Does Your Website Meet the Needs of Patrons with Limited Literacy, English Skills, Cultural Backgrounds or Disabilities?

The Children’s Partnership has a great set of Guidelines for Content Creation and Evaluation of websites.  You can access them online or download a pdf

These guidelines were developed as a practical tool to help people identify and develop online content that meets the needs of the 50 million Americans who, because of their limited-literacy and English skills, cultural backgrounds, or disabilities, are poorly served by online content today.

These guidelines build upon the growing consensus about how to make online information more useful and reliable, and upon criteria that make content particularly useful and relevant to underserved users. We expect them to evolve with changes in technology and the way people use the Internet.

The sites includes not just the guidelines but an online tool that walks you through the evaluation step by step

Section 1: Baseline Requirements

  • Is the author or sponsor clearly identified? Yes or No
  • Is the site related to the following subjects: education, health, housing, jobs, legal services, finances, cultural perspectives, local content, or other topics of particular interest to underserved communities? Yes or No

Section 2: Requirements for Low-Barrier Web Sites.  Each category in this section focuses on a specific characteristic that can enhance the accessibility of online content. Assign to each applicable item in this section 4, 5, or 0 points.

Literacy Level of Text -

  • Are “active” verbs used instead of “passive” verbs (for example, “The car hit the tree,” instead of “The tree was hit by the car.”)? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Are the sentences clear and short (on average not more than 15-20 words each)? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Is the text written in the simplest and most familiar words appropriate? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Does the site avoid busy or distracting graphics, animation, or audio/video content? 0 4 5 N/A

Languages(s) of Text

  • Is the text available in one or more languages in addition to English? 0 4 5 N/A

Accessibility to Individuals with Disabilities - For information on how to answer any of the questions in this section, see the Help section.

  • Are text alternatives provided for any non-text content on the page (like images, audio, or video), so that it can be changed into other forms people may need, such braille or speech? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Can all of the site’s content and functionality be accessed through a keyboard alone, without having to rely on a mouse? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Is all of the information conveyed with color also available without color? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Do the foreground and background color combinations provide sufficient contrast for those who are visually impaired or colorblind? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Does the site make explicit its adherence to the U.S. Government’s Section 508 guidelines or the Web Accessibility Initiative’s (WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines? 0 4 5 N/A
  • If the site does NOT state its compliance with Section 508 or the WAI, does it make an accessibility policy available to its users? (If the site is Section 508 or WAI approved, mark N/A for this question.) 0 4 5 N/A

Cultural Focus of Content

  • Does the site reflect cultural and ethnic diversity in conveying mainstream/general content? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Is this site designed to benefit or be of use to a particular cultural or ethnic group? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Does the site indicate that it has an “authentic” connection to the community on which it focuses? 0 4 5 N/A

Cost of Access and use

  • Is the site’s content free or low cost? 0 4 5 N/A

Geographic Specificity of Content

  • Does the site provide information that is localized as much as possible at the state or preferably city/neighborhood level (for example, through the use of mapping tools)? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Is the site sponsored by a locally based organization, government agency, or business? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Does the site provide practical information for the local community (for example local job, housing, and school listings, or information about neighborhood events)? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Do members of the site’s intended audience create or contribute content to the content on the site? 0 4 5 N/A

Section 3: Requirements for High-Quality Web Sites

Section 3: Requirements for High-Quality Web Sites

Assign 3, 4, or 0 points to each applicable item marked “PRIORITY,” and 1, 2, or 0 points to each applicable item marked “DESIRABLE.”

SOURCE

Priority + 3-4 points

  • Is the author or sponsor clearly identified? 0 3 4 N/A

Desirable + 1-2 points

  • Are the credentials and backgrounds of the sponsors easy to find? 0 1 2 N/A
  • Is contact information (beyond just an e-mail address, such as phone, fax, or mailing address) easy to find? 0 1 2 N/A

PRIVACY

Priority + 3-4 points

  • If the site collects information about users, is it easy to find the Privacy Policy or “Terms of Use” statement? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does the Privacy Policy include a statement about how personal information is handled? 0 3 4 N/A

INFORMATION QUALITY

Priority + 3-4 points

  • Is the purpose of the site and the target audience clear? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does a scan of the site’s text show it to be generally free of grammatical and spelling errors? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is there a copyright date? Are there publication and revision dates on the articles and content? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the information current, for example has the site been updated in the past month? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the site objective in presenting information? If it intends to have a bias, is the bias clearly stated? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is there a clear distinction between advertising and informational content? 0 3 4 N/A

