YuJa to Present at the 2024 MEEC Member Conference and Vendor Showcase

As a vendor at the 2024 MEEC conference, YuJa will highlight its comprehensive suite of EdTech solutions, designed to empower educators and institutions in delivering dynamic, technology-enriched learning experiences. YuJa’s platform offers an all-in-one approach to educational technology that aligns with the conference’s theme of embracing innovation and fostering the future of education.

YuJa is excited to have a spotlight session on the YuJa Panorama Digital Accessibility Platform, an advanced digital accessibility solution designed to empower organizations to provide an inclusive learning environment. With robust features and seamless integration, Panorama goes beyond compliance, offering an intuitive and comprehensive platform to enhance user accessibility. 

This year’s MEEC conference keynote address, titled “The Future of Education: Embracing AI’s Potential in Education, Ethics, and Society,” will be delivered by MJ Jabbour, a renowned Chief Innovation Officer at Microsoft Education. Jabbour will dive into the transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI) in revolutionizing teaching and learning experiences.

Attendees can expect to gain practical insights on seamlessly integrating AI into their classrooms and institutions, paving the way for a future where education is intuitively tailored, engaging, and impactful.

Visit Booth 47 to connect with YuJa’s team of experts and discover how YuJa’s solutions can enhance your institution’s teaching and learning capabilities.

YuJa Panorama Digital Accessibility Platform to Be Featured at Illinois Community Colleges Online Webinar

 Hosted by Illinois Community Colleges Online (ILCCO), the webinar will include a comprehensive overview of YuJa Panorama, including its cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities designed to enhance the accessibility of digital media and course content automatically. The event is set for Thursday, April 11th, at 1 p.m. CDT. 

By embracing technologies like YuJa Panorama, institutions can break down barriers and empower learners of all abilities to fully engage with course materials, fostering an equitable educational experience for all.

“We are excited to present to ILCCO so schools throughout the state can see how Panorama is used to increase the accessibility of courses and webpages,” Said Christian Touhey, Account Executive at YuJa, Inc.

Lisa Dennis from Spoon River College will share her firsthand experience using YuJa Panorama to improve accessibility initiatives at the institution. These insights will give attendees a practical perspective on how this powerful tool can be used to create more inclusive and accessible learning environments.

“At YuJa, we firmly believe that accessibility should be at the forefront of every educational endeavor,” said Nathan Arora, Chief Business Officer at YuJa, Inc. “By embracing technologies like YuJa Panorama, institutions can break down barriers and empower learners of all abilities to fully engage with course materials, fostering an equitable educational experience for all.”

As a membership organization dedicated to promoting quality online learning and providing additional opportunities for students, ILCCO’s vision aligns seamlessly with YuJa’s commitment to innovation, collaboration, and excellence. 

This webinar will serve as a catalyst for exploring cutting-edge technologies and instructional strategies that drive positive change in online teaching and learning. Learn more.

YuJa to Present Panorama Digital Accessibility Platform at EDUCAUSE Demo Day

“When we adopt digital accessibility methods, we create more equitable experiences for more of our learners,” said Thomas J. Tobin, Senior Teaching and Learning Developer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the Demo Day website. “This isn’t just an ethical imperative, either. Learners who experience a sense of voice, choice, agency, belonging and safety are five times more likely to continue their educational journeys with us.” 

Digital accessibility is the process of making a site, application, or software program compatible with assistive technology that helps people with disabilities access, understand, and use digital products. YuJa Panorama integrates seamlessly into all major learning management system (LMS) products to improve the accessibility of digital media and course content. A man speaking in a Call to action Graphic for Educause

The platform automatically generates accessible versions of all uploaded documents, provides users with customized website accessibility profiles that can be applied to any webpage, and identifies, prioritizes and automates the resolution of accessibility issues with on-the-spot remediation capabilities. This session will highlight these and more features to a diverse audience from colleges and universities worldwide. 

Attendees will be able to see the latest accessibility features, ask questions to YuJa experts, and learn best practices for implementing an accessible video platform from peer institutions.

About EDUCAUSE’s Demo Day

The EDUCAUSE Demo Day showcases digital accessibility solutions through rapid 45-minute online sessions by corporate providers. The goal is to help higher education professionals evaluate tools to improve inclusion and accessibility on their campuses.

