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Ensuring Accessibility in Online Education


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Presented at SLATE Conference 2013

Published in: Education, Technology
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Ensuring Accessibility in Online Education

  1. 1. Colleen Fleming Adler School of Professional Psychology
  2. 2. • Types of disabilities • Accessibility laws and school policies • Using accessible software/resources • Creating accessible content • Faculty education • Course accessibility review • Additional resources
  3. 3. “It is essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities. Indeed, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, as a basic human right.” - Excerpt from Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) content at W3C
  4. 4. • Visual • Auditory • Motor • Cognitive
  5. 5. Visual disabilities include blindness, low vision, and color blindness. Challenges for students with visual impairments may include: • Documents/websites that cannot be read by a screen reader • Use of images or color to convey information • Ascertaining the order of items in a table • Low contrast between text and background • Text and images that become pixelated when magnified
  6. 6. Imagine if you were a blind student or a colorblind student and you were asked to compare the laws on a certain topic for all of the states identified with the color red on the map below.
  7. 7. Auditory disabilities include various degrees and types of hearing loss. Challenges for students with auditory impairments may include: • Audio clips (including podcasts and interviews) without a transcript • Videos without captions or transcripts • Audio in multimedia that is not also displayed via text
  8. 8. Imagine that you are a student with a hearing impairment and an instructor gives you an assignment that includes listening to and evaluating the content of an audio-only interview. Could you complete that assignment?
  9. 9. Motor disabilities include those resulting from injury and those resulting from diseases and congenital conditions. Upper body motor impairments cause challenges when interacting with a computer. Challenges for students with motor impairments may include: • Inability to use a mouse or challenges controlling a mouse or keyboard • May be relying on voice-activated software or eye tracking devices • Long lists and lengthy content can be difficult to navigate
  10. 10. Students with upper body mobility impairments may have trouble using a keyboard and may be unable to use a mouse at all. Imagine if you were a student who was unable to use a mouse or touchscreen and had to rely entirely on a keyboard to access a course. What would you do if you were taking a quiz that had a question where you had to use a mouse to select the answer (such as drag-and-drop questions)?
  11. 11. Cognitive disabilities include difficulties with memory, problem-solving, comprehension, and attention. Challenges for students with cognitive impairments may include: • Timed tests or quizzes • Courses and assignments that are not well- structured • Lack of clarity in directions and information
  12. 12. Students with learning/cognitive disabilities may have difficulties with timed tests, especially those with lengthy written or reading comprehension sections. Imagine if you were a student with dyslexia who was taking a timed test that involved reading a lengthy case study and writing an essay response. Additionally, consider how you would feel if you also knew that any errors in spelling and grammar would have an adverse effect on your grade.
  13. 13. • Sections 504 and 508 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) • British Columbia (BC) Human Rights Code
  14. 14. “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705 (20) of this title, shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity* receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.” * Including institutions of higher education
  15. 15. “When developing, procuring, maintaining, or using electronic and information technology, each Federal department or agency…shall ensure, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the department or agency, that the electronic and information technology allows, regardless of the type of medium of the technology individuals with disabilities…access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by such members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities. ”
  16. 16. “No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.”
  17. 17. “8 (1) A person must not, without a bona fide and reasonable justification, (a) deny to a person or class of persons any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public, or (b) discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or class of persons.”
  18. 18. • Compliance Statement • ADA Policy and Procedure Guide • Accommodation Requests • Software Accessibility
  19. 19. • Included in all syllabi, the student handbook, and in a block within all Moodle courses • References the applicable laws • Confidentiality • Gives specific details on how students can obtain accommodations • States that accommodations must be requested prior to when they are needed (cannot be applied retroactively) • States that “any student with an appropriately documented disability, including psychological, medical, physical, visual, hearing, and learning disabilities (including ADHD/ADD), is eligible for reasonable accommodations”
  20. 20. Primary and Secondary Education • Individualized Education Program/Plan (IEP) or Section 504 Plan • These plans are required and developed based on a full evaluation of the student and using input from a team including school representatives, teachers, and the student’s parents Post-Secondary Education • Student required to self-disclose disability in order to receive reasonable accommodations*
  21. 21. “The goal of reasonable accommodation is to enable the student to meet the learning objectives of the degree program without placing an undue burden on the campus and without sacrificing the content and the objectives of particular courses and training events. An accommodation focuses on removing barriers that may prevent a student from meeting those objectives, or focuses on allowing the student to prove that the objectives have been achieved in another way. Accommodations do not make course work easier for students with disabilities than for the general student population; they simply make equivalent learning opportunities available.” - Adler School ADA Policy and Procedure Guide
  22. 22. The ADA Policy and Procedure Guide gives detailed information about: • Adler School policy regarding the school’s compliance with disability laws • AVP of Student Affairs as facilitator of accommodation implementation • How to initiate the accommodation process • The components of the accommodation process • Accommodation timeline and confidentiality • Accommodations for external sites (qualifying exams, practicum, internship)
