UA-115456113-1 Mark Nichols: Supporting AT and Universal Design in Higher Education
Talking With Tech AAC Podcast

Mark Nichols: Supporting AT and Universal Design in Higher Education

July 7, 2021

This week, Chris interviews his long-time colleague, Mark Nichols, an AAC/AT Specialist who is the Senior Director of Universal Design and Accessible Technologies at Virginia Tech. Chris and Mark talk about the differences and similarities between higher education and K-12 for universal design and AT, the types of technologies that are often very useful in higher education, how to determine how much a university supports inclusion and assistive technology, and more! 


Before the interview, Chris shares memories and thoughts about the late, great Joy Zabala with his wife, Melissa Bugaj. They talk about the importance of Joy’s SETT framework, the impact Joy had on AT, and Melissa and Chris’s personal relationship with Joy and how she influenced their personal life. 


Key ideas this week:


🔑 You can set up software to identify how inclusive your materials are. Software like Grackle for Google Docs ( will scan a document to determine if there are accessibility issues (e.g. a pdf image that does not support text to speech) before the document is posted.


🔑  Accessibility and universal design are not just for a select set of people with disabilities - many times, typically developing students will benefit from making materials more accessible. Also, making the solution universal students don’t have to ask for the tool to have it available.


🔑  Consider making a training video for staff that outlines all the ways that universal design and accessibility can make a big difference for students and then gives training on how to use the technology services currently available to make more accessible materials. 


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