Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Why the Internet #Sux: Lessons from @TheBillyGregory on #GAAD at #NYCDiCon19

The Internet #SUX because it was designed in a way that shows only “SOME USERS EXPERIENCE” matters.
Screenshot from Billy Gregory's presentation at NYC Digital Inclusion Conference. The sign says: Some Users Experience. The letters SUX are taking out of each word in fiery yellow. Beneath that are the words: And only their experience matters.
Slide from Billy Gregory's presentation at the Digital Inclusion Conference

This is the message Billy Gregory shared on Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#GAAD).

In his talk he explains exactly what that means and what we can all do to make it better. Find out what he
said by checking out the presentation he delivered at the Digital Inclusion Conference hosted by Mayors Office of People with Disabilities in New York City.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Presentation Checklist: 5 Ways to Prepare for Presentations

Innovative educators understand the importance of being prepared to give a great presentation to inspire and influence others. Keeping these five ideas in mind, will help ensure you don't fall short.

Presentation Checklist

    Lisa Nielsen presenting to educators, who are not in the photo. Representative Charlie Rangel is standing next to her.
  1. Have speaker notes on your slides. 
  2. Know how to access the speaker notes as needed. 
    • When I present, I have speaker notes view on my phone.
  3. Use the speaker notes to make a transcript and practice it.
  4. Submit your presentation to the person who requested you speak in advance and ask for feedback.
    • If you are doing this for a class, ask your teacher for feedback before you present.
    • If you're a teacher, ask your students to share their presentations with you for review before they present live.
  5. Arrive about at least 15 minutes early. Use this time to:
    • Prepare yourself.
    • Check your tech. 
      • Don't forget to check the sound.
    • Connect with participants.

Your turn

Do you do you, or your students, do each item on the checklist before presenting? Any other tips, tricks, or ideas?

Friday, May 17, 2019

Learn about #DigitalAccessibility via #NYCDiCon19 LiveStream

Thursday, May 16th was Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#GAAD). On this day there were events hosted around the globe. If you missed it, don't worry. The Mayors Office of People with Disabilities in New York City captured their Digital Inclusion Conference via livestream. Check out the video below to learn more about topics like internet human rights, digital accessibility, and inclusion by design.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

5 Tech Resources for the Blind or Visually Impaired

When thinking of ways to support those who are legally blind, two supports often come to mind. Guide dogs and Braille. It's no wonder. Guide dogs provide their owners with a sense of freedom, an increased level of confidence, and a feeling of safety. Blind people who know Braille and use it find success, independence, productivity, and are more likely to find employment.

Surprisingly though, of the 1.3 million people in the United States who are legally blind, only about 2% have guide dogs according to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Also surprising is that fewer than 10 percent are Braille readers according to a report from the National Federation of the Blind. Unfortunately, these supports are currently generally reserved for the elite in our society because of cost and access. These are unfortunate statistics.

Fortunately, there are low-to-no-cost technologies that provide support to the visually impaired and blind population.

Five technologies to support the visually impaired and legally blind.

Exploration Apps

There are apps that provide GPS. These apps let you explore the world around you using audio messages. It tells you about nearby places, and it also will set up routes. The app lets users point the phone in your hand in any direction to hear the nearest places as virtual talking signs. When pointing straight at a virtual sign the speech is loud and clear, but as you point away from it, the speech starts to get staticky, so you have quick audio feedback about the exact location of the virtual talking sign.

Here are the two popular free apps.
overTHERE (iOS only)
Lazarillo (iOS and Android)

Sighted Volunteer App

Be My Eyes enables blind or visually impaired users to lead a more independent life by giving them access to a network of sighted volunteers and company representatives. By the tap of a button, users can get connected to a sighted volunteer, who is ready to provide visual assistance for the task at hand. You can request assistance at any time of the day, from anywhere, and it will always be free.

Seeing Assistive Technology

These are apps that narrate the world around you using a phone or glasses to identify what is around you out loud.
Screenshot of Tap Tap See, Seeing AI, and Google Lookout

Tap Tap See (iOS and Android)
Seeing AI (iOS only)
Google Lookout (Pixel only)

These videos show how this technology works.

Alt Text

More and more content creators realize the importance of including alternative text (alt text) with their images. This allows the person consuming the content to understand what is in a picture if they are unable to see it well.

