Wednesday, September 13, 2023


 Michael Barbour's blog Virtual School Meanderings gets a lot more visitors than this blog. It helps that he posts multiple times daily. I asked for him to address this topic and he offered me a guest spot on is blog.

Guest Blog Entry: ADA Title II Regs… IMPORTANT! | Virtual School Meanderings (

Thursday, August 24, 2023

From Virtual School Meanderings: Who Are These Experts?

I'll spill and admit I was one of the members of the discussion that Michael writes about in this post.

This is not the first time I've read an article where a university professor is designated, in the article as an expert on virtual education, had minimum or negligible creds in the particular field, and normally they're used to insert a negative perspective. 

Michael raises the issue in  Virtual School Meanderings Aug 24

Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Podcast: What is True Accessibility

 I was interviewed for this EdUp podcast.  I was, as you'll see, pretty freewheeling. I was told not to prepare, and so that's how I went into it.

But I like the YouTube version better. EdUp didn't caption the session. You'll hear me get into that, but you can use the YouTube captioning with this version.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Texas Legislative Commission on Virtual Education Written Testimony

Raymond M. Rose

Public Policy Chair, Texas Digital Learning Association

Digital Accessibility Certificate Program Design and Delivery Team


Just a little background so you know who I am. I have been involved in virtual education in K-12 since its start. I was part of the team that created the country’s first virtual high school, VHS. But I had been directing one of the first teacher professional development projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) before that. Before getting involved with virtual education, I had been a junior high science teacher, and a high school guidance counselor before becoming a Civil Rights Specialist for the Massachusetts Department of Education, and then trainer and manager for the regional desegregation assistance center covering New England.

In 2007, as a member of the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) Research Committee, I co-authored Access and Equity in Online Classes and Virtual Schools. We knew there was no guidance for the field. Ours was the first publication in the country addressing accessibility issues in online education. In doing the research for that publication, we discovered a school district that had established a policy that students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) were not allowed to take an online course. The Office for Civil Rights cited the school district for violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Unfortunately, we continue to find reports of public schools that have an enrollment policy, yet deny students with IEPs the ability to enroll in online learning opportunities. It’s also relevant to note that the three earliest virtual education programs in the country, Florida Virtual, Kentucky Virtual, and the Virtual High School, have all enrolled students with disabilities from their inception.

Unfortunately, there was little interest in accessibility or that 2007 publication. I presented at NACOL conferences and at other educational conferences on accessibility whenever I could. Interest in digital accessibility was slow to happen in K-12, but moved a bit faster in higher education.

In 2012, the Texas Department of Information Resources, required Texas state agencies and the institutions of higher education to designate an Electronic Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator, though it has taken some institutions until recently to comply.

By 2014, NACOL, now the International Association for K-12 Online Learning  (iNACOL), asked me to write an update so I researched and authored Access and Equity for All Learners in Blended and Online Education became a reality. By that time, there was more interest in the importance and understanding of the need for accessibility. In 2010, the US Department of Education sent a Dear Colleague letter to the presidents of colleges and universities to address accessibility issues with electronic book readers.  That letter stated:

 …universities agreed not to purchase, require, or recommend use of the Kindle DX, or any other dedicated electronic book reader, unless or until the device is fully accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision, or the universities provide reasonable accommodation or modification so that a student can acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students with substantially equivalent ease of use.

Then in 2011, in another letter to K-12 superintendents, they said the 2010 letter also applied to school districts and they issued another letter to provide more information. It also said, among other things:

Schools should begin by considering accessibility issues up front, when they are deciding whether to create or acquire emerging technology and when they are planning how the technology will be used.  To that end, schools should include accessibility requirements and analyses as part of their acquisition procedures.

In my experience, this is largely ignored in K-12 education. When OCR investigations find schools using digital resources that are not fully accessible, the school district will be cited for non-compliance with Section 504.

2014 saw an increase in enforcement of Section 504, especially as related to online accessibility issues. In the compliance reviews, OCR stated their operational definition of accessibility, which is a clarification of the 2010 letter. It states:

Those with a disability are able to acquire the same information and engage in the same interaction -- and within the same time frame – as those without disabilities.

While it’s easy to say schools need to review all digital materials for accessibility before purchase or use, the scramble for digital resources at the start of the pandemic showed how little accessibility was a consideration in the selection of digital resources.

One question is: when do schools (teachers and school leaders) learn about the OCR definition of accessibility or how to review materials for accessibility? The short answer is they don’t. TEA’s certification requirements for teachers and school leaders drive the Educational Preparation Program and Education Leadership curriculums and yet do not include specific mention of digital accessibility.

School districts are required by Section 504 to identify a Section 504 Coordinator. That role is normally just added to the existing Special Education Director’s job description. But, in the place where educators might be exposed to Section 504 regulations, special education preparation, it is generally treated as just like special education. Professional development programs must focus on all aspects of Section 504 to ensure school leaders and those assigned to the role of Section 504 Coordinator have a comprehensive understanding of the regulations and implications of Section 504, especially as it concerns digital accessibility.

New teachers don’t have the knowledge nor the time to add another task to their lives. One solution is the building of high-quality professional development programs for practicing teachers and school leaders. One that will introduce accessibility legislation and provide them with the skills to conduct accessibility reviews of digital resources. And, to make clear that it is morally, ethically, and most importantly, legally inappropriate to deny any student with a disability access to virtual education or digital resources.