which many did not take remedial coursework, and aspired to continuing full time and eventually obtaining a bachelor’s and mater’s degree. They also determined that the more frequently these students met with academic advisors, the likelihood of the students continuing increased. The accommodations that these students typically received were alternative exam formats and tutors to assist in their learning and homework. It was not clear whether the accommodations included assistive technology.

Mamiseishvili, K., & Koch, L. C. (2011). First-to-Second-Year Persistence of Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Institutions in the United States. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 54(2), 93-105.

Mamiseishvili and Koch (2011) discuss the changes in disability laws that required colleges to increase their access, retention, and degree completion rates of students with disabilities through implementation of transitional programs, making instructional materials accessible, and using best practices in teaching. They addressed that these needs also extended to military veterans that served in active duty after 9/11. They determined that colleges needed to focus on their retention rates in the populations of veterans and students with disabilities to assure that the lack of accessibility and transitional programs were not causing these students from completing their degrees. They found that there was an increased association with the rate of dropout to students who had physical, mental, and speech and language impairments. There was a decreased association of dropout rates for students with dyslexia and health impairments. Students with sensory conditions, ADD, and emotional/psychiatric disorders had a 25% dropout rate. If students received accommodations that gave them waivers or course substitutions, readers and scribes, the dropout rate decreased.

Solovieva, T. I., & Bock, J. M. (2014). Monitoring for Accessibility and University Websites: Meeting the Needs of People with Disabilities. Journal of Postsecondary Education & Disability, 27(2), 113-127.

Solovieva and Bock (2014) investigated the accessibility of a large university’s website in order to create trainings and guidance for other universities that need to make their content accessible to adhere to ADA compliance. their goal was to improve the accessibility of the university’s website by determining if it could pass automated web accessibility tests, addressing the issues that the university faces in accessibility, and what improvements could be made. the found that 51% of the university’s website passed the automated web accessibility test. The most frequent issues with accessibility resulted in the website missing alt-tag, empty links, improper heading structures, and issues with the footer. In order to improve the accessibility of the website, the university created developer groups with trained content managers.

Additional Research

Kato, M. M., Nulty, B., Olszewski, B. T., Doolittle, J., & Flannery, K. B. (2006). Postsecondary Academies: Helping Students with Disabilities Transition to College. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39(1), 18-23.

Kuschner, J., Maldonado, J., Pack, T., & Hooper, B. (2011). Demographic Report on Special Education Students in Postsecondary Education: Implications for School Counselors and Educators. International Journal of Special Education, 26(1), 175-181.

Nelson, D. (2013). Professional Notes: Reaching All Students via Technology. Music Educators Journal, 100(1), 26-29.

Newman, L. A., & Madaus, J. W. (2015). An Analysis of Factors Related to Receipt of Accommodations and Services by Postsecondary Students with Disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 36(4), 208-219.

Papay, C. K., & Bambara, L. M. (2011). Postsecondary Education for Transition-Age Students with Intellectual and Other Developmental Disabilities: A National Survey. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 46(1), 78-93.

Links for Accessibility in Postsecondary Education

UDL On College Campus

Enhancing Accessibility in Colleges

OCR – Joint “Dear Colleague” Letter: Electronic Book Readers

Office for Civil Rights – Dear Colleague Letter

How Does Technology Affect Access in Postsecondary Education?

UNCG: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Higher Education Topics — Accessibility

Web Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education

Web Accessibility

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Ensuring Website Compliance

Improving Website Accessibility



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