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Course Accessibility: It's Not a Choice!

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Dabareh Vowell

on 23 September 2013

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Transcript of Course Accessibility: It's Not a Choice!

Course Accessibility: It's Not a Choice!
Online Course Accessibility
The WHAT, WHY, WHO of online accessibility
Challenges and Tasks
Get Educated!
What Stands in Our Way?

"access to information and communications technologies, including the Web" is "a basic human right" (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, 2008).

The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web


"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."
Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web. Retrieved from http://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/accessibility

Who Needs Accommodation?
Special Issue of JALN on Integrating Accessibility into Online Higher Education
Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/node/376401

Who is Accommodated?
Ingeno, L. (June, 2013). Online accessibility a faculty duty. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

US Department of Justice, US Department of Education. (June, 2010). Letter to college and university presidents. Retrieved from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/713149-colleague-20100629.html

Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH Act). 113th Congress, 1st session. Retrieved from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/713147-teach-final.html


“Students with disabilities are in danger of being either excluded from the new media revolution or accommodated as after-thoughts of pedagogies that fail to anticipate their needs.” -- Sean Zdenek (2009)
About 11% of students in higher
education report having some disability (GAO, 2009).

"The Americans with Disabilities Act prevents any college or university from excluding disabled students in activities, services and programs.The Department of Education and Department of Justice sent a letter to college presidents three years ago, telling them that inaccessible education technology violates the Act (Ingeno, 2013, para. 4).

The letter did not tell universities exactly what to do, however. The National Federation for the Blind introduced the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH Act) in the 113th Congress, outlining more particulars in what should be done.

"While the Office for Civil Rights has provided fairly long timelines for when universities have to comply with the regulations...these time frames will be getting shorter and shorter" (para. 16).


What must be accessible to students includes websites and web services such as information, forms, access to institutional services, and electronic communication.

That would involve the IT professionals, under direction of university leadership.
For students in online courses, the first line of accommodation must be the developer of the course and the content, followed by the course management system. That involves the instructor, the instructional designer, and/or Virtual Campus management.

All are held responsible under the umbrella of the university.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. 794d), states that any federal agency ensure that employees with disabilities have the same access to "electronic and information technology" as those without disabilities.

A public university may choose Section 508 as the standard they adopt, and then are "required to meet Section 508 standards for web-based intranet and internet information and applications. Conforming to these standards requires that materials that would pose problems for students with disabilities need to be altered to accommodate the disabled" (Rutgers University, 2013, para. 1).

The answer to that starts with, "Do SOMETHING."

It takes a shift in mindset, as well as practice, to accommodate students in your online courses!

Vision problems
Hearing problems
Inability to use mouse
Difficulty reading large blocks of text
Need for increased time on tasks
Those with assistive technology

Ironically, the accommodations for these students usually help students will Attention Deficit Disorder and Learning Disabilities (Simpson, 2013).
"Lack of a coordinated approach to accessibility has been cited by the Government Accountability Office (2008) as the largest barrier to serving students with disabilities in postsecondary settings, including distance education" (Simpson, 2013, para. 4).
The definitive source of educating yourself about online accessibility is W3C.

This is the World Wide Web Consortium, a worldwide community made up of organizations, staff, and the public involved in web standards. www.w3.org
The W3C is responsible for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which list specific ways to achieve accessibility.
It lists four conditions that online resources, pages, and courses should meet:
Learn the Principles of Universal Design
The HOW of online accessibility
Universal Design was not developed originally for the web, but for products and services that would be accessible to everyone, regardless. It is now being applied to the web.

The Universal Design mindset is not so much thinking about accommodating those with disabilities, but more thinking about creating for use by anyone!
Here are the seven principles of universal design.
There are 10 steps you can follow to use Universal Design Principles in an online course.
2. Provide consistent navigation.

Canvas does this for us. This is one reason there are not ways to change the navigation menu.
4. Choose tools wisely.
Quizzing (some students may need more time, which you are obligated to give them if they have filed a disability with the university)
3. Include an accommodation statement.

Let students know what is available to them from the institution, but also what you are willing to accommodate short of a disability.

Our syllabus template does include an institutional statement, but make sure students know that they can also let you know when they are having difficulty with something that interferes with learning.
5. Model and teach good discussion board etiquette.. Don't take for granted that students understand how to communicate through discussion or that they know what you expect...unless you tell them!
6. Use color with care.

7. Provide accessible document formats.

Canvas is one of the most accessible Learning Management Systems because it lets developers build content in html (content pages), which is the MOST accessible format.

If you upload many Word, PDF, Powerpoint, or other files, it requires a jump that screen readers have to accommodate. What cannot go into a content page should still be accessible.
There are tutorials online for
making accessible Word documents and
PDF files.

This requires (in part) that you use headings and that you avoid saving
as images (PDF).
8. Choose fonts carefully.

