Utah State University to open national center for digital accessibility of learning materials

Utah State's National Center on Accessible Digital Educational Materials and Instruction will target education departments seeking to meet new accessibility requirements.
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Utah State University this week announced it’s planning this year to open a new facility that helps state and local school systems provide educational materials that meet federal requirements for digital accessibility.

The $7.2 million National Center on Accessible Digital Educational Materials and Instruction, which will be housed at the university’s Institute for Disability Research, Policy and Practice, intends to provide “targeted” and “universal” technical assistance to state and local school systems, according to Matthew Wappett, the institute’s executive director.

University leaders said the new center will open Oct. 1, in part to help schools meet a new requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act designed to ensure that web content and mobile apps created by state and local governments are accessible to people with disabilities.

Leaders said the program combines the work of two national programs housed at the disability research institute: WebAIM and the Center for Technical Assistance and Excellence in Special Education, or TAESE.


Cynthia Curry, who was named as the new center’s director, said it will rely on TAESE’s past work providing state education departments with technical support on how to meet requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. WebAIM, she said, will provide expertise related to web accessibility standards and training that ensures digital materials, like PDF files and Word documents, are accessible to everyone.

According to the university’s announcement, the new center will also host a website “rich with searchable resources,” such as guides that help school procurement officers ensure the products they purchase meet accessibility standards and guides and tools for teachers seeking to create accessible learning materials.

Web accessibility and digital accessibility have become growing concerns among state government agencies in recent months. Maryland this month launched its “accessibility officer initiative,” to train executive agency staff on accessible design standards. Common accessibility concerns for state governments include outdated websites that aren’t easy to navigate using accessibility devices and the publication of static files that can’t be read by screen readers.

According to the university’s announcement, the new center will be funded by four years of grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.

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