You can read Parts 1 and 2 of the course recap at the following links:
You’ve likely seen a few posts about the book discussion with the Association for Distance Education and Independent Learning (ADEIL) and Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education by Thomas J. Tobin and Kirsten T. Behling. If you haven’t yet read the book, it’s an excellent read on how everyone benefits when you make courses more accessible, not just people with disabilities (who are often thought of with topics of accessibility). A few key takeaways for designing and teaching courses include: what parts of your course are students not understanding? What do students keep having trouble with or need clarification? Identify those parts of your course. You can also create a “media path,” where you find supplemental media to further illustrate those key concepts that students struggle with.
The book often refers to plus-one changes. With accessibility, we don’t start with overhauling the entire structure. Rather, we find trouble spots and think of another way to present information. If you find a section of your course where students keep having trouble, find one alternative way to present the information. You can even adapt a plus-one change to your assessments. Perhaps instead of writing a final paper, a student might have the option to share what they’ve learned by making a video or website.
The book also outlines ambitious plans on how to create a team to make increased accessibility a priority for an entire campus.
Something to ponder from the book: people of all ages are increasingly using mobile devices to learn, and they’ll often use these mobile devices for just a few minutes at a time for “small, snackable pieces of content and interactions,” perhaps while waiting in line. How can we develop course content that makes the best use of those few minutes when a learner checks their phone?
ADEIL recently interviewed Thomas Tobin about the book, and you can view the interview here:
I recently shared an overview of a course I recently completed: Introduction to Web Accessibility. The course focused on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and it’s four main principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. This post will focus on Perceivable and Operable.
Perceivable relates to how users can sense or grasp the material that is being presented. For web content to be accessible, it must be able to be perceived through more than one sense; if it’s only perceptible by one sense (for example, sight), it’s inaccessible to someone with disabilities in that sense.
Vision impairments present probably the greatest challenge for web accessibility, and screen readers can help blind and low-vision users access the internet. To experience internet browsing with a screen reader, you can try out a free Chrome browser screen reader here:
You can help make online materials more perceivable by avoiding small font sizes, making sure there is sufficient visual contrast between text and background imagery, including alternate text with images (the screen reader reads to the user the alternate text to convey the picture), including captions for videos, and presenting material in a clear, easy to navigate order.
You can test color contrasts at this link:
You can use this site to create captions for videos:
Operable focuses on usability. Some users are physically unable to use both a keyboard and a mouse, but they might be proficient with one or the other. As instructors, we might not have the capabilities or access to design an online environment that isn’t dependent upon a mouse or keyboard, but we can certainly provide input during the course creation process to ensure that it’s usable for as many people as possible.
It’s worth noting that time limits can make the online environment less operable. Some people with disabilities might need more time to perceive, process, or comprehend material; this can also apply to people as they age. Do any of your courses use timed quizzes? As you design your courses, think about time limits. Why might your course need them? Why might your course not need them? Some assessments by their very nature require time limits (for example, tests that measure typing speed), but removing time limits will make your course more operable, and therefore more accessible.
When incorporating visuals or media, avoid flashes, flickers, or other visuals that can trigger seizures or physical reactions; a website isn’t operable if it’s causing physical harm.
Any thoughts on accessibility with your courses, particularly in how to make them perceivable or operable? We’d love to hear your ideas, questions, concerns, etc.
I had the opportunity last month to complete a course from Ryerson University: Introduction to Web Accessibility. I’d like to share some ideas and tools from the course. People often think of accessibility in terms of helping people with disabilities, or something that’s done as a legal obligation or for good business practices, but it’s worth noting that increasing accessibility benefits everyone. For example, curb cuts – those ramps leading from streets to sidewalks – make it possible for people in wheelchairs to safely cross the street, but everyone benefits from those. It’s now easier to ride my bike, pull my kids in a wagon, etc.
The course focused on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and it’s four main principles:
Perceivable: Can users perceive or sense what is being presented?
Operable: Is this usable?
Understandable: Can users comprehend how this works?
Robust: Will this work for a wide variety of users and assistive technologies?
I’ll be posting more about each of these principles in the near future. If you’d like more information, see the link below. It contains guidelines and techniques for each of the above principles.
The are three different levels associated with each guideline: A, AA, and AAA.
Level A guidelines focus on preventing barriers that will make content inaccessible to some people. These must be addressed.
Level AA guidelines focus on preventing barriers that will make content more difficult to access. These should be addressed to prevent unnecessary, additional effort.
Level AAA guidelines focus on usability. These could be addressed to increase usability.
Generally, Level AA is the recommended level to strive for when developing online environments.
More information about the course can be found here:
We’ve recently shared some opportunities to learn more about accessibility (LinkedIn reading group, a free course), and if you’re looking for more, you can view the webinar in the link below. This is geared towards content creators, but there are great ideas for anyone working online to think about. This webinar shares a number of tools (including some in Microsoft Office) you can use to check how accessible the material you’re working with is.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9z-o-rLQTWo
If you’re interested in learning more about web accessibility (or like to go through online courses to put yourself into the shoes of our online learners), there’s a free online course that runs for 4 weeks, beginning April 8th. An excerpt from their registration page:
“This course will ‘interpret’ the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), to make it easier to understand for a general audience. You will have an opportunity to experience barriers firsthand, then experience that content with the barriers removed, developing a practical understanding of web accessibility.”
You can find information at: https://de.ryerson.ca/wa/introduction/
On a related note, if you’re interested in discussing accessibility and online courses, be sure to check out the ADEIL LinkedIn discussions on the book Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone:https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8521464/