Kent State Web sites get a face ‘Lift’

Abbey Stirgwolt

The faces of many Kent State Web sites are in the process of being lifted.

Lift, a computer purchased in the summer of 2004 through a state grant to the university, converts any Kent State Web site into a text-only format, facilitating Web use by the visually impaired and “those with limited use of their hands,” said Joe Drew, associate professor of political science and Master of Public Administration program coordinator.

After a few semesters of fixing some of the glitches in the program, the university is beginning to offer courses about the Lift system, said Lin Danes, university Web site coordinator.

The Lift server works in conjunction with JAWS, a program that reads text aloud from software applications and the Internet for those who are visually impaired.

The text-only format created by the Lift system simplifies Web browsing and clarifies Web site content, facilitating the screen-reading process for JAWS. It can also be used to change font color and background so Web sites can be adjusted to match viewers’ visibility levels, Drew said.

Lift also works in conjunction with the voice-response system used in place of a keyboard and mouse by those who have limited use of their hands. The text-only format makes browsing and navigation easier by simplifying the commands used for voice-response browsing, Drew said.

Addition of the Lift computer improves Kent State’s standing with regard to Section 508, a Web accessibility law requiring that “individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities.” (

The Kent State Master of Public Administration program is currently the only program in the country whose program “meets or exceeds” the standards outlined by Section 508, according to the MPA web site.

“Our university policy is to try to increase Web accessibility,” Drew said.

To better acquaint Web site owners with the Lift system, a series of workshops has been scheduled throughout the semester. The first was offered in December, Danes said, but a second, which will focus on proper tagging of PDF files for the Lift system, is scheduled for March 16.

As more Kent State Web users become acquainted with Lift, Drew hopes they will take advantage of its facility of use and easy installment.

“It’s almost instantaneous,” Drew said.

To learn more about how to install the Lift system to a Web site, visit

Contact technology reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].