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Online Accessibility for Students with Disabilities
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Online Accessibility for Students with Disabilities

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  • Just like we need to make sure our physical buildings at CWI are accessible to all, we must make sure our online classes are equally accessible. The first reason we need to make sure our online classes are accessible is because it is the law. Because we are a public institution, we need to adhere to the Rehabilitation act. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act give guidelines for making web pages, which includes pages used for online instruction, accessible to all.
  • The second reason for making our online classes accessible is because part of CWI’s mission is to make education available to all within our service district. CWI’s mission is “The College of Western Idaho is a public, open-access, and comprehensive community college committed to providing affordable access to quality teaching and learning opportunities to the residents of its service area in western Idaho.” Through Blackboard, each course at CWI has some online component, whether it is a face to face, hybrid, or online class, so we must consider how we make online learning accessible.
  • When I was beginning to teach, I had a number of more experienced teachers coaching me through making accommodations for students with disabilities. Resoundingly, these experience faculty members told me that any time I make something accessible for one student, I was making the class more accessible for many students. By making my class more universally acceptable, I make the classroom a richer place for students with a variety of learning styles. For instance, when I provide a text alternative to a verbal lecture for a student with a hearing impairment, I also meet the needs of both auditory and visual learners.
  • In response to the Rehabilitation Act and the increasing use of technology in general, the Worldwide Web Consortium (http://www.w3.org/) has developed a set of principles that generally address how we must consider accessibility on the web.Websites must be Perceivable: Users must be able to perceive the content through the senses. Perception can happen through assistive technology like a screen reader. If users cannot perceive web content even through assistive technology, then the website is inaccessible. For instance, not all of what I am saying in the aural portion of this lesson is written on the Power Point slide. If I did not include a transcript that was readable to a screen reader, this lesson would be inaccessible to those with hearing impairments. Conversely, if this lesson were not narrated, it would be inaccessible to those who had visual impairments.
  • One common misconception about making accommodation or increasing accessibility is that in doing so, the rigor of the course will drop. This is not the case. Accessibility and rigor are NOT mutually exclusive. Academic rigor refers to the challenge and complexity of the material and activities of a course.Accessibility refers to the opportunity for students to interact with what makes a course rigorous: the content, tasks, and assessments. Making a course more accessible should simply allow all student the same opportunity to benefit from the course. Making a course easier, though, does not make it more accessible. If a requested accommodation reduces rigor, it is not in the spirit of the Rehabilitation Act or the American’s with Disabilities Act. If you feel a requested accommodation may reduce rigor, please contact CWI Disability Services to discuss the issue.
  • To start making your course universally accessible, meaning accessible regardless of ability, you need to begin by considering the types of disabilities students may have that would affect their ability to access and benefit from your class. The first major category of disability is visual. People with visual disabilities include blindness, low vision, and color-blindness. The second major category of disability is hearing. Hearing disabilities could range from minor hearing loss to complete hearing loss. The third major category of disability is motor. Regarding online learning, motor ability concerns a persons physical ability to manipulate a computer and the required software. Issues with motor ability could include inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control.The fourth major category of disability is cognitive. Cognitive disabilities could include learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information
  • Assume some students will only listen to the content of your course through assistive technology such as a screen reader. When you design your course, you need to make the following considerations: Content should not be solely conveyed through graphics. Assistive technology, like screen readers can’t “read” graphics. When using graphics, provide alternative text. Complex tables are not well “read” by assistive technology. Avoid complex tables whenever possible.
  • Some users will be able to see your course, but their vision will be limited.When you design your course, you need to make the following considerations: Refrain from using small font whenever possible. Use true type that could be enlarged rather than type as an image. Maximize contrast between the type and the background color.
  • Some users will be able to see everything in your course but color.When you design your course, you need to make the following considerations: Color cannot be the only way information is communicated.Maximize contrast between the type and the background color.The image at the bottom of the screen is an example of a set of buttons that is inaccessible and one that is accessible. In the example on the left, users are asked to indicate whether they want to stop, pause, or continue by clicking a red, yellow, or green button. If a person were unable to distinguish red, yellow, or green, that person would be unable to complete the task. Users were given information solely through color, which made it inaccessible. In the example on the right, the directions are the same. The buttons are still colored red, yellow, and green, but this time, the button are also labeled with type, which would allow people who couldn’t distinguish color to complete the task. Lightening the color of the buttons also allowed for there to be a great enough contrast between the background and the type to accommodate for low vision. For these reasons, the example on the right is accessible.
