November 6, 2013 Accessing Higher Ground Conference Westminster, Colorado
Minutes by Susan Kelmer, edited by Terrill Thompson
The meeting was called to order by Ron Stewart at 6:35 p.m.
Ron asked for a show of hands of paid ATHEN members. Also asked for a show of hands for new attendees. Asked for a show of hands for people who need to know what ATHEN is. There is a full agenda. Ron is going to try to get us out in an hour.
Treasurer's Report – Heidi Scher
We started with $2,490.06. We made $2,858.55 from membership dues, and $1,743.70 deposits. Paypal is $1,045.87. Our checking is $3,463.92. Grand total of $4,509.79. The big payments this year were the $2500.00 to support Accessing Higher Ground, which will be the same this year. We got $609 from payments for membership through AHG.
Opening Remarks - President Ron Stewart
ATHEN is ten years old now. We've never been large, but our impact on the field is phenomenal. Ron offered congratulations. ATHEN was formed as a professional organization to represent professionals/people who work in higher ed around adaptive technology. Not everyone is in higher education. Some are consultants. Also have a good relationship with EDUCAUSE, as well, through Terrill Thompson, Greg Kraus, and others. If you go on the website you will find our mission. There are things we've tasked ourselves to do, with mixed results. Ron looked at the program for this year, and ATHEN members constitute about 60% of the program tracks. ATHEN and AHG are so interconnected that neither could survive without the other. We are still in the black, even though we don't have a lot of resources. It is about stepping up to the plate and doing what needs to happen.
Joe Humbert is our membership chair. We have 78 paid members, 41 are professional. These could be vendors, OT, consultants, etc. Joe's goal is to break 100 in 2014. Ron thinks this is very doable. We represent 50 universities, internationally. We have 13 institutional memberships. We have two honorary members, E.A. Draffan and Saroj Primlani. There has been a recommendation to add another honorary membership.
AHG and ATHEN
Howard Kramer reported that there are 12 new members, 23 renewals through AHG registration. The conference has grown a bit, a few percentage points, from last year. We have about 333 attendees this year, including virtual attendees. The Universal Design (UD) Grant is a 2-year grant project to promote the use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in university curriculum. A panel discussion will take place tomorrow during the conference. There is also a follow-up meeting at 6 p.m. about UDL. He's been teaching a virtual UD class through University of Colorado this past year, but next year has approval to do a classroom-based class. He is looking for people to present during these class periods.
EASI’s Information Technology and Disabilities (ITD) Journal published 2-4 issues per year from 1994 through 2004, then subsequently published one issue in 2005 and another in 2008. Meanwhile, ATHEN’s E-Journal published four issues between 2005 and 2009. After 2009, both journals had difficulty recruiting submissions. Last year we decided to combine the journals, working with Norm Coombs, to come out with a working journal. We produced one edition in April 2013. A second one is getting pulled together, with the intention of publishing in early 2014 to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of ITD Journal. He would like to see editorials reflecting on how the field has evolved over the last twenty years, and how we expect it to evolve into the future. The Call for Papers was announced in April but no one has stepped forward to express interest, which raises doubts as to whether the project will happen. Google Analytics running on the E-Journal site showed roughly 500 unique visits in the first month, but only about 100 visits per month since. Page views is only slightly higher than visits since people tend to arrive at the site with an interest in one particular article. This is not a lot of traffic, and makes it hard to justify continuing to put time and energy into the product. Terrill discussed this with Norm Coombs prior to the meeting, and Norm supported the idea of retiring the journal if that’s what we decide to do. Ron believes we shouldn't be considering retiring it. If we are a professional organization, what are we going to have to show for ourselves? If we aren't doing the E-Journal, how are we going to let the world know what we do? There is a lot of talent in our organization, and we are accomplishing a lot. This is a chance to champion yourself and your projects. Teresa Haven (journal editor) asks: What can we get from the membership, what kind of feedback? Members say they want the articles, but what is keeping them from submitting articles? What is it about the process that isn't working? Need membership input, and the editors want to keep doing the work if members still want to have it produced. But membership needs to be submitting. You don't have to be a member to submit an article. Issues usually have a theme. A call for papers is issued, and the theme will be advertised then. There have been all manner of articles, from statistics to case studies, to unusual accommodations that have been made. There are not a whole lot of restrictions. If it has to do with accessible technology, it is wanted. We used to have so many submissions that there were articles left over. Ron pointed out that we have no outcome-based research to show that what we are doing works. An entire issue could be spent on this if we had the research. He suggested getting students involved in research projects. E.A. Draffan suggested that the last several days of conference presented an awful lot of information about UD and those PowerPoints and presentations could be converted to articles. Perhaps ask those presenters to provide articles. Terrill asked for a show of hands of people who would be willing to contribute editorials to a 20th Anniversary Issue. About twenty people raised their hands. Terrill will send another Call for Articles to the ATHEN list and may follow up with those who expressed a willingness to contribute.
EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent Group
Greg Kraus leads this group. The annual conference was October 15-18 in Anaheim, California. There were approximately ten disability sessions accepted and presented at the conference. Accessibility sessions have also been submitted for regional events. On November 20, EDUCAUSE will be hosting a webinar titled "IT Accessibility for CIOs and Campus Leaders: Strategies and Solutions", which will include two CIOs as presenters. Next year the group will be working on information surrounding procurement. There are monthly meetings, first Monday of the month. If you are an EDUCAUSE member, there is no cost to attend these tele-meetings.
ATHEN has done some work on accessibility of Google Apps under Greg’s leadership. We produced two reports that are available on the ATHEN website (both of which required extensive time commitment from participants), and have prioritized and submitted our top ten issues to Google. This is not a particularly productive exercise, as Google acknowledged that they would not fix many of the issues, and offered no specific commitment regarding others. Greg is not sure where to go with this project, and welcomes input from others.
Greg and individuals from the University of Montana are working with the Moodle community on improving accessibility issues, starting with the accessibility of discussion rooms. This group meets every other week.
Canvas LMS Accessibility
Terrill has been working with Instructure on accessibility of their Canvas LMS. Seven people have signed on to have a dialog with the vendor. If others want to participate, please contact Terrill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Business Plan has been submitted for approval by membership (see outcome under heading Election). We are going to have to increase dues. One of our biggest issues is that we can't keep the website updated; it is too much work and we can't afford to outsource it. Institutional memberships are also going up, and the plan includes discussion about allowing vendor memberships too. There is a need for paid staff members to get the work done. We can see by how the supportive volunteer activities have fallen off that we need to take a different approach. AHEAD offers business operations assistance to small groups for not much money. For an organization to actually grow beyond 100 people, there has to be some logistics in place. The business plan is well written, with justification for everything.
Ron provided some background of this program. Vendors contacted us to help the organization. One of the things we decided to do was offer vendors an opportunity to have a named scholarship for a student to attend AHG free of charge. Ron will be putting this back together and sending out additional information.
Standards and Credentialing
In the inaugural ATHEN meeting in 2002, the following were among the goals identified for the newly forming organization:
- Development of Professional Standards of Practice for AT in Higher Ed.
- Work towards the development of a credentialing process for AT in Higher Ed.
Terrill met recently with Glenn Hedman, who chairs an Ad Hoc Committee at RESNA to explore re-establishing the Rehabilitation Engineering Technologist (RET) credential, perhaps with specialized focus areas such as higher education AT. He would like to talk with ATHEN about the possibility of collaborating on this effort. Ron talked about the CSUN ATPC program, which is dormant. It is not a credentialing program. Wink Harner added that this needs to be accredited, and it's not just adaptive technology but also the knowledge of how to assess students and a strong knowledge of IT. If we are going to suggest a curriculum, certification, etc., then it needs to be a program that people can enroll in and get certified/credentialed. If we are going to be a professional organization, we need to be sure we are offering something valuable. In 2005 Ron and James Bailey drafted a proposal for credentialing through AHEAD, including a list of courses with abstracts. This is being resurrected and evaluated by AHEAD. Next steps would be for Richard Allegra, Director of Professional Development at AHEAD, to submit a proposal to the Executive Director (Stephan Hamlin-Smith), who would then take the proposal to the Board. AHEAD looks to ATHEN to be the agent on technology, and they are planning to have a conversation with us. Partnering with AHEAD can give us the money and power to move forward. Wink asked who would teach the courses. Ron said there had been identified instructors, experts in the field, who would present different courses. Greg pointed out there was also a similar discussion happening within a newly-formed organization, the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP, accessibilityassociation.org) who first met at CSUN 2013. This is a vendor-led organization, but Terrill mentioned that one of the attendees in his pre-conference session (a person from the U.S. Department of Labor) is active in this organization and she strongly urged representatives of higher education to get involved. Currently there is little or no representation from higher education in IAAP, and the participant feels we should be at the table. Ron pointed out that the need is there for credentialing, but will require people stepping up to make it work. Because there is no professional training for people like us, and no credentials, we are not respected. We all got into the field for different reasons, but never on a straight path. He is encouraging five or six people stepping forward and scoping this out, to see if this can work and what it will take. It has to be able to pay for itself. It does need to be an online-type delivered program. He asked for a show of hands for people who would be interested in completing a program like this. Ron asked the volunteers for this investigation to email him (email@example.com) and get this started.
Dan Comden announced that the online election had 40 respondents/voters. Below are the results:
- The business plan was unanimously approved.
- President: Sean Keegan
- Vice President: Teresa Haven
- Treasurer : Heidi Scher
Dan thanked Ron for being the voice of ATHEN since we started. Ever since the first meeting, he has been leading the charge, keeping things on track, and we wouldn't have come this far without him.
Remarks from Sean
Sean noted that we have talked about a lot of things, a lot of possibilities. He enjoys this conference because he gets out with others, things that are going on, gets great ideas. When he gets back to his office all those ideas are right out the window. He challenges us to not let that happen. Out of all the ideas, pick one that you can keep going. If we can contribute as a group, we can get a lot done. There has been traditionally a small group of people doing all the work. We don't have a lot of time to give, but if we can keep one idea going, we can get much accomplished. Meeting adjourned at 7:50 p.m.