Desirable + 1-2 points

  • Is the information edited down to the appropriate length for Web use, and is the need for excessive scrolling avoided? 0 1 2 N/A

PRESENTATION

Priority + 3-4 points

  • Does the homepage appropriately indicate the site contents including the options, features available, and intended audience? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the navigation consistent throughout the site? Are the menus clear and the section names descriptive? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is an easy-to-find site map provided on the site? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the text a readable size and style? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Are the graphics simple and attractive without being distracting? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is there an easy way to get back to the homepage from elsewhere on the site? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Do the pages have titles? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does the site function without requiring Flash, Javascript, or other non-HTML technologies? 0 3 4 N/A

Desirable + 1-2 points

  • Does it have an attractive overall look and well-balanced use of color? 0 1 2 N/A
  • Is there a printer-friendly option? 0 1 2 N/A

INTERACTIVITY

Priority + 3-4 points

  • Is there a way to search the site to locate information? 0   3 4 N/A
  • Does the site provide content without the need to log in or register? If registration is required for any part of the site, are the benefits of registration clearly explained? 0 3 4 N/A
  • If there are financial transactions taking place on the site, does the site specify that the information is encrypted, for example, using TLS (Transport Layer Security) or SSL (Secure Socket Layer)? 0 3 4 N/A

Desirable + 1-2 points

  • Is there a way for users to provide feedback on the site’s content, for example by leaving a comment, filling out a form, or using a rating system? 0 1 2 N/A
  • Is there a way for users to contribute to the site’s content, for example submitting articles, links, or posting to a message board? 0 1 2 N/A

TECHNICAL

Priority + 3-4 points

  • Does the site function properly in Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Safari? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the time it takes the site’s pages to load comparable to other sites on the Web? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does the site fit within the width of your screen? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does a scan of the site show it to be generally free of non-working links, missing graphics, “Under Construction” messages, and errors? 0 3 4 N/A

On Goodbyes and Retooling

The last twelve months have been a wonderful blur of positive happenings and changes in my professional and personal lives.  As my responsibilities with my library program have increased significantly in recent months, so has the need to prioritize how and where I channel my energies.   Consequently, I have made the decision to no longer write in this space as I retool to more strategically focus on my work with students and teachers and to redirect my writing energies  into original research and reflection.   I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to write in this space and know the fellow contributors will continue to make this a hub for resource sharing!

Best,

Buffy Hamilton

Digital Divide, Digital Opportunity, Technology Skills Statistics- Fact Sheets For Your State

Yesterday I came across The Children’s Partnership, this is the first in a series of posts highlighting some of the fabulous resources on their site.

The Children’s Partnership is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan child advocacy organization with offices in Santa Monica, CA and Washington, DC.

We undertake research, analysis, and advocacy to place the needs of America’s over 70 million children and youth, particularly the underserved, at the forefront of emerging policy debates.

The hallmark of The Children’s Partnership is to forge agendas for youth in areas where none exist, to help ensure that disadvantaged children have the resources and opportunities they need to succeed, and to involve more Americans in the cause for children.

These Digital Fact Sheets are great, not only do they include statistics on the digital divide, technology skills and the opportunity gap they compare your state to the national average.  They provide a citation for where the statistics were gathered, a value resource when writing grant proposals, make justifications and aligning projects with your strategic plan. I’ve included the GA one at the bottom so you can get an idea.

Developed by The Children’s Partnership, these state fact sheets provide key data regarding technology and youth, making particular note of problem areas. Use these fact sheets to determine where your state stands and to push for improved digital opportunity for youth. Click on a state to access its fact sheet. For Hawaii and Alaska, click on the state name in the list below.

Georgia Fact Sheet
THE NEW WORKFORCE: BENEFITS OF BEING PREPARED WITH TECHNOLOGY SKILLS

  • At present, over half (56%) of employed Americans over age 18 use a computer at work.[1]
  • Between 2004 and 2014, jobs in the information technology fields are expected to increase by about 30%, for an addition of over 1 million jobs nationally.[2]
  • 49 out of every 1,000 private sector workers in Georgia are employed by high-tech firms (19th highest rate in the nation).[3]
  • Georgia ranks 11th in the U.S. for overall number of high-tech workers and 17th for average high-tech wage.[4]
  • In Georgia, high-tech industry workers earn an average of $32,396 more per year than other private sector workers.[5]

HOW WIDE IS THE DIGITAL OPPORTUNITY GAP?

