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Minutes for ATHEN Annual Meeting 2009

November 12, 2009

Accessing Higher Ground Conference, Westminster Colorado


President Ron Stewart described ATHEN to newcomers

Everyone present introduced themselves. All three current executive officers were present:

  • Ron Stewart, President
  • Terrill Thompson, vice President
  • Heidi Scher, Treasurer

Treasury Report and Scholarship Fund

  • Treasury balance as of 10/31/09: $3,323.28
  • This balance does not reflect membership dues, which are collected annually at the time of the annual meeting. Dues can be submitted online or in person at AHG.
  • Ron talked about the Scholarship Fund, which was originally created to encourage scholarship in the AT field for students sponsored by ATHEN members. To date, this fund has only been used once to sponsor a University of Washington graduate student's travel overseas.
  • Vendors have expressed interest in sponsoring ATHEN in some capacity and Ron feels optimistic that they would contribute to the Scholarship Fund.
  • Heidi Scher and Gerry Nies volunteered to work together toward reviving the Scholarship Committee.
  • Gerry noted that the ATHEN table at Accessing Higher Ground was not staffed and had no literature. Ron explained that this was due to a miscommunication between ATHEN and AHG.


  • Theresa Haven is the current editor, and is currently seeking 5-7 submissions for the next edition.
  • There is no theme for the next edition. The previously announced theme, "Wild Ideas That Work" failed to attract enough submissions.


There are several collaborations underway with vendors either involving ATHEN as an organization or individual members of ATHEN:

  • Jon Gunderson described collaborations with Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Ebsco, and Exlibris, as well as a web accessibility collaboration group.
  • Hadi Rangin said there are also new collaborations getting started with web conferencing vendors including Adobe Connect, Eluminate, Talking Communities, and Saba Sentra.
  • Ron Stewart is exploring possibilities for collaboration with publishers.
  • Joe Humbert, though not present, was said to be working with Sakai on accessibility.
  • The online application for supporting collaborations was developed and is still maintained by the University of Illinois, but is now hosted by ATHEN at
  • If any ATHEN members wish to start or suggest a collaboration, they are asked to contact Hadi Rangin (hadi AT illinois DOT edu).


Terrill Thompson described EDUCAUSE (the leading association related to information technology in higher education) and ATHEN's ongoing work to increase the emphasis that EDUCAUSE places on accessibility. The EDUCAUSE natonal conference was held in Denver the week prior to Accessing Higher Ground, and on November 5 the EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent Group held its annual meeting, which resulted in the following committees being created:

  • Vendor Relations Committee: Will work with EDUCAUSE on encouraging vendors to promote their accessibility, primarily at the national conference
  • Position Paper Committee: will work to develop a straregy and vision that could be expressed in a ViewPoint position paper

ATHEN members who are interested in participating in these efforts should join the IT Accessibility Constituent Group (EDUCAUSE membership is not required to subscribe to the email discussion list).

Accessing Higher Ground (AHG)

  • On behalf of ATHEN, President Ron Stewart presented $1000 to Howard Kramer, AHG Conference organizer, in support of the conference. This had been approved by the Executive Officers.
  • Howard asked for feedback about the conference, particularly the new location and additional half day. Feedback offered during the meeting was unanimously positive about the new venue. Regarding the extra half day, we would have to wait and see how many people stayed for Saturday sessions. Howard asks that anyone who cares to offer comments or feedback to contact him by email (Howard DOT Kramer AT colorado DOT edu).

Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA)

  • Ron Stewart was strand manager for ATIA Chicago, and said it was very successful.
  • Howard Kramer and Dan Comden are strand managers of ATIA Orlando, which takes place near the end of January. They're still accepting proposals.
  • Historically there has not been much postsecondary content at ATIA, and Ron stressed that it is very important for conference attendees from outside of higher education (e.g., AT vendors, people from K-12 environments) to get the higher education perspective.
  • Dan said that any of the presentations from Accessing Higher Ground would be a good fit for ATIA.


The Bylaws Committee has drafted an amendment to the bylaws that will modify the current election cycle so that all officers will serve two-year terms rather than the current one-year term. Elections will be staggered so that the President and Secretary are elected in even-numbered years and Vice President and Treasurer are elected in odd-numbered years. Discussion of this proposed amendment was favorable:

  • Two year terms would allow better continuity.
  • Two year terms, plus alternating election years between various officers, would give new officers time to learn the job and would enable second-year officers to provide guidance. All of this would be an advantage for newer members wanting to get involved.

In accordance with Article X of the current Bylaws, proposed amendments must be posted to the ATHEN Web site, and members must be notified through the ATHEN e-mail list, at least thirty days prior to a vote.

Changes to bylaws will not impact the current election.

Gaeir Dietrich, chair of the Bylaws Committee, will post the proposed amendment to ATHEN e-mail list soon.

Election of Officers

  • President Ron Stewart asked for a nomination for secretary.
  • Dan Comden read the description of the Secretary job (5.3.3 from Bylaws).
  • Alice Anderson nominated Susan Kelmer.
  • Jean Salser seconded the nomination.
  • Dan Comden noted that according to the Bylaws, elections can be held two weeks after nominations.
  • Nominations will be announced by email by the first week of December, and elections will be held within the first week of January.
  • That should give us time to develop online voting system.


  • Sean Keegan, ATHEN webmaster, reported that the Web Development Committee had met at the CSUN conference in March, and again by teleconference in May, regarding the need to better manage and utilize ATHEN's many distinct Internet resources, including a Drupal instance, wiki, email discussion list, blog (not currently active), and collaboration site.
  • President Ron asked for clarification as to whether ATHEN now had a system in place to support online elections. Dan Comden and Sean Keegan were unable to confirm this.
  • Online registration and online voting are both high on the priority list for new features, especially given the timeline for the upcoming election (January 1, as noted in the previous section).
  • Sean's plan in the short term is to send a message to the ATHEN community (via the email discussion list) soliciting answers to the question "What do you want the ATHEN website to do?"
  • Sean will collect everyone's ideas and report back to the list.

Professional Standards

  • Pratik Patel expressed an interest in revitalizing earlier discussions about developing a set of standards and meaningful certification for the access technology in higher education profession.
  • Ron Stewart reminded those present that this is one of the core goals of ATHEN, and described the importance of AT practitioners having a recognized profession and credible voice (via ATHEN), particularly as future federal laws and policies are pursued that impact higher education but are modeled on K-12 education or otherwise uninformed.
  • Pratik volunteered to lead the Professional Standards effort. Ron said he has an outline of curriculum that he developed from his having approached AHEAD about certification in the past (an effort which never came to fruition). He will share that information with Pratik.
  • Any ATHEN members who wish to participate in this effort should contact Pratik (pratikp1 AT gmail DOT com).

Minutes submitted by Vice President Terrill Thompson