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Minutes for ATHEN Annual Meeting 2014

November 19, 2014

Accessing Higher Ground Conference

Westminster Colorado

Minutes by Susan Kelmer

Edited by Sean Keegan and Terrill Thompson

Sean Keegan called the meeting to order at 6:35 p.m.

Sean allowed everyone to introduce themselves as members of the executive committee:

  • Sean Keegan, President
  • Teresa Haven, Vice President
  • Heidi Scher, Treasurer
  • Susan Kelmer, Secretary.

Financial Report – Heidi Scher

  • Started the year with $4,610.15.
  • Spent: $1,340.00
  • Income: $4,936.25
  • Ending: $6,466.23

This is prior to our making payment to AHG.

Approval of Minutes from 2013 – Sean Keegan

Motion to pass the minutes. Passed.

Annual Report – This year’s Activities – Sean Keegan

There has been a lot going on behind the scenes.

Accessing Higher Ground

Home conference for ATHEN. Howard provided stats. 27 people renewed their memberships, 14 were new members, and several were not sure if they were renewing or new. Conference attendance is up 30% to 360 total attendees, plus more in the virtual conference. Intent is to return to this venue in 2015 and 2016. November 16-20, 2015 are the dates for next year. One of the things that the executive committee of ATHEN and Howard worked on this year was determining the value and benefits of being an ATHEN member and attending the conference. ATHEN members receive a discount to the conference. They also receive access and the DVD for the conference after the conclusion of the conference. As ATHEN members, you will be getting emailed notices on how to access the virtual tracks when they become available. Some are in audio, some are video.

ATHEN has also been working to establish relationships with outside organizations

Who are we as ATHEN and how can we build on what we do to work with other organizations? International Association of Accessibility Professionals, EDUCAUSE, AHEAD. One of the things we looked at was what makes sense to us and what can we do moving forward. There are a lot of people doing great work out there, but we don’t have a lot of internal ATHEN infrastructure that we can fall back on. The same small group of people are doing the same things over and over. There are lots of suggestions, but no infrastructure to support it. We reached out to AHEAD and worked on an Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) to help ATHEN with membership group, financial structure, website support, and how we can move forward. We are seeing a lot of growth around technology and education, and people turning to IT and DS offices to ask what they should be doing to build accessibility. ATHEN has opportunities to provide professional development in the community, and AHEAD has been able to provide the infrastructure and support to move forward with some of these initiatives. Currently the MOU does not involve financial costs but that could be the case moving forward.

Jon Gunderson – Asked what AHEAD is doing with technology, and how is that different from what ATHEN is doing? Is AHEAD becoming more technology based? Are they growing?

Ron Stewart – The AHEAD board approved the MOU. Ron was the bridge between the organizations for a dozen years. The community and AHEAD have looked to ATHEN for clarification and assistance with technology. AHEAD offers a technology track, and they look to ATHEN to be participants in that track. AHEAD has long deferred to ATHEN. At the board level of AHEAD, they are looking for ATHEN to remain as a separate identity, but that ATHEN will step up and provide more of a technology role. The MOU becomes a more formalized agreement of what was already happening.

Sean Keegan – We wanted to formalize the relationship. ATHEN has long-supported technology and provided expertise in the field. AHEAD doesn’t necessarily have that strength, and ATHEN can provide that, plus feedback, to the organization and to the membership, to help everyone understand how we access technology and processes. We formalized in two ways. First, here’s what ATHEN can do. Second, AHEAD can offer an infrastructure that ATHEN desperately needs. We are hitting a critical point where there are multiple organizations out there trying to get our attention when it comes to access technology. We wanted to show that we are unique, that the needs of post-secondary education are different than commercial needs.

Jon Gunderson – What is the advantage of AHEAD and ATHEN being separate?

Sean Keegan – ATHEN members said “what I do may be similar to the goals and objectives of AHEAD, but this isn’t necessarily the way I identify.” We don’t want to lose our identity. So having a formal relationship helps us talk about how we move forward and how we can grow. AHEAD wants to see us be successful, and we want to tap into their organizational knowledge and experience.

Ron Stewart – AHEAD has a mission to nurture smaller, emerging organizations. ATHEN is small, and has been emerging for a long time. AHEAD is about the notion of disability in higher education. ATHEN is about access technology in higher education. As ATHEN grows and is able to pull in more financial support, we may end up being a separate organization once again. 80% of the time, AHEAD is drawing from ATHEN members to support the technology needs. AHEAD also “owns” AHG, so being joined with AHEAD helps ATHEN.