  • 72% of households in Georgia earning less than $15,000 per year do not own a computer compared to 39% of all Georgia’s households and 38% of all households nationally.[6]
  • 78% of households in Georgia earning less than $15,000 per year do not use the Internet at home compared to 46% of all Georgia’s households and 45% of all households nationally.[7]
  • 9% of households in Georgia earning less than $15,000 per year have broadband compared to 18% of all Georgia’s households and 20% of all households nationally.[8]
  • Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Georgia ranks 31st in percentage of households with a computer, 30th in percentage of households with Internet access, and 28th in percentage of households with broadband access.[9]

ARE SCHOOLS EQUIPPING TODAY’S YOUTH? WHERE GEORGIA STANDS

  • 21% of 4th graders and 36% of 8th graders in Georgia scored below the basic level of math that is expected in their grade (national average is 19% and 30%, respectively).[10]
  • There are 3.7 students for every Internet-connected computer in Georgia’s public schools; in high-poverty schools there are 3.5 students per connected computer (the national average is 3.7 and 3.8, respectively).[11]
  • In 7% of schools in Georgia, the majority of teachers (at least half) are “beginners” when it comes to using technology (the national average is 15%).[12]
  • Georgia is not among the 34 states that has education technology standards by grade level.[13]

GEORGIA’S YOUNG PEOPLE MOST IN NEED

  • Of the 2.3 million children in Georgia, 461,000, or 20%, are living in poverty.[14] Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Georgia ranks 13th in percentage of children living in poverty.[15]
  • 34% of Georgia’s children live with parents who do not have full-time, year-round employment (the national average is 34%).[16]
  • 11% of teens in Georgia do not attend school and do not work (the national average is 8%).[17]
  • Georgia residents aged 20-24 have an unemployment rate of 8.9% (the state unemployment rate for all ages is 4.6%).[18]

March 2008

[1] U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Computer Use and Internet Use in the United States: 2003, Issued October 2005, Viewed March 5, 2008: 23-208. http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p23-208.pdf

[2] Jay Vesgo, BLS Current and Projected IT Employment Figures by Detailed Occupation, Computing Research Association, Revised January 13, 2006, Viewed March 10, 2008. http://www.cra.org/wp/index.php?p=71

[3] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Covered Employment and Wages as reported in American Electronics Association, Cyberstates 2007: A State-by-State Overview of the High-Technology Industry. State rankings associated with footnotes #3-4 are based on data that includes Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, along with the fifty states. A ranking of #1 represents the best state; a ranking of #52 represents the worst. (Not available online.)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid. Calculation by The Children’s Partnership.

[6] U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey: Computer and Internet Use 2003, special tabulation by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Calculation by The Children’s Partnership. (2003 represents the most recent data available.)

[7] Ibid. Calculation by The Children’s Partnership.

[8] Ibid. Calculation by The Children’s Partnership.

[9] Ibid. Rankings calculated by The Children’s Partnership. A ranking of #1 represents the best state; a ranking of #51 represents the worst.

[10] U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2007 Mathematics Assessment, as reported by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Profiles by State, March 11, 2008. http://www.kidscount.org/sld/profile.jsp

[11] Market Data Retrieval, “2005-06 Public School Technology Survey,” and unpublished tabulations from MDR’s Public School Technology Survey (2005), as reported in Education Week, Technology Counts 2007: A Digital Decade. This figure includes only computers that are available for student instruction. High-poverty schools refer to schools in which more than half the students are eligible for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program. March 6, 2008: 3. http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/tc/2007/GA_STR2007.pdf

[12] Education Counts Custom Table Builder. Education Week, August 23, 2007. http://www.edweek.org/rc/2007/06/07/edcounts.html

[13] The Children’s Partnership, review of the Department of Education Web sites for the 50 states, conducted December 2007.

[14] U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey 2005 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Revised November 2, 2006, Viewed March 5, 2008. http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032005/pov/new46_100125_03.htm

[15] Ibid. Rankings calculated by The Children’s Partnership. A ranking of #1 represents the worst state (highest percentage of children living in poverty); a ranking of #51 represents the best (lowest percentage of children living in poverty).

[16]Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2007 Kids Count Data Book, as reported by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, February 29, 2008: 51. http://www.aecf.org/upload/PublicationFiles/databook_2007.pdf

[17] Ibid.

