In some of the statistics about online
My research assistant, Dr. Lisa Durff, found a presentation on this topic “Creating an Accessible Campus Culture” presented by Bevin Rainwater at Blackboard World 2018. So, today we have a guest on the show to give us an overview of the journey her university has made. Teachers who are putting content online can make content more accessible if we learn these tips.
Additionally, because of the issues with compliance and accessibility, we’ve created a transcript of this show to be helpful for you.
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Vicki: Today we are talking with Bevin Rainwater who is at the University of Hartford. She had a presentation that sort of piqued our interest about a journey to become accessible. So, Bevin, you talk a lot about creating accessible campus culture. And I want to urge everyone that we need to do this in K-12 as well as colleges. As often happens, many colleges and very large districts are leading the way, but this is something we all need to do. So, Bevin, what are ways that colleges and K-12 organizations are not accessible?
The Accessibility Conundrum
Bevin: Many institutions, whether they be K-12 or higher ed, are not accessible. Mostly, we’re in the business of making accommodations for people who disclose that they have a disability. And then we have to scramble to make accommodations at that time which is not a very effective way of managing and doing business as an institution of learning. We just can’t keep up with the flow of people with disabilities. It’s growing ever larger. There are over a billion people in the world that have some kind of disability. And more and more of them are in the mainstream educational workplace.
There are over a billion people in the world who have some kind of disability. More and more of them are in the mainstream educational workplace.Bevin Rainwater
Vicki: I believe in your presentation, that we will link to, you said 15% of the population?
Bevin: Yeah, over 15% of the population and that is growing day by day. So, and that is what is disclosed. There are many who have disabilities that are not disclosed. We see them a lot if higher ed. In K-12 we have the… and other things with IEPs that they have to kind of disclose in K-12 to get any kind of services. But in higher ed, they don’t have to at all.
We all learn differently
Vicki: Well, this is why I like to call it learning differences not learning disabilities. Because we all learn differently, and I have seen parents who refuse to get their kids tested because they say well my child is just different. But they don’t have a disability. I mean, there’s this stigma there that I guess that I don’t think should be there.
Bevin: No, you know, each of us has our own problems. I mean I wear glasses myself. So, I could be considered to having a visual disability. I have a really hard time looking at a monitor without the text really big on my phone or whatever. So, I mean, but I’m not in that category of visual disabilities, so each of us has our own issues that we deal with on a day to day basis.
The Accessibility Journey at the University of Hartford
Vicki: So, on your campus, at the University of Hartford, on October 2016 you formed and worked with an organization to start helping your campus be more accessible. Describe this process to us.
What does accessibility mean?
Vicki: So many of us teachers are building classroom platforms where we have a learning management system or content management system. Describe what it means for that to be accessible for that content.
Bevin: For an online platform, what it means to be accessible is your images have alternate text, and descriptions, where whoever is a non-seeing user that uses assistive technologies such as a screen reader, can read the descriptions of to them.
But the tables have header rows that your text documents have header styles that allow screen readers to navigate through the document in a way that they can just tap through and skip to the section they need to get to.
It means that if you have videos or multi-media content that the content is closed captioned meaning the text appears in the ribbon at the bottom describing what’s going on in what they are seeing in the video.
Those are the main key ideas, there are other concerns as well. But I think that hitting those four-five different items will make your course content more accessible.
Finding Inaccessible Content
Vicki: So, some people don’t understand why they should have heading 1,2, and 3. And they will just format it larger. And then adding closed captioning, so how do you go through and audit all of your professors’ content to find inaccessible content?
Bevin: We have a great tool on campus that does that. We just purchased the Ally tool this year. Ally is an accessibility checker that you can put on Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, a couple other different LMS’. And what it does is any content uploaded to Blackboard or your LMS will automatically be checked. It will indicate debits, the accessibility level of the document or item, with a little gear indicator. And the instructor can click on that and give just-in-time tips for making that content more accessible and it explains the reasons why. Which is a really great tool.
It does not check for captioning yet, but we purchased also last year another tool that will automatically caption all of our videos that we put on our courses in Blackboard.
Vicki: Is the captioning automatically, is a human going to go back and double check that?
Bevin: Yes. So it’s automatic. We request that the instructors when they upload videos that they check that the captioning to make sure it is accurate. They can go in and edit their own captioning.
What is the impact?
Vicki: Awesome. So what is the impact? Are you fully implemented yet?
Bevin: We are fully implemented with Ally. We are fully implemented with our ensemble automatic captioning. It’s across the board for every single factor member, every single course that’s in our Blackboard platform. Whether or not they make use of every single option is up to the faculty. We’re going to be implementing a quality matters type of checker across our campus. And as courses are created and as they’re redeveloped, they will be checked for several things, including accessibility.
Vicki: So what is the impact this has had on your campus?
Bevin: Hopefully the impact is that we will be less likely to receive one of those letters the OCR complaints that are going out. In fact, you know, just another round of fifty institutions received notice for inaccessible content were sued. And we are hoping that we don’t get sued as well. OCR which is the office that checks whether or not you’re accessible. Usually, if you’re making progress and you’re showing that you have a good faith effort they will less likely find you in need of correction. So, we’re hoping that we can make that benchmark.
Vicki: So, educators this is not an option. This is something we all have to do. We all have to be more accessible. Thanks, Bevin.
Bevin: Thank you.
Bio as Submitted
Instructional Designer/ Technologist
Bevin Rainwater is the Instructional Designer/Technologist and Blackboard Admin for the University of
and currently serves as the Accessibility Chair on campus.
She is also an adjunct instructor of Spanish and Computer Science, teaching online, flipped, hybrid and face-to-face courses.
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