EDUCAUSE is committed to hosting welcoming and accessible virtual events, providing live captioning, transcripts, and other accommodations to make the entire event experience inclusive for all participants. If you can’t attend the event but register, you will receive access to demo recordings to view on your own for 90 days after the event.  Learn more or register.

YuJa + Verbit: Enhancing Video Accessibility at Scale

YuJa enables higher education institutions to upload, create, and share content seamlessly with users. YuJa’s suite of ed-tech products is used by more than 600 enterprise customers, including prestigious institutions like Princeton University and Stanford University.

Verbit, which combines artificial intelligence and human input, is a key player providing high-quality auto-captioning solutions that meet accessibility standards at a lower price point, a key consideration when every dollar counts, such as for state universities and land-grant institutions.

“No longer can you deploy video at scale and not think about the accessibility of that video. With today’s legislation, accessibility is not a ‘nice-to-have,’ it’s a ‘have-to-have,’” Nathan Arora, Chief Business Officer said in a recent video highlighting YuJa and Verbit’s partnership. “Our customers expect our products to be delivered in a predictable, reliable instruction manner and so we look to partners like Verbit to provide that high-quality auto-captioning.”

The collaboration between YuJa and Verbit demonstrates the power of technology in ensuring video accessibility at scale. “Our product benefits from the very positive work that Verbit does,” Arora concluded.

About Verbit

Verbit serves as an essential accessibility partner to 3,000+ businesses and institutions. Verbit’s voice AI and human solutions help customers to offer engaging and equitable experiences. Verbit not only supports them in meeting accessibility guidelines, but in making verbal information searchable and actionable. Since its founding in 2017, Verbit has grown into a unicorn company with a $2B valuation and a global presence. Verbit employs the largest professional captioner workforce in the world and has emerged as the leader in the $30B transcription industry.

Celebrating Braille Literacy Month

January is Braille Literacy Month. In 2019, the United Nations General Assembly established January 4 as World Braille Day. Both are aimed at raising awareness of the importance of Braille, though the month also commemorates the legacy of Louis Braille. 

What is Braille? 

The UN describes Braille as “a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number, and even musical, mathematical and scientific symbols. Braille (named after its inventor in 19th century France, Louis Braille) is used by blind and partially sighted people to read the same books and periodicals as those printed in a visual font.

According to the New England Consortium on Deafblindness, Braille is used in nearly every country in the world, and there is a braille code for almost every language. Braille has transformed the lives of millions in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, and social inclusion. World Braille Day serves as a reminder of Braille in promoting independence, literacy, and equal opportunities for the blind and visually impaired.

About Louis Braille

Louis BrailleBorn on January 4, 1809, in Coupvray, France, Louis Braille lost his sight at the age of three after an accident that took place in his father’s harness shop. An infection caused him to lose sight in both eyes. 

He received a scholarship and, in 1819, he went to Paris to attend the National Institute for Blind Children (where he later taught). At the age of 15, Braille developed the system of touch reading and writing as it’s known today. 

Braille based his system on Charles Barbier’s “Night Writing,” which was created for soldiers to communicate safely at night. Barbier’s system was a raised 12-dot cell with each dot or combination of dots representing a letter or phonetic sound. “The problem with the military code was that the human fingertip could not feel all the dots with one touch,” BrailleWorks shared

Braille’s code was based on a six-dot system. “This crucial improvement meant that a fingertip could encompass the entire cell unit with one impression and move rapidly from one cell to the next. Over time, the world gradually accepted braille as the fundamental form of written communication for blind individuals. Today it remains basically as he invented it.”

The Impact of Braille

Braille is more than a tool for reading and writing; it is a gateway to education, employment, and social inclusion. By providing an alternative means of communication, Braille empowers individuals to navigate the world around them independently.

Promoting Literacy: One of the key contributions of Braille is its role in promoting literacy among the blind and visually impaired. Access to written information is a fundamental right, and Braille facilitates this access for visually impaired individuals. By learning to read and write in Braille, people who are blind can pursue education, access books, and engage in intellectual pursuits, enhancing their overall quality of life.

“Braille is used in nearly every country in the world, and there is a braille code for almost every language. Braille has transformed the lives of millions in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, and social inclusion.”

Equal Opportunities in Education and Employment: Braille Literacy Month and World Braille Day emphasizes the need for equal opportunities in education and employment for blind individuals. Integrating Braille into the curriculum and workplace helps ensure that those with visual impairments have the tools they need to succeed. Technology has also played a significant role in expanding access, with Braille displays, electronic Braille books, and assistive devices making information more readily available.

