Computers and Disabilities

The widespread use of computers and the Internet is now commonplace in higher education. College students routinely use computers to complete assignments, conduct research on the Web, and take part in online activities. Although these technologies help students become more productive, concerns exist as to whether the use of these technologies are creating additional barriers for students with disabilities.

The University of Hawaii, in accord with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is committed to ensuring that campus computing and information resources are accessible to disabled students, faculty and staff. Ongoing efforts are a collaboration between Disabled Student Services (KOKUA), the Office of Equal Employment Opportunities and Affirmative Action, UH Libraries, and Information Technology Services. These efforts include making departmental web sites and online instruction more accessible and also providing assistive technologies in the computer labs on campus.

What is Assistive Technology?

A general term used to describe technology that assists people with disabilities such as screen reading software or alternate keyboards is "assistive technology". The Assistive Technology Act (ATA) of 1998 defines assistive technology as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities."

What is Accessibility to Electronic Information?

The term accessibility is used to describe whether a user with a disability is able to input information into a computer and retrieve and use the output effectively. Accessibility can involve the use of a modified keyboard or mouse, an adjustable desk, screen readers, screen enlargers, or speech recognition software. Accessibility also extends to the World Wide Web. Examples of accessible Web sites are those that allow users who rely on screen readers to navigate and interact with Web pages effectively, or provide alternate formats for audio or video files such as transcripts or captioning.