  • There are a number of free online tools that assist web designers and online instructors in designing accessible sites. To check for color contrast accessibility, you can use the Color Contrast Checker. This tool from WebAim allows you to check the contrast of your type and background. When you insert your text and background color, it will give a passing or failing rating. It will also assist you in darkening or lightening the colors in order to meet contrast standards. You can also use Vischeck to check color based accessibility. By providing a url or uploading a file, this tool allows you to check how your images or web page would appear to someone with color blindness.
  • Besides considering visual aspects of your course design, you need to consider how users will hear your course. Some user will be unable to hear all or any sound in your course. When you design your course, you need to make the following considerations: Sound cannot be the only way information is communicated. Audio should be accompanied by a transcript.Video should be accompanied by synchronous captions.
  • Because providing captions and transcripts for sound and video files requires a great deal of time and is financially prohibitive, CWI’s policy is that instructors are only required to provide captions and transcripts when they receive an ADA accommodations letter stipulating such accommodations. Upon receipt of such a letter, an instructor is to work with CWI Disability Services to meet these accommodations. That is the baseline requirement, but when at all possible, it is recommended that you provide captions and transcripts for video and audio files.
  • One free online captioning tool is MAGpie; however, there are very few free online services to assist with creating captions and transcripts. If you need assistance, consider contacting CWI Disability Services and CWI Information Technology.
  • When designing your course, we need to remember that users will have difficulties physically manipulating a computer and the internet. Because our online classes run through Blackboard, where instructors are limited in design capabilities, instructorsIf a student is having difficulties physically manipulating a computer or the course, contact CWI Disability Services.
  • When considering cognitive disabilities, remember that many of the principles of reaching students with cognitive disabilities in the traditional classroom apply to the online classroom. Here are some of the strategies that many instructors employ to make their courses accessible to those with cognitive disabilities. Method 1: Eliminate distractions. In online courses, this may mean getting rid of fun but distracting animations. Method 2: Provide very clear directions and rubrics. This is perhaps the most important principle to apply to online classes. Method 3: Use visual cues. Visual cues should not be distracting but should indicate how students are to move through the course material. Visual cues include using different levels of headings, using different font sizes, using bold font, using bullets, etc. Method 4: Be consistent and organized. Consistency and organization will be discussed in much greater depth in other portions of this class. Method 5: Utilize a variety of modes of presentation to meet different learning styles. Use audio, video, text, and other methods to communicate as appropriate. Assume that you will have auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners in your online class.
  • This has been a general overview, but there are quite a few very useful resources about accessibility. You might be wondering where to go from here. These are some places to go to continue learning about accessibility:WebAim is an organization that provides articles and resources for learning about designing accessible websites. It also has simulations to help designers understand how people with disabilities will understand their websites. The Section 508 Guidelines and Examples presentation from University of Wisconson-Madison gives the guidelines and examples of both good and bad executions of the guidelines. The article “Students with Disabilities and Online Learning” from the University of Connecticut, Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability provides information on strategies and common modifications made when designing accessible online courses. The article also give a useful list of recommended reading. All of the resources in this list will lead you to other valuable resources. At CWI, you can also contact Disability Services and the Center for Teaching and Learning.
  • Transcript

    • 1. college of western idaho
      online accessibility issues for students with disabilities
    • 2. Why do I need to consider accessibility when I design my online class?
      Reason 1: It’s the law.
      • As a public institution within the U. S., we are expected to adhere to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
      • 3. Section 508 lists guidelines for the design of web pages and material to be accessible to all.
    • Why do I need to consider accessibility when I design my online class?
      Reason 2: Open access is part of CWI’s Mission
      • CWI Mission:
      “The College of Western Idaho is a public, open-access, and comprehensive community college committed to providing affordable access to quality teaching and learning opportunities to the residents of its service area in western Idaho.”
      • Because technology is a part of almost all education CWI offers, technology must be accessible for education to be accessible.
    • Why do I need to consider accessibility when I design my online class?
      Reason 3: Making something accessible for one makes it accessible for all
      • Usually, when you make your course more accessible for a student with disabilities, you make your course more accessible for all students, regardless of ability.
      • 4. Making something accessible in multiple ways accommodates for multiple learning styles.
    • What does “Accessible” mean in terms of an online class?
      Four Principles of Accessibility
      • Perceivable
      Users must be able to perceive the content through the senses. Perception can happen through assistive technology like a screen reader.
      • Operable
      Users must be able to operate all features of a site by using a keyboard, a mouse, or a form of assistive technology.
      • Understandable
      Efforts are made to ensure content is clear and unambiguous.