  23. 23. • Review accessibility statements • Evaluate proposed software • Evaluate proposed resources
  24. 24. When considering a software program or tool, start by reviewing accessibility statements. These statements typically include: • Accessibility features and support • Accessibility best practices and tips for user-generated content Include links to the software accessibility statements where applicable.
  25. 25. If you are planning to have students use any particular software in the course, look to see if the company provides an accessibility statement. Evaluate any proposed software and resources (such as documents and links), by asking yourself: • Can this be used by students with visual disabilities? • Can this be used by students with auditory disabilities? • Can this be used by students with motor disabilities? • Can this be used by students with cognitive disabilities? If the answer to any of those questions is no, determine if there are accommodation options (such as converting a resource to an accessible version).
  26. 26. • Structure and Formatting • Alternative Text for Images • Scanned PDFs vs. Accessible PDFs • Accessibility Checker
  27. 27. When creating documents, always use the Styles feature to indicate the title, headings, etc. Do not format the text only using the text formatting options (such as Increase Font Size and Bold). Students with screen readers will have a much easier time accessing and understanding the information in this document if Styles are used. Styles will also pre-populate the document sections in the Navigation pane and make it much easier for all students to search through the document.
  28. 28. If you are working with a lengthy Word document, it can also help students to insert a Table of Contents. If you have been using Styles correctly, a Table of Contents can be automatically populated from the items in the Navigation pane. To insert a Table of Contents, go to the References tab in Word and select the Table of Contents type that you would like to use. It will auto-populate with the correct page numbers. The numbers will be replaces with clickable links for all Table of Contents items if you ever choose to save the document as a web page.
  29. 29. • Provide Alt Text for all images • Avoid using blank cells for formatting • Give all sheet tabs unique names • Specify column and row headers – If row 1 and column A contain the headers, put your cursor in the top-left cell (A1), select “Name Manager” in the Formulas tab, click the “New” button, and enter “Title” as the name. A screen reader will now be able to automatically speak the row and column headings as the user moves between cells.
  30. 30. • Use slide layouts as provided and organize content in a logical structure • Provide Alt-Text for all images • Text should use a legible font and be clear in meaning • Make sure that there is good contrast between the text and background − View the slides in Grayscale to see how a person who is colorblind would see your presentation • Use unique titles for all slides • Ensure that the reading order of each slide is logical
  31. 31. Transcripts and/or closed captioning should be provided for all videos in a course when possible. If a video as been provided by a publisher, they will typically have a transcript or captions available. When a video does not have captions or a transcript: • Send to a third-party captioning/transcription service (we use 3Play Media) • Do captioning/transcription in-house (we use YouTube to sync and upload video and SRT file to Kaltura) Captions and transcripts are not only useful for students with auditory disabilities. They can also help ESL (English as a Second Language) students and students who learn better by reading than listening.
  32. 32. • Microsoft Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) File>Info>Check for Issues>Check Accessibility • Adobe Acrobat Pro Tools>Accessibility>Full Check
  33. 33. After you run the Accessibility Checker on your document, you will receive results that will list items that you must fix and items that you may want to check. Click on an item to see additional information about the issue and step-by-step directions on how to fix it. Make all repairs and run the Accessibility Checker again.
  34. 34. If you have a document with no accessibility issues or have fixed all accessibility issues in a document, you will see a message like the one on the right. When you reach this point, you can be confident that all students will be able to fully engage with this file, regardless of any disability they may have.
  35. 35. An awareness of inclusive course design (commonly called Universal Design) has been incorporated into our development process. • Captions/Transcripts • Accessible Documents • Alt-Text for Images • Use of Templates “Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” - Ronald Mace (Center for Universal Design, 2008).
  36. 36. It is important to teach faculty about accessibility, especially because not all courses go through a formal instructional design process and instructors may make changes after courses have been built. Technology and Pedagogy Training (required for all online faculty) • Introduction to accessibility issues • Details on how to ensure accessibility in their courses Course Design Process • Course authors are required to submit an audio script for any presentations that are created for their course in order to make the implementation of closed captioning more efficient
  37. 37. Adler Online started a formal accessibility review process in summer 2013. So far, 67 courses have gone through an accessibility review. Of those courses, only 3 did not require accessibility updates. Of the 64 remaining courses, so far 44 have been updated and are now accessible. The biggest accessibility barriers in courses reviewed were: • Inaccessible documents • Videos without transcripts/captions
  38. 38. For each course, an Accessibility Review Form must be filled out. The form is broken into the following sections: • General Information • Course Pages • Videos • Word Documents • Excel Spreadsheets • PowerPoint Presentations • PDF files • Links
  39. 39. The review process is supported by the following documents and technologies: • “How To” Guides for filling out the Accessibility Review Form and fixing accessibility issues • Course Accessibility Review Status spreadsheet tracks review status, updates needed, and courses that need to be reviewed • WAVE Toolbar for easily identifying website accessibility issues • Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat Pro Accessibility Checker tool
  40. 40. • WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind • W3C: Web Accessibility Initiative • CANnect: How-To Guide for Creating Accessible Online Learning Content • Coombs, N. (2010). Making Online Teaching Accessible: Inclusive Course Design for Students with Disabilities. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  41. 41. If you have questions, please contact: Colleen Fleming Instructional Designer 312.662.4241 866.371.5900 ext. 4241 Or write to