Screen readers

Browsers like Chrome have screen readers built in. Other browsers like FireFox have addons. There is also screen reading software.  

Here are some that are popular:
JAWS (commercial)

Your Turn

Of course there are far more than five tech resources out there. These are some that are popular among innovative educators. What is your experience? Have you used any of these resources with your students are families? If so, what has your experience been? Are there other resources you’ve used and loved that are missing?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Make Accessible Social Media Photos

Screenshot of the three steps a content creator takes to make photos accessible as explained in the blog post.
Steps to make accessible photos in Twitter

Social media enables us to produce content for authentic audiences. However, it is also important to ensure this content is inclusive. That means making photos accessible. To do this, the creator of the post must include alternative text (alt text). Unfortunately, it's not baked into most platforms without taking a few extra steps. 

The NYC Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities offers the following guidance.

Adding Alt Text to Social Media

  • Twitter - First, enable alt-text within your account settings under “accessibility.” Then, before tweeting an image you will receive a prompt that says “add description.” 
  • Facebook - When posting an image, tap “edit photo” and then “add alt-text.” 
  • Instagram - When posting, go to “advanced settings” and then “write alt-text.” 
  • Blogger - Click on the photo. Select properties and then "write alt-text."

What makes good alt text? 

Good alt text has a good description. Descriptions are usually one sentence. Below are five questions to ask yourself when creating alt text,
  • Who is in the photo?
    • Main person(s)
    • Additional people
  • What are they doing?
  • When was the photo taken?
  • Where is the photo being taken?
    • Was the photo taken at an event or occasion? 
    • If so, what was it?
  • Why is the photo being taken?
These are also questions that can be used to make a good photo caption. 

Classroom Applications

Innovative educators understand that today's students must not only know how to  produce content. Students also must know how to produce accessible content. 

Find some content from student's learning materials or current events. Ask students what alt text they might create using these five questions. Have students share the alt text they've created and discuss which option might be best and why.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

#OhMyGAAD - Are You Ready for Global #Accessibility Awareness Day #GAAD? May 16, 2019

GAAD logo
Innovative educators can prepare for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) which takes place on Thursday, May 16th. GAAD was launched in 2012 to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different abilities. Read this for more about the background of the day and Joe Deven, who started it all.

This is particularly important for educators because they understand the importance of creating inclusive content for students and families. They also understand that to prepare today's students for modern careers, they too must understand how to create accessible content from basic documents and presentations to their day-to-day interactions on social media.

Recognized on the third Thursday in May each year, this global event inspires a growing list of in-person and virtual events each year.

Seven-Day GAAD Challenge

One such event is being organized by website management company Siteimprove. You can join their seven-day GAAD challenge. It is designed to help you learn, share, and act on digital accessibility and inclusion. Join the challenge and you'll receive a daily email challenge that will help you make the world a little easier for everyone to navigate.

How does it work?

  1. Sign up! It's free.
  2. Once you sign up, you will join the seven-day email challenge delivered to your inbox with information, accessibility resources, and tips about digital accessibility.
  3. Spread the word and encourage others to join. 
  4. Miss something? Check out the recap.
You can discover what else is going on by following Global Accessibility Awareness Day on 
TwitterFacebook, and by visiting their website.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Learn About Digital Accessibility & Inclusion from Educators

The topic of the #NYCSchoolsTechChat in May was hot to best provide inclusive digital content and environments for students and families. Members of the #NYCSchoolsTech community chimed in with powerful ideas and advice. Check out the Wakelet below to learn some of their insights.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Digital Accessibility & Inclusion Twitter Chat on Thursday, May 2nd

This month's #NYCSchoolsTechChat will give participants ideas for how they can create digitally accessible and inclusive environments for students and families. Participants can chat here, then come to our in-person Summit on digital accessibility and inclusion on May 23rd. Details are at tinyurl.com/NYCSchoolsDigInSummit

#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon moderates with me (Lisa) throwing in my two cents. 

