Conference discusses web accessibility for the disabled

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COLUMBIA - The fifth annual Accessibility Summit was held on MU's campus on Tuesday and Wednesday. Hosted by Environments for Humans and sponsored by the Adaptive Computing Technology (ACT) Center and the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative, the summit invited Internet experts to discuss more ways to deliver digital content to users with disabilities. 

The goal of the conference was to help attendees understand how people with disabilities use the web, the frustrations they can sometimes feel when trying to access the web, and what can be done to make web sites, Internet applications, and web content more accessible to them.

"Youtube videos and Buzzfeed videos, just funny things like that, that aren't that big of a deal, they're so hard to watch sometimes because I cannot always hear what's being said and they don't have captioning options," said Mary Jane Rodgers, a hearing impaired Internet user. 

Companies like Google, IBM and Paypal all had representatives at the conference to discuss accessibility and advancements in technology that could more easily allow people with disabilities to use text, graphics, PDFs and videos on the web. Conference topics included "More Than Just VoiceOver for the Blind" and "iOS vs. Android Accessibility." 

"There's definitely a need for advancement. I would buy any app that would give me the ability to understand or comprehend information better," said Rodgers. 

Rodgers also said that, as a whole, the city of Columbia could be more handicap friendly. "I'm from a bigger city, where we would have movie nights at theaters and the movies would be completely captioned so members of the deaf community could stop by and watch a movie like they wanted to watch it, but I haven't seen that here in Columbia," she said.

Tickets for the live online broadcast of the summit cost around $180 a piece, but MU streamed the event on campus for free. The conference was part of the ACT Center's initiative to ensure that those needing assistive technology have equal opportunities to access and use Internet content.