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Survey: Accessibility Challenges Persist as Hybrid and Online Learning Continues

By Rhea Kelly09/09/21

With fully online or hybrid course formats still very much in play at colleges and universities around the world, accessibility issues remain a key challenge, according to a recent study.

To find out the state of accessibility in higher education, transcription and captioning company Verbit commissioned a survey of both higher ed professionals and students in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia about accessible materials and technologies in use on their campuses, their familiarity with students’ accessibility needs, and the pain points involved.

Respondents numbered 132 campus leaders and 100 students with a noted disability; responses were collected between April and May of this year.

New Resource Focuses on Accessibility, Universal Design for Learning

by Molly Mayhew | CTT.

What started with an innocent question from an instructor last year brought four university units together to create a new resource with information about accessibility and universal design for learning.

After McKinzie Sutter, an instructional designer at the Center for Transformative Teaching, assisted an instructor in finding a captioning service for YouTube videos, the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities reached out about the potential to share more tips with faculty in relation to accessibility.

Independence Science Receives Award From National Federation of the Blind for Making Science More Accessible

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Independence Science has been recognized by the National Federation of the Blind for technology that makes science more accessible to blind students.

The company received a 2021 Jacob Bolotin Award on July 10 during the National Federation of the Blind’s virtual national conference. Independence Science created the Sci-Voice Talking LabQuest 2, a hand-held, talking data logger that connects to more than 75 sensors and probes. The sensors and probes collect quantitative data across subject areas including biology, chemistry, physics, and earth and space sciences.

Michael Hingson, spokesman and business development analyst at Independence Science, said blind students listen to the data as it is being collected. They also have access to the data afterward for additional analysis.

New Award-Winning App Helps the Visually Impaired Manage Their Wardrobe

Two Industrial Design students from Carleton University have won an Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition award from Universities Canada.

Liana Meere and Mandy Hui took top honours in the competition’s Attitudinal/Systemic barriers category for their concept Closet, a label system that enables people with visual disabilities to independently manage their clothes.

“The Carleton community is incredibly proud of Liana and Mandy in being recognized by Universities Canada for their innovation and dedication towards enhancing accessibility standards,” says Larry Kostiuk, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Design. “Their achievement adds to Carleton’s long-running success at the IDeA student competition and reflects our School of Industrial Design’s strong emphasis on inclusive and accessible design practices, as well as Carleton’s commitment to accessibility within the university’s Strategic Integrated Plan.”

Accessibility Gains Must Become Lasting Learning Practices

We must broaden our focus to create inclusive learning environments that recognize and remove barriers, creating a more equitable system for all, write Raghu Krishnaiah and Kelly Hermann. July 7, 2021

For too long, colleges and universities have waited for students with disabilities to request accommodations before deciding to remove barriers to access and full participation that existed all along.

Higher education’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic shone a stark light on those practices, highlighting the shortcomings of this “wait and see” approach when it comes to digital accessibility and curricular access. In the new normal, post-pandemic education institution, we must broaden our focus to create inclusive learning environments that recognize and remove barriers, creating a more equitable system for all.

Neuroscientist Joey Ramp is Breaking Down Barriers for Disabled STEM Students With Service Dogs

June 29, 2021

People with disabilities lack equal access in academia and this is especially the case in science and other STEM subjects. Having faced this, neuroscientist Joey Ramp is out to change the picture. Ramp helps disabled students with service dogs pursue STEM majors and works with universities to build an open minded, accessible culture.

Joey Ramp was in her early 40s when she began relying on the support of a service dog following a riding accident. She sustained a traumatic brain injury which impacted her cognitive functions to some extent. Ramp had to relearn how to speak clearly and developed PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Candy-like Models Could Make Science More Accessible to visually Impaired Students

Amy Lyer May 29, 2021

About 36 million people are blind, including 1 million children. In addition, 216 million people have moderate to severe visual impairments. However, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education continues to rely on three-dimensional images for education. Most of these images are inaccessible to blind students.

A groundbreaking study by Bryan Shaw, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Baylor University, aims to use small, candy-like models to make science more accessible to the blind or visually impaired.

The Baylor-led study, published May 28 in the journal Science Advances, uses millimeter-sized gelatin models – similar to gummy bears – to enhance the visualization of protein molecules through oral stereognosis or the visualization of 3D shapes via the tongue and lips.

Online Learning Era Neglects Blind Students’ Needs

A year after many campuses transitioned to remote instruction, blind students continue to encounter barriers that undermine their learning. By Lindsay McKenzie
February 19, 2021

Blind students report challenges like materials arriving late after many colleges and universities transitioned to remote learning amid the pandemic.

The shift to remote learning has been extremely challenging for blind students, with some still facing unresolved accessibility issues.

The National Federation of the Blind and other organizations have warned for months that colleges are failing to provide blind students with the timely accommodations and support to which they are legally entitled.


The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is now accepting applications for the 2021-2022 academic year. This year we will be awarding two T-Base Communications Scholarships, two AEBC Scholarships and a British Columbia Scholarship, each with a value of $1,000.

The application deadline for the 2021 AEBC/T-Base Communications scholarship program is Friday, March 26th, 2021. All applications and supporting materials must be received by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Friday, March 26th, 2021 in order for applications to be considered by AEBC.

The application package can be downloaded in French and English from:

Please pass this information along to those you feel would benefit from the program.

The Pandemic Has Made Post-Secondary students’ Mental Health Even Worse

As college and university students face a mental health crisis, faculty and institutions are looking at making structural changes By Julia Mastroianni
Now Toronto, Jan 25, 2021

Among the many negative effects of COVID-19, deteriorating mental health of post-secondary students has been one of the most serious and widespread.

Mental health stressors are a major issue for post-secondary students in particular, though the pandemic has only exacerbated a growing crisis in Canada.

“Things were going downhill in mental health for students across North America before COVID,” says Paul Ritvo, a psychology professor at York University who has been studying the effects of mindfulness on student mental health. “What COVID has done is it has put health and health science in the top headlines, and we have become a more health-oriented society.”