Advocacy and Awareness: Recognizing Braille Literacy Month provides an opportunity for advocacy and awareness campaigns to promote the importance of Braille. Community events, workshops, and educational programs can help dispel myths and misconceptions about blindness and foster a more inclusive society. 

By understanding the significance of Braille, we can work toward breaking down barriers and creating a world that is accessible to all.

Whitepaper: US Department of Justice and Department of Education Warn Educational Institutions That ‘Accessibility Cannot Be an Afterthought’

The letter covers accessibility challenges, legal framework, enforcement actions, and guidance and regulations, as well as highlights valuable resources for obtaining guidance. It also sends a strong message that accessibility is a priority at the federal level and that the government will use its authority to ensure institutions are meeting accessibility standards. 

“Online accessibility for people with disabilities cannot be an afterthought.”

We’ve created a whitepaper that highlights the importance of digital accessibility, along with each of the sections of the letter and what they mean for higher education today.

Read the full whitepaper

July: Celebrating Disability Pride Month

July 26 marks the anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a variety of areas, including in institutions of higher education that receive federal financial assistance.

One in four people across all ages, races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and religions have a disability, according to the CDC, and many more will have a disability at some time in their life, whether temporarily or permanently. Disability Pride Month is a time to celebrate and honor the diverse experiences and contributions of those living with a disability, as well as to promote acceptance, inclusivity and advocacy for disability rights.

A Brief History of Disability Pride Month

The ADA was signed into law in 1990, but the first Disability Pride celebration didn’t take place until 2015.

“Disability is a part of the rich tapestry of human diversity, and something that nearly all of us will experience at some point in our lives,” said Jackie Dilworth, communications director at The Arc of the United States, a disability rights organization. “It’s also a significant identity that defines how we experience the world. Yet people with disabilities have been marginalized and misunderstood for generations.”

A flag was designed in 2019, but the initial design with zigzagging bright colorful lines caused symptoms for those who have certain types of disabilities. The redesigned flag, which was created in 2021, has diagonal stripes of the same colors, but softer and in another order (because the original flag didn’t accommodate those with red-green colorblindness) set against a black background.

The charcoal gray background is in memory of those who have lost their lives to ableism, violence, negligence, suicide, illness, and more. Each stripe represents a different type of disability:

  • Disability Pride Flag with charcoal gray background and diagonal lines running from top left to bottom right. Colors are red, yellow, white, blue, green.Red: Physical disabilities, such as mobility impairments, loss of limbs, or chronic pain
  • Gold: Neurodivergence, such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia
  • White: Invisible and undiagnosed disabilities
  • Blue: Psychiatric disabilities, including mental illness, PTSD, anxiety, and depression
  • Green: Sensory disabilities such as deafness, blindness, lack of smell or taste, audio processing disorders, and other sensory disabilities

Honoring and Supporting People With Disabilities

From Thomas Edison, who lost his hearing, to physicist Steven Hawking, who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, to athletes, scientists, inventors, and more, people with disabilities make significant contributions to their fields. “The disability community is full of problem solvers, creative thinkers and innovators,” Easterseals said on its website.

Here are some thoughtful ways people and companies can foster an environment of inclusivity for people with disabilities:

Create a culture of inclusion and accessibility, both physically and digitally. This includes providing accommodations like wheelchair ramps, closed captions, and making sure content is compatible with assistive devices like screen readers.

Support disability rights advocacy. There are many worthy advocacy groups and organizations that need financial and other resources to help advance the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities. Consider volunteering or donating funds.

Promote an inclusive workplace by hiring people with disabilities. Companies should actively work to create diverse workplaces by providing equal opportunities for those with disabilities. Not only is it the law, but it’s the right thing to do.

Educate and raise awareness. Learn and teach others about various types of disabilities to break down stereotypes and promote inclusion and understanding.

There are many resources available, but here are a few places to get started on your educational journey*:

  • Easterseals: For more than 100 years, this organization has worked to empower people with disabilities to enhance quality of life and expand access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities.
  • The Arc: The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and serving them and their families.
  • The National Disability Rights Network: The Network operates in Washington, DC on behalf of the Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) and Client Assistance Programs (CAPs), the nation’s largest providers of legal advocacy services for people with disabilities.

