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Spring 99 Table of Contents
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Public School Internet Access for Students With Disabilities

Reprinted with permission from Texas Assistive Technology Partnership

The Internet is becoming a very important way that people communicate, get information, and even do business. Texas law created the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board to provide money to libraries and schools to purchase computer equipment so that all Texans can have access to the Internet. This includes persons with disabilities.

Federal law requires that libraries and public schools make their services accessible to persons with disabilities. People with disabilities may require special computer hardware and software to make computers and the Internet accessible.

The Texas Assistive Technology Partnership (TATP) was formed in 1992 to lead and coordinate Technology-Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act (Tech Act) activities in the state of Texas. The TATP is based at the University Affiliated Program (UAP) of the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to the TATP, the Tech Act project in Texas includes protection and advocacy services provided by Advocacy, Incorporated, and training provided by United Cerebral Palsy of Texas. The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education, oversees Tech Act project grants in a total of fifty-six states and territories.

Public schools that have Internet services for students to use, must make those services "accessible" to persons with disabilities. This checklist will help you find out if your school is meeting this important legal requirement. You will probably need to ask a teacher or school staff member to help you complete this checklist.

The first steps toward access

The school staff should have completed these first steps so that they will know what they need to do to provide access to students with disabilities.

_____ Has the school staff examined their facility to determine if there are existing accessibility problems?

_____ Has the school staff surveyed students to determine disability access needs?

_____ Does the school have a staff member in charge of disability access?

_____ Does the school have a plan for disability access?

How access is provided

A school may have a special computer or computer workstation designed to be accessible to many students with disabilities.

_____ Is there a computer designated as "accessible" to students with disabilities?

If yes, does it include:

_____ 1) a table and keyboard tray that are adjustable?

_____ 2) a color computer monitor, 20" or larger?

_____ 3) screen Reading software and either a sound card or speech synthesizer with speech output?

_____ 4) screen enlargement software?

_____ 5) a sign designating the computer or computer workstation as accessible?

_____ Is there a school staff member available to help students with disabilities use the accessible computer or computer workstation?

A second way that a school may provide access to students with disabilities is to modify a computer to meet the access needs of specific students with disabilities who use the computer.

_____ If there is not a computer or computer workstation designed to be accessible to a broad range of students, have any computers been modified to meet the needs of specific students?

Problems with access

There may be students with disabilities in your community who are unable to access the Internet using the computers in their public school.

_____ Are you aware of anyone who has experienced problems accessing the Internet in a public school because of a disability?

_____ If yes, has the school taken steps to provide that individual access?

Libraries that have Internet services for the public to use must also make those services "accessible" to persons with disabilities. TATP has a similar checklist for public libraries.

TATP wants to hear from you! Please let us know about Internet access in your community. The Texas Assistive Technology Partnership may be reached by calling our toll free number: (800) 828-7839, by e-mail: johnz@utxvms.cc.utexas.edu, or by mail: Texas Assistive Technology Partnership, The University of Texas at Austin, George I. Sanchez Building, Room 252, D5100, Austin, TX 78712-1290.

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Last Revision: September 4, 2003