You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

Q1 How would you explain the difference between accessible and inclusive? #NYCSchoolsTechChat #NYCSchoolsDigIn #DigitalEquityNow

Q2 What challenges are you facing in your classroom that get in the way of ensuring all of your students have digital access? #NYCSchoolsTechChat #NYCSchoolsDigIn

Q3 What approaches have you/your school implemented to address the problem? #NYCSchoolsTechChat #NYCSchoolsDigIn #DigitalEquityNow

Q4 The #NYCSchoolsTech Summit on Digital Inclusion will feature Google, Microsoft, Apple, Smart / Teq, and BrainPop. What are some ways these companies have made digital accessible for your students?

Q5 What are some ways your school could provide digital inclusion to all students? #NYCSchoolsTechChat #NYCSchoolsDigIn #DigitalEquityNow

Chat details are below:
Date: Thursday, May 2
Time: 7:00 pm
Topic: Digital Inclusion & Accessibility
Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools)
Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)

Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat & #NYCSchoolsDigIn and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Facebook Mentorship Program Supports Educators

Facebook has a mentorship program available to people within select groups with a focus on parenting, professional, or personal development. This means admins can offer this feature to members of their groups. Those who are members of groups using this feature, can offer or find support. Members can determine how much time they want to spend together and what goals you want to work towards.

Screenshot of Step 1 of having a mentor: Get to know each other.

Here’s how it works:

Group admins create a mentorship program

Admins can choose from a variety of template programs, such as career advancement, skill development, or encouragement and support, and select the one that best fits their community’s needs.

People sign up as a mentor/ mentee

Group members can sign up to be a mentor or a mentee then create a profile indicating what they’re looking for support with, or how they might be able to provide support. All group members can see these answers and start a mentorship conversation with you in Messenger.


  • Explain what you can help with: Talk about strengths / skills.
  • Be yourself: Mention a hobby or interest.
  • Share why you want to help: Let people know what inspired you to do this.
  • Reaching you: Indicate preferred ways and times to communicate.


  • Share what you need help with: Talk about the kind of support you need.
  • Be yourself: Mention a hobby or interest. It will help people to get to know you. 
  • Describe what kind of mentor you need: Include qualities or specific kinds of experience that will help you.
  • Reaching you: List your preferred ways and times to communicate.

Here is what happens each week

Week 1: Get to Know Each Other 

Introduce yourself and share what you hope to get out of this program. Discuss what will make this mentorship more successful like how you prefer to communicate and what your schedule is like. Tell each other about your current jobs. What do you love about it? What do you wish was different?

Week 2 – 7: Continue Getting to Know Each Other

During these weeks topics discussed include:
  • What was your first job?
  • What's a good piece of advice someone gave you?
  • Describe a trip you took that was memorable.
  • If you had a free day, how would you spend it?
  • Talk about someone you admire
  • What's something you've done that you're proud of?

Week 8: Identify Your Strengths

Make a list of your favorite and least inspiring parts of your work. Discuss ways your career can be aligned to interests.

Week 9: Setting Goals

What career goals fit your strengths? What small steps you can take to achieve your career goals.

Week 10: Making a Plan

Work with your mentor to identify what steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal in the ideal amount of time.

Week 11: Measuring Success

Take some time to reflect on your progress so far. Have you reached some of your goals?

Week 12: Celebrating Wins

Review all that you have accomplished together!

Your turn

What do you think? Is this something you would want to be a part of in a group in which you participate? How could you use this in your work? 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Accessibility vs Inclusion. What's the Difference?

The World Report on Disabilities says that 15% of the population today lives with some form of disability. If you're not in that 15% today, chances are you may be In the future. That's because in the years ahead, the prevalence of those with disabilities will rise as the population ages. In fact The Institute on Disability reports that more than 1/3 of those over 65 have a disability. 

It's the law

Making the world accessible to those with disabilities isn't just the right thing to do. For some it has become law. For example, in 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. More and more businesses are following this lead, not just for ethical reasons, but also because accessibility means more customers.

Defining accessibility

When accessibility is addressed, everyone can understand a space, integrate in it, and/or interact with its content. It lessens the burden for those needing accommodations to fully participate and engage. 

Those trying to address accessibility understand the importance of technology. In fact, in many cases, digital is what makes accessibility possible. There are numerous ways that technology can serve as the eyes, ears, hands, and mouth for those with disabilities. 

But creating with accessibility in mind, is just the beginning. 