*YuJa is not affiliated with any of the advocacy groups listed above and is listing them for informational purposes only.

How Gradient Text Makes Content More Accessible to All

Oftentimes, when people are reading, they lose information between lines and have to go back to re-read text. Many have to repeat the process more than once, making reading inefficient – especially in the format of black-on-white texts in large blocks.

Gradient readers can help people process information. Studies have shown that while using this type of technology, people read further down a page and are more likely to read to the end than when text was presented in a traditional format.

“Meanwhile, people who aren’t especially skilled at intake of text in the traditional format are systematically penalized. People who don’t read well in this one particular way tend to fall behind scholastically early in life. They might be told they’re not as bright as other people, or at least come to assume it. They might even be (incorrectly) diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, or a learning disability, or overlooked as academically mediocre,” The Atlantic said in the article “A Better Way to Read.”

What is a Gradient Reader and How Can it Help Students?

A gradient reader provides text in color that shifts between lines to help guide a reader’s eyes quickly and accurately to the next line. 

“Meanwhile, people who aren’t especially skilled at intake of text in the traditional format are systematically penalized. People who don’t read well in this one particular way tend to fall behind scholastically early in life.”

The shift in colors helps: 

  • Aid in visual tracking
  • Pull the readers’ eyes between lines
  • Improve speed of reading 
  • Decrease screen fatigue
  • Enhance focus and attention

Gradient Readers are shown to help with reading comprehension for all, but it can be especially helpful for those with certain disabilities, such as ADHD, dyslexia, or vision impairments.


Examples of Gradient Text 

With text in a gradient, the key is that each line begins with a different color than the line below, which helps move the readers’ eyes from line to line with less of a chance of skipping to the second or third word and missing that information. 

Example of YuJa's Gradient Reader

This example has shorter lines of text, which provides less processing time, but still helps the reader maintain their place, keep focus, and read efficiently. 

Example of YuJa's gradient reader

The Gradient Reader is just one of many accessibility features in YuJa’s suite of ed-tech tools. Learn more about YuJa Panorama Digital Accessibility Platform.


Quadrants of Digital Accessibility in Higher Education

Importance of Digital Accessibility

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

Digital accessibility is critical to ensuring those with disabilities can navigate and use materials presented online in a way that suits their needs.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an evolution in how institutions view digital accessibility, especially when instructors had to quickly convert learning materials to online resources for students.  “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect,” said Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.

Not only is digital accessibility a civil right, it’s required by law. Hundreds of universities have faced lawsuits or have had complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Justice for failure to meet laws related to digital barriers. Regardless, creating an accessible learning environment is the right thing to do.

Quadrants of Digital Accessibility in Higher Education

Accessibility in higher education can be complex. Finding a tool that serves as a complete solution to accessibility can help guide your institution through the journey. Any potential  solution must span an institution’s entire digital footprint, which can be broken down into quadrants: 

  1. A circle graph with YuJa Panorama Digital Accessibility Platform in the center split into four equal quadrants in various shades of blue.

    Your Institution’s LMS Accessibility Module: A fully-integrated digital accessibility solution for all learning management systems content, including uploaded media, WYSIWYG web-based content, real-time scores, trends, remediation suggestions, math equations and other LMS content. 

  2. Website and Intranet Accessibility Module: This consists of a website accessibility tool for all public intranet web content. It is integrated into all organization web portals and websites to provide customizable accessibility views for users. 
  3. Library and Reserve Desk Accessibility Module: This quadrant is focused on providing accessibility to the campuswide distribution of images, newspapers, books, maps, audio, and video content in an accessible manner. 
  4. Student Self-Service Accessibility Tools: This refers to all web app, mobile, and self-service tools for students to make their own content and web experiences more accessible based on their individual needs. 

A Higher-Ed Digital Accessibility Solution

Despite institutions understanding the case for digital accessibility, some fall short in implementing user-friendly solutions that make accessibility a priority from the start.  Deploying an accessibility compliance suite like the YuJa Panorama Accessibility Platform can provide peace of mind that your institution is putting the right emphasis on digital accessibility for students with varied learning needs.

The Legacy of Judy Heumann, “The Mother of Disability Rights”

As a child in 1949 living in Brooklyn, New York, Heumann contracted polio and began using a wheelchair for mobility. At the age of five, she was deemed a “fire hazard,” and denied entry to school, according to her website. As a child, her mother advocated for her and she was eventually allowed into school. Though this was among the first discriminatory acts against her, it was not the last. 