      • Robust
      Assistive technology, whether new or old, can access the content and allow the web page and it’s content to be perceivable, operable, and understandable to all.
    • 5. Will making my course accessible make my course less rigorous?
      • Accessibility and rigor are NOT mutually exclusive.
      • 6. Academic rigor refers to the challenge and complexity of the material and activities of a course.
      • 7. Accessibility refers to the opportunity for students to interact with what makes a course rigorous: the content, tasks, and assessments.
      • 8. Easy DOES NOT equal Accessible.
    • How do I start to make my online course accessible?
      Consider types of disabilities that may affect access.
      Major Categories of Disability (from webaim.org)
      • Visual
      Blindness, low vision, color-blindness
      • Hearing
      Deafness
      • Motor
      Inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control
      • Cognitive
      Learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information
    • 9. How do I make my class visually accessible?
      Consideration 1: Assistive technology
      Design considerations
      • Content should not be solely conveyed through graphics.
      • 10. Assistive technology, like screen readers can’t “read” graphics. When using graphics, provide alternative text.
      • 11. Complex tables are not well “read” by assistive technology. Avoid complex tables whenever possible.
    • How do I make my class visually accessible?
      Consideration 2: Limited Vision
      Design considerations
      • Refrain from using small font whenever possible.
      • 12. Use true type that could be enlarged rather than type as an image.
      • 13. Maximize contrast between the type and the background color.
    • How do I make my class visually accessible?
      Stop
      Pause
      Continue
      Consideration 3: Color
      Design considerations
      • Color cannot be the only way information is communicated.
      • 14. Maximize contrast between the type and the background color.
      Click the red box to Stop
      Click the yellow box to Pause
      Click the green box to Continue
      Click the red box to Stop
      Click the yellow box to Pause
      Click the green box to Continue
      Inaccessible
      Accessible
    • 15. What are some tools I can use to make my course visually accessible?
      Tools for color issues
      Color Contrast Checker
      (http://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/)
      This tool from WebAim allows you to check the contrast of your type and background.
      Vischeck
      (http://www.vischeck.com/vischeck/)
      This tool allows you to check how your images or web page would appear to someone with color blindness.
      Tool for general accessibility
      WAVE
      (http://wave.webaim.org/)
      This is a free online tool that allows you to check a web page, a file, or html code for accessibility. This tool helps to identify problems that would occur with an file or web page if a screen reader were to be used on it.
    • 16. How do I make my class audibly accessible?
      Consideration 1: Hearing Disabilities
      Design considerations
      • Sound cannot be the only way information is communicated.
      • 17. Audio should be accompanied by a transcript.
      • 18. Video should be accompanied by synchronous captions.
    • Do I need to create captions for every sound file and video?
      CWI Policy
      • Instructors are required to provide captions and transcripts only when they receive an ADA accommodations letter stipulating such accommodations.
      • 19. Upon receipt of such a letter, an instructor is to work with CWI Disability Services to meet these accommodations.
      Recommendation
      • When at all possible, provide captions and transcripts for video and audio files.
    • What are some tools I can use to make my course visually accessible?
      Captioning tool
      MAGpie
      (http://ncam.wgbh.org/invent_build/web_multimedia/tools-guidelines/magpie)
      MAGpie is a free downloadable programs that assists with captioning videos.
      Other resources
      • There are very few free online services to assist with creating captions and transcripts.
      • 20. If you need assistance, consider contacting CWI Disability Services and CWI Information Technology.
    • How do I make my class accessible to those with motor disabilities?
      Consideration 1: Physical limitations
      Design Considerations
      • Instructors are limited in their ability to design their courses in a way to accommodate this population.
      Recommendation
      • If a student is having difficulties physically manipulating a computer or the course, contact CWI Disability Services.
    • How do I make my class accessible to those with cognitive disabilities?
      Many of the principles of reaching students with cognitive disabilities in the traditional classroom apply to the online classroom.
      • Eliminate distractions
      • 21. Provide very clear directions and rubrics
      • 22. Use visual cues
      • 23. Be consistent and organized
      • 24. Utilize a variety of modes of presentation to meet different learning styles
    • Where do I go from here?
      Here are some places to go to continue learning about accessibility:
      • WebAim(http://webaim.org/)
      • 25. Section 508 Guidelines and Examples (http://www.cew.wisc.edu/accessibility/evaluation/section508presentation.htm)
      • 26. “Students with Disabilities and Online Learning” University of Connecticut, Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability. (http://www.udi.uconn.edu/index.php?q=content/technical-brief-students-disabilities-and-online-learning)

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