Again, Canvas has this covered. It
doesn't allow use of different fonts. This
limitation ensures assessibility.
9. Convert information in Powerpoints to html (content pages) or to multimedia with captions and/or transcripts.

Yes, the sacred cow of teaching causes a lot of trouble for people with assistive technology. It allows no alternative text for images and has other issues.

Consider more accessible ways to get your points across!
Another great site for resources is WebAim,

ind. http://webaim.org/
10. If it is auditory, make it visual.
If it is visual, make it auditory.

You need to have captioning (if possible) on videos. A transcript that a screen reader can access is necessary if there is no captioning. If you can do both, do them!

If you can put visual information into auditory format, you have it covered!
Taken from Ten Simple Steps Toward Universal Design of Online Courses, University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Spend some time in your course.
Feel empathy.
There are some sites that let you experience a page as if you had a common disability. Take some time to simulate reduced vision, dyslexia, color blindness, or other conditions your students may experience.

There is some "low-hanging" fruit in an online course that is the easiest to reach!

Caption images and graphics.
This is done with the "alternative text" tag in the html of the content page.
If the graphic contains information, give it a text or audio explanation.
Create content that can be accessed in multiple ways (text, audio, graphic).
Break up long paragraphs into shorter "scannable" sections.

Come on, who wants to read a page of dense text?
Get rid of any blinking, moving, or flickering graphic!

Not only is it annoying, but it can seriously affect susceptible to seizure. It is a NO-NO!
Your syllabus and important information need to be accessible! Look into how to create accessible Word documents and PDF's.
Create accessible web links.

You shouldn't paste in links like this:
A screenreader will read every character!
Instead, type a descriptive phrase like
Course Accessibility Checklist
and then use the "link" tool to create a hyperlink to the phrase or term.
Thankfully, Canvas is the only LMS that has been recognized by the National Federation of the Blind as accessible for the blind and visually impaired.


Canvas has an accessibility statement that you can insert in your courses:

Caption any videos or create a transcript. Do the same for audio content. Remember that you can enlist work study students, graduate assistants, or even give extra credit to students to transcript some of your videos!

When you look for videos, always be aware of finding some already captioned.
We have to work together as an institution.
Lack of time and resources.

Virtual Campus has some available
resources. Contact Rich Helbock
and he can assign some transcripting
to a work study.

Remember, however, that it is your
ultimate priority to ensure accessibility
of content.
It is NOT a viable option to simply remove all the audio-visual resources from your course!

Those resources are vital in helping students learn.
The key is our collective willingness to make courses and web resources accessible to everyone!
It's Not A Choice!
It's a Required
(and Important)
Who is Responsible for Accommodating Students?
Rutgers University. (2013). Working to ensure Section 508 compliance for course accessibility. Retrieved from https://onlinelearning.rutgers.edu/alias01?destination=node/54

The National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education. (2012). Does Section 508 apply to a state university or community college? Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/accessit/articles?1234

What Do We Need to Accommodate?

Simpson, E. (2013). Clearing up accessibility for Distance Education Administrators: Accommodating the New Students. The Evolllution: Illuminating the Lifelong Learning Movement. Retrieved from http://www.evolllution.com/distance_online_learning/clearing-up-accessibility-for-distance-education-administrators-accommodating-the-new-students/

Educate Yourself
World Wide Web Consortium. http://www.w3.org/
WCAG2 at a Glance. Retrieved from http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/glance/

Universal Design
Graphic of 7 Principles retrieved from http://universaldesignfail.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/117/
Graphic of UDL retrieved from http://usailc.org/blog/2011/10/universal-design/

10 Steps for Accessibility
Taken from http://ualr.edu/pace/tenstepsud/
WebAim. Powerpoint Accessibility. Retrieved from http://webaim.org/techniques/powerpoint/

Disability Simulators
Color Blindness http://www.etre.com/tools/colourblindsimulator/
Dyslexia, reduced vision

Web Accessibility Checklist http://enact.sonoma.edu/content.php?pid=218878&sid=2032869

Image http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/components.php

What Stands in Our Way?
Simpson, E. (2013). Clearing up accessibility for Distance Education Administrators: Accommodating the New Students. The Evolllution: Illuminating the Lifelong Learning Movement. Retrieved from http://www.evolllution.com/distance_online_learning/clearing-up-accessibility-for-distance-education-administrators-accommodating-the-new-students/

"Canvas provides a user experience that is easy, simple, and intuitive. Special attention has been paid to making Canvas screen-readable. The Rich Content Editor encourages users to create accessible content pages (i.e. text formatting is accomplished using styles). Canvas is designed to allow limited customization of colors and schemes to be accessible for all users. The National Federation of the Blind granted Canvas the Gold Level Web Certification in 2010.

Find more information by visiting the Canvas Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)."

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