“Some people say that what I did changed the world, but really, I simply refused to accept what I was told about who I could be. And I was willing to make a fuss about it.”

“It was still a radical claim that disabled people didn’t see themselves, or their conditions, as something to be pitied. Or that they insisted what most held them back wasn’t their health condition but society’s exclusion — maybe attitudes that they were less capable to do a job, go to college or find romance; or a physical barrier, like a sidewalk without a curb cut,” said NPR’s Joseph Shapiro in an article about Heumann.  

Shapiro shared that he wrote an article about disability rights in 1987 in which Heumann said “Disability only becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things we need to lead our lives — job opportunities or barrier-free buildings, for example,” she said. “It is not a tragedy to me that I’m living in a wheelchair.” The article was not published because the idea she relayed seemed so “unexpected and strange.”

Starting a Revolution

In 1970, after Heumann passed her oral and written teaching exams, but she ultimately failed the medical exam where she was again deemed a “fire hazard.” This time, examiners said she would not be able to evacuate children or herself during an emergency. Heumann sued the board of education to allow her to become a teacher. The New York Times headline read “Woman in Wheel Chair Sues to Become Teacher” and the article noted she would be the city’s first teacher in a wheelchair. Her lawyers said the case was the first such civil rights suit ever filed in a federal court. 

She was instrumental in the development and passage of Section 504, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which “have been advancing the inclusion of disabled people in the US and around the world and fighting to end discrimination against all those with disabilities.”Judy Heumann and her husband

“Section 504 became a model for the ADA, which would extend the principles of non-discrimination to all public accommodations, employment, transportation, communications and access to state and local government programs,” NPR said. That means if you’ve ever used an elevator in a subway station or busy public area, if you used the curb cuts to more easily get on a sidewalk, or if you’ve used the accessible restrooms in a public space, you’ve benefited from the ADA. Closed captions, transcripts, and website accessibility, are all other examples of services for disabled people that benefit everyone. 

When Richard Nixon vetoed the 1972 Rehabilitation act, Heumann helped lead a protest that shut down traffic in Manhattan. She also launched a 26-day sit-in at a federal building in San Francisco to get Section 504 of the revived Rehabilitation Act enforced. “(The sit-in) has often been described as the longest nonviolent occupation of a federal building in American history,” The New York Times reported.

More Advocacy Efforts

Heumann never stopped at securing rights for herself, but continued her work for others. Heumann co-founded the World Institute on Disability (WID), which was among the first global disability rights organizations led by people with disabilities. The institute is “dedicated to designing, building, and supporting whole community solutions by removing barriers to include people with disabilities.”

Heumann served the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education from 1993 to 2001. From 2002 to 2006, she was the World Bank’s first Adviser on Disability and Development. 

She was appointed by President Barack Obama as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights in the U.S. Department of State, a position she held from 2010-2017. She also was the Director for the Department on Disability Services and responsible for the Developmental Disability Administration and the Rehabilitation Services Administration. 

The American Civil Liberties Union said she traveled to countries on every continent to help change the way people perceive those with disabilities and to help remove barriers they face in their everyday lives. Between 2000 and 2015, 181 countries passed disability civil rights modeled after the ADA, according to NPR.

Documentary and Book Release

Just before the pandemic, Heumann was featured in a documentary released at the 2020 Sundance film festival. “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution,” was about Heumann and others who attended a summer camp (Camp Janed) for children with disabilities in the Catskills. Heumann later was a counselor at the camp. Camp Janed became “the beginnings of a revolution.”

“What I want is for the book and the film — and other books and films — to allow people to recognize the real absence of representation of disability in media, broadly speaking”

Heumann also has a memoir, “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist.” Heumann told The Cut, “What I want is for the book and the film — and other books and films — to allow people to recognize the real absence of representation of disability in media, broadly speaking. Black disabled people, Latino disabled people, Asian disabled people, indigenous disabled people, disabled people with visible and invisible disabilities — they’re pretty absent. And yet, in the United States, it’s more than 20 percent of our population. Disability is something that all families experience, temporarily or permanently.”

“Some people say that what I did changed the world,” she wrote, “But really, I simply refused to accept what I was told about who I could be. And I was willing to make a fuss about it.”

Learn more about Judy Heumann on her website

Photos courtesy of Judithheumann.com

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