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ATHEN Quarterly Meeting 4-22-2020

We had a “listserv in real time” discussion with approximately 75 participants from do zens of schools and organizations. Thank you all for the robust comments in the chat!!

NOTE: Names of institutions and individuals have been removed. Contact ATHEN President, Dawn Hunziker if there is a comment you would like to follow up on with the institution/individual who made the remark. Notes documented by Krista Greear. Please feel free to edit with additional notes. 

Proctoring Exams


Making textbooks accessible


Captioning / Accessible Videos


Returning AT Equipment

In-person Labs

Budget Impacts


Accessing Higher Ground Conference in November

Proctoring Exams

  • Examity

    • Not having blind students use this at this time due to automatic login options

    • Not using proctoring software for high stakes testing

      • Using different testing means

    • Most features are accessible but some concerns in the past around profile creation

    • Haven’t testing the newer features that are available now due to COVID

  • HonorLock

    • Didn’t work for SR or keyboard users

  • Respondus?

    • using 3 different versions at their schools, keyboard commands

    • Respondus Lockdown Browser is pretty good from a screen reader perspective with NVDA and JAWS but Monitor is not.

    • Respondus did not work with text to speech software such as Kurzweil and Read and Write.

  • ProctorU?

    • For Proctor U. We worked with Proctor U to get a screen reader and keyboard friendly version. Think that has to be requested and then they set that up for the user

  • Publisher-provided exams?

    • How many college/Universities use learning tool integrations vs professor-led teaching? That will have its own accessibility issues, but also will take away the "proctoring" concern. (i.e. McGraw Hill Connect, MyMathLab, Zybooks. etc.). We spend a lot of time working with educational vendors to evaluate their products and they all come with the standard issues: captions, transcripts, not keyboard friendly, not screen reader friendly, not understandable interactions. If those will be considered for summer and fall, they need a long time to get alternatives and fix accessibility  issues

    • Really hit and miss, depending on the publisher, the age of the tool, etc.

    • Good points of contact for publishers regarding concerns about accessibility in tools??

    • Instructors have capabilities of building exams within those platforms, have flexibility to add in certain features (i.e. Alt text in MyMathLab)

  • General comments

    • Move away from proctoring

      • Some faculty understand, others may not

    • Can’t move away from it for certain cases/fields

      • Some of our community college certifications (usually industry certifications) require proctoring.

      • Maybe fields like Nursing prevent the opportunity to move away from proctoring

    • Explore other options for assessment

      • Projects or papers instead of an exam

      • Seems to be a good option for most

      • At my institution one class is giving everyone extended time. Students with accommodation receive the extra hour on time of the extended time.

      • A lot of professors have propose “Take Home” or Projects, but not sure how many have gone that route

    • o   We've pushed it back to faculty to do the proctoring. Although we typically proctor close to 1000 tests during finals, we currently have 3 students for whom we will be proctoring. (Could change in the next week, but not yet. Our Global Campus has been very supportive. Our office and the GC are suggesting that faculty simply turn off the time limits for tests due to so many possible issues (and not all related to disability-related access issues).

    • o   Is moving away from proctored exams a temp thing? Or perhaps a new way of doing business for Summer and Fall terms?

      • §  I am hopeful it's a start to universal design for learning.

      • §  could have a long term effect

      • § bringing up bigger questions for accessibility in assessments, this discussion will continue in Summer/Fall but it’s possible to have less students in the Summer


  • DragonNaturally Speaking

    • Nuance (Dragon) has released an extension of licenses for current users

    • Dragon doesn't work through an open portal access. They do have a Dragonfly option (subscription) license available.

    • Nuance offers a 30-day free trial with a 100% refund if the purchaser doesn't want to or cannot use it. Also if we're asking students to purchase this on their own, there are discounts available through places such as Educational Software & Academic Superstore. If a college purchases multiple licenses with download links instead of CDs or DVDs, the student could have the use of the software on their computers at home for the short run and the licenses can be reused in the future.

    • How to help students when they don’t have a laptop or their laptop doesn’t support this (i.e. ChromeBooks)

      • Voice typing in Google docs (requires internet connection)

      • Second the Voice Typing in Google Docs.

    • If the student really needs the DNS software specifically, consider preloading on a college laptop to be checked out.

