What is Accessibility?
Accessibility means Access
Accessibility refers to the ability for everyone, regardless of disability or special needs, to access, use and benefit from everything within their environment.
Universal Design for Learning
A common concept, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) UDL provides a framework for accounting for the variability of all learners and considering how to give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL is an educational approach based on the learning sciences with three primary principles—multiple means of representation of information, multiple means of student action and expression, and multiple means of student engagement.
For more useful information and guidelines about Universal Design for Learning in higher education environments: http://udloncampus.cast.org/page/udl_about#.WnTxSDBuhhE
Principles of Accessibility
A set of guidelines that we would like to introduce you to is summed up in the acronym, POUR. Developed as part of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), these guidelines move beyond the suggestion that web content should be technically accessible, arguing that web-based material should not only be designed for technical accessibility, but also for usability. Here's a quick overview of the guidelines behind POUR:
Material should be presented in ways so that it is perceivable to all users. So, if information is presented in ways perceivable to those who are sighted, such as text, it also needs to be presented in ways so that it will be perceivable to those who are visually impaired. Keep both accessible and usable in mind. Text in a webpage can be read by a screenreader but good design (like heading styles) will make the text more user friendly to both sighted and visually impaired users.
As we design our classes, we have to also consider the equipment our students will be using to interact in the virtual class. For instance, mobility-impaired students may use special keyboards to navigate the course, which may mean their it takes them a little longer to navigate from place to place, or even to answer a multiple choice question. Care should be taken to ensure any timed activities can be modified for students who need more time.
When adding multimedia to your course, you should also be sure that media is not set to play automatically, and that the player can be controlled via keyboard commands. Additionally, part of being operable involves navigation. Care should be taken to ensure modules and pages have descriptive, meaningful names, and that names are not duplicated.
Though academic reading may stretch our students, the third guideline of POUR requires that material be designed in ways that are understandable to a wide range of users. If you're teaching a foreign language, this should be clear to the student so they can set their assistive technology accordingly, as some pages may contain English, others your target language, and some may even have both!
Even academic language could seem "foreign" to students. Every effort should be made to write at a level understandable to the group, and key terms or vocabulary should be defined or explained in the surrounding text. Part of helping students understand our online classes relies on predictability. Whenever possible, predictable patterns should be repeated and maintained, especially in linked material.
Key tutorials or support should also be provided to help users understand the tools used in the course and to help them correct errors, when possible. This is especially important when filling out form fields, such as quizzes or tests, or when submitting documents, such as assignments.
The last guideline is short and sweet. Whenever possible, the course should be designed to provide equal access and an equivalent experience to a wide variety of users.
(This material was developed from Creating Accessible Course Content, a course developed by @ONE, a project of the California Community Colleges.)
Institutional Resources on Web Access
For more institutional resources on web access: https://www.hawaii.edu/access/resources.html