In the last week we have seen immense change to our daily lives, and change which continues or of which we are reminded with every email, from every possible source down to how your gas station perks program is handling the virus. From a teaching and learning standpoint there have been varied reactions as veteran online educators and those who have never taught online are now required to teach remotely. So one let me say, to myself and you, relax we will get through this. And two let’s remember accessibility as we make these remote changes.

Accessibility? Yes, accessibility. About 25% of the population has some form of disability, physical, learning, or cognitive. Typically, about 10% of our students register with their office of disability services regarding one of these disabilities. This means as we move to remote teaching, many of these students will experience issues related to accessibility which they may not have in our face to face classes. So thinking about accessibility as we make these changes will not only help these students, but all students who are making this move.

So here are a few things to think about.

  1. Don’t use or limit use of pdfs. Typically in higher education we see 2 types of pdf usage, items “saved as” pdf and article scans. If it is a Word or PowerPoint file, do not save as pdf, just post the doc or ppt. If it is an article scan, see if you can find an .html version of the article or contact someone at your university to see about making this accessible (if possible).
  2. If you are creating new PowerPoint or Word files, open the accessibility checker as you are creating them to see any issues and correct them as you go, eventually you will probably not make any issues as you go. The biggest culprits will be improper hyperlinks (www.something instead of these nice blue, underlined links describing the link) or merged table cells in a Word doc. In a PowerPoint it will probably be missing alternative text.
  3. If you are creating a video, speak slowly and make the video short. Speaking slowly will help all listeners understand better. You will need to caption your video and provide a transcript. Or you can write a script and record your video from it. In most instances this will involve leveraging some sort of AI such as that used by YouTube or the one in Kaltura. This autocaptioning is about 85% accurate, the rest needs to be done by a human. A video with clear, slow speaking will autocaption with a higher accuracy rate, and a shorter video takes less time to caption overall. Equally, as I’ve discussed before students in an online class or newly exposed to remote learning are not going to watch a long video.
  4. For UIS faculty in Math, remember we have Equatio, which is helpful for accessibility, but also very useful for doing math, remotely. And for those in math and science this writeup and link to the NWEA Image Description Guidelines for Assessments may be useful for thinking about how to write alt text.

Finally, I know this adds an extra layer of things to think about, however I think we can all agree that making something as clear for our students to understand the first time makes it easier on all of us. I’ll close with a link to something I wrote a few weeks ago about how students expect a certain behavior from their digital files, a user experience, and when they don’t encounter that it is very frustrating.