  • ReadSpeaker

    • 60-day free trial

  • Vispero/Freedom Scientific (ZoomText, JAWS, etc.)

  • Fusion

  • OtterVoice (notetaking/record/transcript)

  • NVDA

    • NVDA also is free software for BVI

  • Kurzweil

  • Glean note (notetaking software)

  • Don Johnston is currently offering free access to eLearning accessible tools such as Snap & Read, CoWriter, Quizbot and uPar.

  • Read and write

    • We have home license for all students/employees for Read&Write which is great!

  • Zoom

    • I'm teaching Voice Over on the Mac via Zoom.

    • Are any universities moving away from Zoom because of recent security issues?

      • XXX is sticking with Zoom.  We have members of our campus that participate in the Zoom accessibility team though the University of Washington.

      • XXX we are ending our Zoom license, but due to security concerns. We have been converting to Microsoft Teams over the past year.

  • Voice Dream Reader for Apple

    • Excellent for epub

    • Students love Voice Dream

    • I recommend it for those with iOS

    • Voice Dream Reader has Android app.

    • I love Voice Dream

    • And don’t forget Voice dream SCANNER

  • RedShelf Responds and VitalSource Bookshelf

    • offering free access as well. Free now through May 25th but can be extended if you specifically request it. These can be accessed offline as well for those who may have technology issues.

  • General comments

    • Moving to an app or a web-based solution is the safest approach

      • Web-based doesn’t require a certain Operating System

    • What will it cost me moving forward?

    • Software/Internet/Compatibility. Even tech support for these tools will be needed. As an example from my son's class. They are using Google Classroom and he needs TTS. Normally we use Edge because of the integrated speech. But Google Classroom only has some TTS plugins that work. So we have to toggle back and forth between browsers, plugins. TL/DR need a good support document for students so they know what is free, what works, when to use smartphone, when to use desktop, what browser to use, etc.

    • How are training & support being provided to AT off-site users now?

      • We're doing simple Getting Started Guides and WebEx trainings

    • I think there's a huge opportunity for advancement in Universal design learning for ALL students.

  • How are schools giving access to these tools to students?

    • It’s hard if you have an institutional license that’s on a server – how do you give access to students?


Making textbooks accessible

  • Can we rely on publisher-content?

    • It depends

  • What publisher content is available?

    • RedShelf Responds and VitalSource Bookshelf are offering free access as well. Free now through May 25th but can be extended if you specifically request it. These can be accessed offline as well for those who may have technology issues

    • Redshelf, and Vitalsource only have free access if you were already signed up with them.

    • RedShelf Responds. Providing you simple, free access to eBooks during complicated times. To ensure that all students have access to their course materials amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, we're partnering with the publishing community to provide you with up to 7 free eBooks from participating publishers. (Program applies to students at non-profit, semester-based schools, and access runs through May 25th.)

  • Thinking about how I am going to scan books for the summer session (and perhaps fall session)...

    • I am also wondering about scanning books - especially when I am at home and have no scanner, no printer, etc. Many of the scans that professors have provided me are so horrible I cannot use them.

    • Blackboard Ally has a new conversion tool that can help with making accessible versions of text. This said, if crap goes in, what comes out is usually crap too.

    • Captivate Reader is free for up to 10 MB file for epub, pdf, word

  • XXX leveraging Adobe Pro licenses on computers, allowing student workers to log into computers on campus to get to needed technology to help with conversion needs

    • While I worked at XXX, I and my AT staff used remote log in to the alt text conversion lab computers to maximize how many of us could access the software. Heidi's suggestion on checking out equipment to local support staff is a good solution too.

  • XXX getting ready to ramp up for textbook conversion for summer and fall.

    • Issues with proof of purchase. No hardcopy, no file of the book. Hard place for the student.

    • Print shop closed. Bookstore closed. Kinkos not accept outside paper sources. Office Depot will cut books.

    • Check out equipment to local support staff is one approach

  • XXX has a project for document conversion that has come out of everyone working from home.  If staff are in positions that do not have work to do from home, they can learn to do document conversion and do that from home.

  • Getting digital versions of books

    • I have had a couple of students who couldn't get the books and I reached out directly to the author of the book and asked if they would provide a pdf and they did. People are being really kind right now.