[18] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey: Local Area Unemployment Statistics, Preliminary 2006 Data on Employment Status by State and Demographic Group, March 5, 2008: 3-53. http://www.bls.gov/lau/ptable14full2006.pdf

Technology Literacy, A Journey, Not a Destintation

yellow brick roadThe New York Times Magazine has an article about Achieving Techno-Literacy. Kelly focuses on the home school aspects of technology literacy but the points he makes can be applies across the board.

He notes:

But the computer was only one tool of many. Technology helped us learn, but it was not the medium of learning. It was summoned when needed. Technology is strange that way.

The same could be said for books. It’s funny how we often see technology as more than the tool it is.

His observations on what it means to be technology literate are spot on.

one of the chief habits a student needs to acquire is technological literacy — and we made sure it was part of our curriculum. By technological literacy, I mean the latest in a series of proficiencies children should accumulate in school. Students begin with mastering the alphabet and numbers, then transition into critical thinking, logic and absorption of the scientific method. Technological literacy is something different: proficiency with the larger system of our invented world. It is close to an intuitive sense of how you add up, or parse, the manufactured realm. We don’t need expertise with every invention; that is not only impossible, it’s not very useful. Rather, we need to be literate in the complexities of technology in general, as if it were a second nature.

Technology will change faster than we can teach it. My son studied the popular programming language C++ in his home-school year; that knowledge could be economically useless soon

I think you’ll find the break down of the kind of technology literacy he attempted to impart to his son useful, not just to apply to the classroom, or workshops but to yourself and your journey.

  • Every new technology will bite back. The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused. Look for its costs.
  • Technologies improve so fast you should postpone getting anything you need until the last second. Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete.
  • Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it.
  • Be suspicious of any technology that requires walls. If you can fix it, modify it or hack it yourself, that is a good sign.
  • The proper response to a stupid technology is to make a better one, just as the proper response to a stupid idea is not to outlaw it but to replace it with a better idea.
  • Every technology is biased by its embedded defaults: what does it assume?
  • Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. The crucial question is, what happens when everyone has one?
  • The older the technology, the more likely it will continue to be useful.
  • Find the minimum amount of technology that will maximize your options.

Found via @vonburkhardt

The Infinite Adventures of Dora and Harry

Dora  and Boots

Dora the Explorer & Boots

Dora the Explorer. She is what made Transliteracy click for me. Personally, I can do without the animated child who shouts at her viewers with a forced sense of enthusiasm, but there are thousands…nay, millions of kids in the world who see Dora through much different eyes.

For years now, children have known Dora through the TV show, books, music albums, movies & website games not to mention the kazillions of other Dora merchandise from birthday cake toppers to backpacks. To children, Dora transcends format. She is ubiquitous in a way. If they use a form of media, they can find Dora on it. Yes, this now includes our fancy smartphones. Dora is even on FOURSQUARE!

When these Dora loving children walk into our public libraries, where can they find her? They may want to borrow a Dora DVD, a book (if yours carries them) and they probably want to get on the computers to play some Dora games (how easy is it for a preschooler to do that?).

But, I am only talking about input measures here. Kids are able to understand, interpret & read Dora’s stories through all of these different medias, not to mention telling the stories through their own imaginative play. Technology now empowers kids to explore the other side of Transliteracy – output measures.

Like them or not, branded toys & media can be a springboard for children to take ideas and imagination further, developing 21st Century skills along the way. With a little imagination and freedom, kids can take a story or character they enjoy and bring it into their own world, affecting & changing it. They can choose from many tech tools to create & share content with the world that centers around the original story.

Harry Potter is a great example of this. HP fans make music, write stories, create posters & videos, play role playing games (heard of the International Quiddich Association?) and even attend Harry Potter conventions. There are countless examples of kids and teens creating content inspired by simply reading this series of books.

Technology has given kids a freedom to create  the ability to share what they create. There are over 470,000 HP stories on one fan fiction site alone! They aren’t doing it for an assignment, they aren’t doing it because their parents thought it would be good for their college applications, they do it because they love it and because they can.

This is Transliteracy in action.

The old service model in children’s libraries was input only (sit quietly & listen to the story, kid!). Now, we have the opportunity in libraries to engage with kids in the output side of their Transliterate experience. Libraries can provide opportunities to help them develop new skills, to share their creations & to have more of a dialogue with our kids and their parents. I’m excited to sink my teeth into this concept at my library – aren’t you?

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