From accessibility to inclusion

Accessibility and inclusion are closely related, but inclusion goes even further. This chart outlines what happens when we move from accessible to inclusive.

Opens the door to an equivalent experience.
Provides the same experience for all people.
Considers people with varying abilities and differences afterwards.
Includes those with varying abilities and differences before and during the design process.
Designs "for" those with differences.
Designs "with" those with differences.
Usually refers to accommodations for those with disabilities.
Designed for all people. Those with disabilities as well as those who speak other languages, observe different religions, make different lifestyle choices, and anything else.
Designing afterwards by making adaptations, retro-fitting, and/or creating new and specialized design. 
Designing, from the beginning, products and environments that can be used by all people.
You must take extra steps to make something accessible.
You don't have to take extra steps to make something accessible. It is a design feature.

Uses neutral language for example, avoid saying things like "all rise" and use gender neutral language.

Two photo panels use boxes as accommodations for three people to see over a fence. The last panel removes the fence so all can see without accommodation.
A box is an accommodation to make viewing accessible. Removing the fence makes it inclusive.
Photo credit and a super interesting story from the photo's creator Craig Froehle.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Does Social Media Need To Step Up Its Accessibility Game?

Back in the 80s Tim Berners-Lee was launching the World Wide Web, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had become the wealthiest person in the world, and Mark Zuckerberg was busy being born. 

Fast forward a few decades and all these formerly young-spry tech-preneurs are aging. Even Zuckerberg will age out of the young professional category in a few years.

Chart showing percentage of people with disabilities. Under 5: less than 1%, 5-17: 5.4%, 18-64: 10.4%, 65+: 35.4%
Source: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center
on Disability Statistics and Demographics
Technology was not designed by or for those with disabilities. However, as the population ages, whether it's visual, auditory, cognitive, or physical, their likelihood of acquiring, or having those close to them acquiring, a disability increases. 

Designing for all should be "a part of," not "apart from" the development process. But is it? Is accessibility baked into to the development process? 

Let's take a look by looking at social media examples.


 You must take ten steps too many on Twitter to use alt text

Their site says: 
When you Tweet photos using the Twitter app for iOS or Android, or on twitter.com, you have the option to compose a description of the images so the content is accessible to people who are visually impaired.
Who wouldn't want content to be accessed by people who are visually impaired? This should be a feature, not an option.

Twitter has not stepped up its accessibility game. 


Facebook is a bit better. It auto generates alt text using object recognition. However, to customize the alt text, it still takes too many steps. 

The steps to add captions are too complicated. Rather than go through a confusing list of steps, captions should be auto-generated, then users should be able to go in and edit them.

Facebook has work to do in their accessibility game.


Facebook purchased Instagram, so it's no surprise, that they also auto generate text that can be customized. However, like Facebook, rather than bake in the customized alt text option, you must navigate your way to it

Adding captions. Not so easy. This article takes you through the process while acknowledging what a hassle it is.

Instagram needs to step up their accessibility game.

And the award goes to...


The least accessible of these social media platforms is SnapChat. There's even a user who started a petition to bring attention to the issue. USAGov provides a complex guide on making accessible stories, but mainstream users won't have time for that. Some innovative users have found ways to hack accessibility, but accessibility should be a feature, not a hack.

SnapChat has a ways to go to meet the needs of their disabled users.


The most accessible social platform of those presented is Google's YouTube. It auto generates captions. No extra effort for the video creator. If the captions are wrong, you can edit them without too much effort.

While there is always room for improvement, YouTube is doing a good job. Others should take note.

The power of the Web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Looking Back - Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The law (29 U.S.C § 794 (d)) applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information comparable to the access available to others. 

In 2009 Berners-Lee expanded that view finding the World Wide Web Foundation to promote Internet accessibility and equality for all. In 2018 Berners-Lee kicked off a global campaign that included a “Contract for the Web,” urging governments, Internet companies and users to commit to a set of principles to protect the openness and accessibility of the Web. The Washington Post reported that upon the campaign’s unveiling, more than 50 organizations had endorsed the principles underlying the contract, including the French government, Facebook and Google.

