Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stairways to Success

I was recently asked to provide a success story about one of the students in the TRADE program. Glancing though the roster of 40 students, however, I could recall no dramatic success stories. Rather, the emerging mental image was of many earnest laborers methodically pursuing their dreams. Surveying the students diligently working at their computer stations and remembering their excitement during the Achievement Celebration last December, I contemplated how far they have come.
Students have entered the TRADE program with widely varying academic and computer skill levels. They arrived hoping they had found a program that would enable them to build computer skills and/or to become more employable. They just needed to be in a program that would be responsive to their individual needs. They discovered that when given time to learn at their own pace they were able to learn how to use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. They were able to use a search engine and communicate through email. The curriculum was challenging and interesting. They were surrounded by supportive instructors.
The following comments, provided by students recently, are typical:
“I enjoy coming and I’m starting to learn something new every time I come. The staff are nice and everybody is nice here.”
“I really like it because I can go in there now and just do it myself. Before, I had to have somebody to help me. It’s helping me. Some of the stuff that I saved I can see on my computer at home…and show it to my mom.”

“The class is wonderful and I love coming here…It really helps me to be a good worker on the computer and to be professional.”

“I like the class. I learn a lot. It would help me when I get a good job because they would know that I know computers a lot and every time I learn new stuff. They are wonderful teachers.”

The TRADE students are like masons building stairways of personal and professional empowerment. The TRADE curriculum, assistive technology, and individualized accommodations are their bricks, trowels, and mortar. Although daily progress is often incremental, over time the results have proven to be quite substantial. Their methodical, hard-earned successes should be acknowledged and celebrated!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Web Accessibility--the Basics

Written by Rosemarie Punzalan, Communication Specialist and resident web accessibility expert, CFILC

Whether you are a novice with little or no web development experience or new to accessibility, it doesn't hurt to understand the basics of POUR Web Usability. POUR stands for Perceivable Operable Understandable Robust. Below are just some examples to give you a basic understanding of POUR.

Many of us surf the Internet to access communication, commerce, entertainment, information, and other important aspects of life that we take for granted. The most common senses we use when surfing the internet are hearing, sight and touch. These senses are important to our daily Internet access. It is very important that a user has the ability to perceive the web content. Not only is the ability to perceive web content important, but inputting the information into our brains is very important!

There are many kinds of audio interactions we use when surfing the Internet. Some examples of audio interactions are: hearing music, listening to web radio, and watching videos. If you operate a web site, to make your audio information available to individuals who cannot hear, provide captioned audio. Below is an example of a video with closed captions that was posted on

Web sites provide enormous information with content that consists of graphics, multimedia, and text. Individuals who can see can read text, view images, understand the web page layouts, and understand the meaning of colors in certain cultural perspective (for example,– red and green street lights). To make your web content available to individuals who are blind or have low vision, prior to your web design, structure your content (i.e. headings, subheadings, lists, etc.). They rely on screen readers and keyboards to navigate through a web site.

Imagine an individual who is deaf and blind. How would this individual access information? There are ways a person who is deafblind can access information. 1) Through sign language where individuals use their hands to feel one another’s body movements, gestures and sign language; OR 2) A Braille device – a text can be converted to Braille.

A standard keyboard and mouse is often used to access web content, but not everyone can use them. Some individuals use adaptive or alternative devices depending on their disability (for example, a mouth stick to manipulate a keyboard). Blind users depend on a keyboard and screen reader to navigate web content.

To ensure your web site is usable to people of all abilities, you should make sure the web content's language is as easy to understand as possible.

Technology changes and can be very expensive as well as time consuming. There are different operating systems and different versions of browsers. People who use adaptive devices or alternative devices such as screen readers or screen magnifiers to navigate web content do not always update their devices or software to keep up with other changes in computer technology. Ensure your web site is robust through all operating systems and different versions of browsers by testing it on multiple web browsers and operating systems.