Sean Keagan – What is in the MOU? There is a very small team of people that work on the website. Yet at the same time, there is an opportunity to reach out to a number of people. But there is no one to help get these things up on the website. How do we manage membership? How do we reach out to people, and keep up with their changes? Many people on the executive board of ATHEN are helping to support these things, but it takes away from other things the executive board needs to
do. Where are there opportunities for us to spend money to grow the organization? We’d like to find a way to capture the blogging, tweeting, and sharing of information that is being shared by ATHEN members, but there is no time, and no personnel to get these things pulled together. Having an information infrastructure is a big step we need to make. AHEAD can provide an incubator source, to help us reach out. There are administrators that want to hire someone to handle the technology and accessibility issues, but there’s not even a standard that these administrators can look through. AHEAD can help us with that.

Ron Stewart – Does this require a formal motion?

Sean Keegan – No. The executive council has the authority to create the MOU. It will be revisited and clarified as we grow. He sees it as a growth process, and it will define how we are working with AHEAD. There are a number of state-wide organizations that have worked with AHEAD. We have spoken with them – asked what AHEAD is like to work with. There has been a lot of positive feedback.

Heidi Scher – When does MOU go into effect?

Sean Keegan – as soon as the paperwork is signed, which will be soon.

Ron Stewart – AHEAD gains nothing in this relationship. ATHEN gains. We have had these discussions for years. We have recognized this as an issue. These are all things that we can’t do on our business plan without support. If we didn’t set up the MOU, we would still be discussing these things for the next decade. We have been discussing professional competencies for years, but it has never gone anywhere. With AHEAD working with us, we will have a chance to make these things happen for us.

Stephan Smith – Background on the philosophy: AHEAD is getting something from the MOU. It isn’t money, although that is usually part of it. ATHEN brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. AHEAD recognizes that there is expertise here to be tapped. We are on the verge of allowing the assistive technology trade industry to define what AT will look like. We need students and stakeholders to define this, not the trade arm. We are way more important as two valuable groups of folks, and therefore, keeping ATHEN separate from AHEAD has great potential. There is great gain to be had in having friends on our side of the fence who can provide advice, education, professional development. This is not a charity project for AHEAD. Part of what we do, and what we believe in is that if you raise the water, all the boats go up. So by AHEAD supporting ATHEN, it helps ATHEN advance and become stronger in membership and do more things, and have a bigger voice. It helps everyone.

Sean Keegan – His challenge to everyone: When he or Teresa contact you, asking you to respond when being asked to provide professional expertise or to help AHEAD with their missions, that you consider doing so.

Terrill Thompson – When is the extended deadline for submitting proposals to AHEAD?

Sean Keegan – it was the 12th. However, Teresa is coordinating and may be flexible in accepting proposals.

Jon Gunderson – A suggestion: It might be helpful that when people sign up for ATHEN, it would be interesting to know what other groups they might be involved with, for use in potential collaboration.

Committee Reports

Membership - Joe Humbert

  • 47 professional
  • 11 institutional
  • 5 associate
  • 1 student

That is up from last year, by about 10 members. Renewal information will go out soon.


This feels unsustainable. There is great difficulty in getting people to produce content for the eJournal. At this moment, we are going to put the publications and eJournal on hold for the moment. We are going to look to see how we can take the content we were going to work with and see if there is a better or different way to communicate the information we want to share.

Marla Roll – AHEAD has an amazing journal. There is a lot of pressure at some universities to submit to reviewed journals. So would there be a possibility of having a track dedicated to technology and accessibility?

Stephan Smith – Is there currently a scholarly publication around accessibility?

Sean Keegan – RESNA.

Stephan Smith – There may be a lot of opportunity here, and broadening ATHEN’s publications without difficulty. Perhaps start bi-annually. Does not feel it should be included as a part of what already exists, but needs to be a separate thing, that the audience and opportunity is broad enough.

Jon Gunderson – Other possible opportunities for publication and/or partnership include ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing, plus EDUCAUSE Quarterly and EDUCAUSE Review.

Ron Stewart – The best way to do this is to do a special edition, or a focused edition. There are scholarly journals, there is actual research. Go to the AHEAD website and look at the JPED link. Look at the articles, see what is there. There has been a fair amount of interest. AHEAD membership is cognizant of technology, but not experts. Might be nice to see higher education get an article in a K-12 publication, and vice versa.

Election Results – Dan Comden

  • President elect – Sean Keagan
  • Secretary elect – Wink Harner

New Business

Proposal to modify our membership year from December 1 to November 30th, to a new schedule of January 1 through December 31 to better match with AHEAD’s process. This is a bylaws change so there must be a posting of the change, and a vote to occur at the end of that time. You will be getting an email. Please do your organizational duty to vote.

Todd Schwanke – does this fix the problem/clarifying the issue of when memberships start. When do new memberships start?

Stephan Smith – If you join in the last quarter of the previous year, then you would be good for the next year’s membership.