The Verdict - Yes: Social Media Needs to Step Up Their Game

Though it is only Federal agencies that are "required" to make digital content accessible, tech companies need to step up their accessibility game too. It is a moral, ethical, and financial imperative for technology companies to develop and iterate their platforms with audience in mind following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Tech companies can start by having the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Checklist in hand as they develop and update their platforms to be designed for all.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

4 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Limit Tech Use to A Communal Area

Girl sitting with computer
Youth need privacy for healthy growth, development, and to work through ideas. Yet in these monitoring-obsessed days of child-rearing, privacy is often thrown to the side in exchange for surveillance

That's why innovative educators help parents see past simplified safety advice like: only use technology in a communal area. While imposing such restrictions is easy and may give a false sense of security, it is ineffective.

Here's why:

Does not foster trust

What's better than monitoring is working to foster trust and staying connected with your child. When you have developed connections and communication, your child is more likely to share what she’s up to.

Drives behavior underground

Monitoring doesn't stop bad behavior, it drives it underground. Find out for yourself. Ask a teen who's monitored if it makes them stop doing something or just become better at lying about what they're doing.

Your child needs privacy 

Wanting privacy goes along with the development of independence. A young person doesn't want all their thoughts, feelings, and creations on display. Privacy allows young people to work out their thinking and feelings in a safe place.

Does not promote safe independent use

Your child is not always going to be using technology at home and you are not always going to be there to monitor them. More effective than surveillance is supporting your child in using technology effectively. This means fostering a trusting relationship where you can speak to one another.

Your turn

What do you think? Is this in alignment with advice you give parents? How are you helping to instill responsible use in the youth with whom you work?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Increase Screen Time to Increase Literacy Proficiency

Like it or not, educators and parents of young schoolchildren know (or will soon find out) the rigorous literacy demands being placed on students today. A friend shared she was surprised by the reading level and number of books her six-year-old was supposed to be reading. She'd been reading bedtime stories to her daughter. What she didn't realize was that schools today expect young children to be reading their own stories with proficiency at such a young age.

The research

This is happening despite research that indicates we are pushing children to learn before they are developmentally ready. Doing this can have harmful consequences for children.

In their report Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose, education professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige and her colleagues write about the hazards of early reading instruction. They warn: “When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion.

Unfortunately, if you’re a teacher or parent, even if you feel this way your job and/or child’s success depends on how they meet today’s expectations.

What not to do

One of the worst things a parent or teacher can do is to associate reading with anxiety and failure. One way to avoid this is to make reading fun with as many scaffolds as possible.

While for some families this may mean investing in expensive programs or tutors to help their child keep up, there is another way.

Finding high-quality early literacy apps.

Solution: Increase Screen time

If you’re lucky enough to be in a district that purchases and provides a platform such as Footsteps2Brilliance students will be more likely to meet today’s demands. Their research shows that in just one month students have measurable results in vocabulary acquisition, critical thinking, and comprehension. Outside research shows that students who used Footsteps2Brilliance gained 7 months of vocabulary acquisition on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test in just 1 month. That is almost an entire year’s worth of academic progress.

Unfortunately, you may not be in a district that uses advanced tools for advanced literacy. Fortunately, there is an app now available to any parent or teacher for students. The app can be downloaded even if their school or district has not invested in it. 

It’s called Rivet. It’s free! It also has no ads and it’s COPPA compliant.
Screen shot of Rivet library. Includes book categories and titles.

The app contains more than 2000 leveled books for students in grades K-2. The app has a kid-friendly interface with word help to decrease frustration level. It has a read along feature enabling the book to read aloud to children. It is personalized so kids can choose their favorite books, avatars, and skins. It also has authentic, real-world reflection. Readers can rate and review each story they read. They can also save favorite stories and play games based on the stories they enjoy the most.

Using an app like Rivet means increased screen time results in increased reading time. What does that look like for readers using Rivet?
  • +20% more time reading
  • 29 average minutes per day reading
  • 4.2 nights per week read
  • 5.3 books read per day

The Verdict

While click-bate headlines love to scare parents and educators about the risks of screen time, it’s not that simple. Intelligently directed screen time with adult guidance and support can be the very thing kids need for success.

Your Turn

What do you think? Are apps like Rivet or Footsteps2Brilliance something that could help the students with whom you work? Have you tried them? Have you had success with something else?