      • +2 for authors generosity

    • Do we all use AccessText, Bookshare, Learning ally, (for screen reader copies, if available). Most of all our books are on VitalSource or direct from publishers, but we do use other alt textbook sources sometimes.

    • First alt formats I created came from author files.

    • XXX

      • Making SensusAccess available to all students to help with some general document conversion that students can do themselves

      • Seeing more books coming through as an LTI

    • Work with libraries! To help find digital versions

    • for student resource for converting docs to audio files.; we also have a subscription to SensusAccess

  • General comments

    • XXX - I do not know what publishers my daughter is using for her textbooks, but they turned on the TTS features for all students.

      • Using RedShelf

    • Some librarians are keeping hardcopies of books for several days to help reduce potential passing of COVID

    • Delay in getting the physical book

    • Inclusive Access is a somewhat new model (although some Universities are currently utilizing it) which provides all students digital access to their course materials which will be made available the first day of class. This can be built into a student's tuition but they also have the option of opting out and won't be billed for it. More information:

    • Students can try to sell books back to Amazon, since shipping to a school’s bookstore can be really expensive


  • mentioned several times

  • Notetaking Express 

  • Glean

    • Glean is offering free trial through August

Captioning / Accessible Videos


    • has been an excellent support tool. Adobe has been offering free access if your campus already supported it.

    • Sometimes is good. It really depends on what the goal of the accommodation is. (You should see the Otter transcription I got during one of the AHG presentations!

    • Otter live for transcription in Zoom is pretty good also

    • I used Otter at AHG as well and it worked great for the most part.

    • Also happy for Otter - but we are a smaller school. :)

    • We just started using Otter and instructor's have been recording and posting notes/recordings.

  • Verbit

    • For captioning, we are in the process of purchasing Verbit.

  • Scripts!!


  • We are not providing a ceremony, but rather emailing a Graduation in a Box (Actual mail - not email)

  • working to stream a live YouTube video

  • E-graduation

  • Ours will be virtual.  I've heard students are being encouraged to submit 10 second videos from students.  I'm hoping it will be captioned!

  • We're doing pre-recorded videos for a virtual commencement ceremony

  • Commencement. We are doing a pre-recorded but "live" graduation. All will be captioned but segmented and live participation. (YouTube Live)

  • We won't have a ceremony. Any grads who want to walk, they can participate in the Dec ceremonies. At this time, about 80% have said they want to do so.

  • We have had challenges with recording ASL interpreters as part of the instructor's recording of their lecture on Zoom. The interpreter appears very small.

    • Try to pin the video, if possible

    • I believe that individuals can pin people as well, so the student using ASl interpreting could pin the interpreter, and others wouldn't have them pinned?

      • Host should do this to ensure it’s in the recording

  • There was mention of interpreter service. I have a situation where an instructor orders the ASL interpreter to turn her camera away while she provides service. She feels that he just doesn't want to look at her during the session. Any advise??

    • Instructor needs to understand that interpreters are not optional

    • Pull everyone together to discuss the concern

Returning AT Equipment

  • How are you handling students returning AT equipment such as Livescribe pens, recorders, etc.?

    • I extended loans of tech equipment to end of summer (quarter term) and then will revisit. My office has been using FedEx to ship/return e-text and rebound books.. will probably do the same for access tech

    • Our office is still open (though not to the public).  we have two staff members who alternate telecommuting and coming into the office.  We have a limited number of student assistants working the office as well.  They can mail them to us or bring to office...

In-person Labs

  • Need simulations to replace in-person labs, but it is challenging to determine the extent of accessibility compliance

    • Start with thinking about the objectives – what is the learning that the student needs to demonstrate? Then work backwards, thinking about how to apply it in a virtual environment

 Buying new technologies

  • Some are buying new things like laptops to support students. XXX is doing this.

    • It’s plausible to expect more students could have laptops as a result of this (but is definitely an equity issue so can’t rely on this)

    • The students should not be penalized financially for the colleges' lack of software, hardware, licenses etc. Some brainstorming on how to be prepared for an extension to the quarantining.

Budget Impacts

  • Some known cuts are coming, staff being asked to take furlough days