Proposal to offer an Honorary Membership to Ron Stewart.

Requirement is that it is approved by the executive council, and also motioned and approved by 2/3 of the membership. Joe Humbert motioned, and the motion passed.

Jennifer Sutton – Is Joe allowed to reveal who the other two honorary members are?

Joe Humbert – EA Draffen, Saroj Primlani.

Canvas Working Group – Terrill Thompson

We have an active collaboration with CANVAS, and anyone with interest is invited to attend the UnConference session about CANVAS to be offered at AHG on Thursday. We have been working with them for a year. We work with them by submitting tickets to their workflow, and they work on the issues that are brought up. A new release comes out about every month. They are hammering out issues regularly and have come a long way. They have been able to take our advice on prioritization and getting changes enacted. There are 35 participants from 22 institutions. Send email to if interested in participating in the collaboration.

Ron Stewart – It would be nice if we summarized going back to all of the collaborations we have done, and post it on our website.

Blackboard Collaboration Group – Hadi Rangin

Hadi has led the Blackboard collaboration group for many years, but the university he is now working for doesn’t use Blackboard. We needs someone else to step up and take over this leadership role.

Moodle Accessibility Group – Greg Kraus

This is a new group, which started around the complaint that the University of Montana was dealing with. Much of the work focuses on the issues they needed to fix. Moodle is open source, but there is an organization behind it, and those people have joined the conversation. There is a third party involved, MoodleRooms. Moodle has come back with changes that are being implemented. We had a very good initial push, especially around forms accessibility. Moodle is dead-set on building a new WYSIWYG interface, and have built accessibility in as they go. There is some refocusing of the efforts away from just what Montana needed, to make it sustainable for other projects that will come up. Timing for meetings is difficult since Moodle is located in Australia. Most of the activities are coming from MoodleRooms right now, as they have a big interest in being accessible.

EDUCAUSE – Greg Kraus

Greg leads the IT Accessibility Constituent Group, one of roughly two dozen constituent groups at EDUCAUSE. Our group is the most active:

  • We organized and presented an EDUCAUSE Live webinar for CIO’s, which is archived online: IT Accessibility for CIOs and Campus Leaders. It was very well received.
  • Terrill coordinated the collaborative authoring of an EDUCAUSE publication, Seven Things You Should Know About IT Accessibility.
  • An idea that is currently being explored is creating an accessibility mentoring group. There are accessibility experts and those with no experience. The goal is to partner people from these two groups and help the new people to learn, grow, and become active participants in the greater community.

EDUCAUSE and the TEACH ACT: EDUCAUSE does not seek out constituencies as advisory groups. They are trying to engage in discussions with National Federation of the Blind to come to a common understanding on how they can be more supportive of the TEACH Act or things that look like TEACH Act.

Ron Stewart – AHEAD has issued a formal response to EDUCAUSE’s rejection of Teach Act. He would like to see ATHEN also issue a formal response.

Greg Kraus – It is not that EDUCAUSE rejects the TEACH Act. They do support parts of the TEACH Act, but that has not been made clear in their statements. That being said, there are parts of it they are opposed to.

Ron Stewart – it wasn’t just EDUCAUSE, it was a consortium, and it’s perceived that EDUCAUSE is not supportive.

Sean Keegan – if a working group wants to form to address this specifically. Contact Sean or Teresa off-line if you want to participate in that effort. Executive council cannot take this on at this time.

Hadi Rangin – If ATHEN is now a part of AHEAD, does ATHEN need to provide their own response?

Sean Keegan – ATHEN is still a separate organization. A working group needs to take this up, to present to the executive council to tweak and modify.

Terrill Thompson – Wanted to clarify that Teresa is the point person for this group.

Sean Keagan – Teresa or Sean for coordination.

How do people get involved in some of these committees? The way that committees work, it is volunteer. You get a pat on the back, plenty more work, so be careful what you do. If you are interested, there is a need for participation, and there is a full list of committees on the website. Take a look, and reach out. There are very few people leading the committees. Sean can reach out and task people that don’t volunteer. Many people have stepped forward to help. Others need to get involved. There is much to do. Thanks to Dan Comden, Terrill Thompson, and Joe Humbert for all the extra work they have done this year.

Todd Schwanke – Would be a good idea to post those opportunities to the mailing list regularly. The website and the meetings are a limited audience.

Sean Keegan recognized new members.

Ron Stewart – We all have an incumbent role to bring in students, mentees, etc. to refresh our organization and initiatives.

Wink Harner – Lucy Gruenwald, a regular attendee from Sao Paulo, Brazil, has been attending virtually this year. She heard that Wink was presenting and signed up for the conference virtually. Lucy was very pleased with the presentation.

Meeting adjourned at 8:04 p.m.