Helping Organizations Make their Communications Available to the Disabled

New technology is enabling people with disabilities to better communicate with community groups and other organizations. However, organizations must often make adjustments in their Web sites and other communications vehicles for the disabled to make maximum use of the new enabling technologies.

"Sometimes," says Tom Morales, "it is as simple as placing an <alt> tag with a photo on a Web site." Such a tag enables someone with a visual impairment using a screen reader to hear a description of the photo. Without a tag, notes Morales, the screen reader will read a photo as an unknown graphic. Morales is a projects manager for the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA), and one of the contributors to a manual that provides community organizations ways to increase the accessibility of their communications, facilities and programs to people with disabilities.

The manual, "Access Aware: Extending your Reach to People with Disabilities," was written as a companion to the ATA book, "Computer and Web Resources for Individuals with Disabilities." The manual was produced with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Managing Information with Rural America (MIRA) initiative. The manual and book are available on-line from ATA's Web site, www.ataccess.org.

"The manual has been very well received," says Morales. ATA staff recently conducted a daylong training on the manual at the California State University at Northridge's Center on Disabilities Conference. Morales also reports that the Community Technology Foundation of California is providing training on the manual to approximately 200 of its grantees.

Headquartered in San Rafael, Calif., ATA is a nationwide network of 38 assistive technology resource centers and 83 technology developers. ATA centers serve more than 100,000 people each year, working with consumers, families, teachers, therapists, universities, employers, rehabilitation professionals and the technology industry to develop and use technologies that allow individuals with disabilities to participate fully in the mainstream of life.

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